Activism for immigrant rights may be about to get much more militant.
Some 1.1 million undocumented people — beneficiaries of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or Temporary Protected Status (TPS) — are slated to lose their protection against deportation over the next two years, along with the possibility of obtaining work permits or aid for higher education. The result will of course be devastating for them and for their relatives, friends and communities, but there will also be repercussions for the society as a whole, especially in areas with large immigrant populations. Meanwhile, the country’s other 10 million or so undocumented people continue to live in fear, with Trump administration policies increasing the pressure. “[Y]ou should be uncomfortable,” Tom Homan, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), warned them last spring. “You should look over your shoulder.”
This crisis has been intensifying since September, when the government announced that it would terminate DACA. So far, the US political class has responded mostly by dawdling. In January and February, Congress and the White House failed even to come up with a compromise to protect the DACA recipients, and there are no prospects for relief for TPS recipients, much less for a larger reform of the immigration system.
“Now we have no choice,” Chicago-based immigrant rights activist Elvira Arellanowrote in mid-February. “The only way we can stop the deportations now is to demonstrate, to commit mass civil disobedience, over and over again. Sanctuary in churches must become militant mass sanctuary in the streets.”