When the travel ban went into place two weeks ago, we had an immediate call to action with incredible clarity. We knew where to go (our nearest international airport), we knew what to do (make more protest signs, advocate for those stuck with Customs and Border Protection to get people released, and litigate like mad in federal courts). And it worked.
Yesterday’s news about widespread immigration raids is so different. There is no one place to go to show our strength in numbers, because these raids are in scattered communities and workplaces. And the legal defense is going to vary from individual client to individual client. (There may also be some impact litigation to be done, as always, but those picked up in raids need their own lawyers who can understand the government’s case against them and any opportunities for relief from removal.)
Already, the local immigration court where I practice has begun shifting cases around to accommodate new enforcement priorities. It’s great for me personally, since my case for next week is postponed and I have some hours to plan more fighting ( and clean the house, and pet the dog who was beginning to wonder if I remembered her existence).
But more lives are going to be disrupted, and even for people who don’t get picked up, their newly increased fear and anxiety, on top of high pre-existing stress levels, makes a lot of the general post-election anxiety look like a xanax fest. Really consider that for a moment. I know how many friends have, since the election, been experiencing unusual levels of stress, anxiety, fear, inability to concentrate or sleep. I certainly have myself. And all of those things are in a different universe from the fear a parent has dropping her child off at school, wondering if she will be picked up by ICE before the school day is done. Every. Single. Day.
What can we do? Think long-term. These issues are going to be here for a long time…they have already been with us for as long as I have been a lawyer. When my daughter was born, I was so sure I was going to miss out on immigration reform while I was at the hospital (I did go into labor at one of the early rallies for immigration reform, so this was not just the drugs talking). My daughter is now ten. TEN. Think what you could learn to do in ten years, consider what skill you most want to develop, and go develop it. Think about seriously improving your Spanish so you can interpret for people or help with community presentations. Put your school’s PTA to use supporting noncitizen families, and ask the ESOL teacher or a trusted counselor at the school for ideas on what would be useful support.
Short-term, this is going to be tough. In some ways, short-term the burden is going to be on the lawyers who are already trained-up and ready to do these cases. But there are other ways to help
- The creative ones out there can help those lawyers design really visually appealing materials to get solid information out to people. Or help us improve our websites [clears throat].
- The foreign language-speakers (especially Spanish) can help at community presentations where we talk with frightened families about safety planning.
- Those with some extra money can donate to local legal service providers who do removal defense, especially detained removal defense. In the DC area, that means supporting Capital Area Immigrant Rights Coalition.
- And everyone can bring on the extra smiles, polite conversation, holding doors open for people, heck, even allowing someone to cut you off on the highway. Remember that your anxiety level, high as it is, may be nowhere near as high as a stranger you pass on the way to school, on the road to work, and so on. Kindness matters profoundly. Be a source of kindness.