“Dropping Babies:” Senator Pearce Targets Immigrant Mothers

Amie Newman

Senator Pearce, the architect behind SB1070, Arizona's harsh anti-immigrant law, is at it again with a move to criminalize babies.

How are we allowing a necessary discussion on immigration reform to fly so far out of bounds? I’m talking, of course, about the passage of Arizona’s SB1070 with tremendous popular support (though with its share of detractors – including Arizona police officers themselves) and now Senator Russell Pearce’s latest venture into xenophobia with an eye towards criminalizing babies. Yes, you read that right. Babies.

Last Friday, Arizona senator Russell Pearce (R-Mesa) decided that SB1070, the bill he sponsored, signed into law last month by Gov. Jan Brewer which infuses local law enforcement with the power to arrest and detain those women and men living in Arizona who give them “reasonable suspicion” to believe they are living here undocumented, doesn’t go far enough.

It isn’t enough for Sen. Pearce that federal programs like 287(g) and Secure Communities are, according to Tara Tidwell Cullen of the National Immigrant Justice Center, “resulting in the detention and deportation of people who not only aren’t dangers to our society, but in many cases are contributing to our communities…and resulting in many women and men being denied access to basic due process rights, such as access to legal counsel and a fair day in court.”

It isn’t enough that SB1070 mandates that documented immigrants carry proof of citizenship with them anywhere they go throughout the state – or face potential arrest. 

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Senator Pearce is not satisfied. Pearce announced last week that he’d like to now penalize babies born to immigrants. Or more specifically, “pass bills against anchor babies.” According to ColorLines blog, Racewire, a Phoenix news station obtained a set of emails describing Pearce’s plan to “push for an Arizona bill that would refuse to accept or issue a birth certificate that recognizes citizenship to those born to illegal aliens, unless one parent is a citizen.”

Pearce is playing off of a particularly misogynistic focus on immigrant mothers as the gateway to the so-called “Anchor Baby Phenomena,” phrased by one of the emailers.

“In order to be most effective on border issues, we must bring in the equation that is behind most of our Downfall as a nation…The Anchor Baby Phenomena must be addressed, via the mother…Only through her can we, Make the changes so desperately needed to end this nightmare…IF THE MOTHER IS ILLEGAL, SO IS THE CHILD…End of story…”

Another email exchanged with Pearce, which Pearce has said he agrees with, declares, “If we are going to have an effect on the anchor baby racket, we need to target the mother. Call it sexist, but that’s the way nature made it. Men don’t drop anchor babies, illegal alien mothers do.” Why? Well, according to the writer of the email, “I can just see our courts boggled with paternity claims and millions spent on DNA tests to prove paternity. DNA tests take time. Can you see the mess? A big can of worms!”

Leaving aside the dehumanizing term “anchor baby” for a moment, targeting women immigrants is sexist. But it’s also telling. What Pearce, Brewer and advocates of SB1070 have opened wide are the great, iron gates of racism, xenophobia and the age-old tactic of the conservative male: control of women’s bodies. If they truly wanted to effect meaningful immigration reform – and many are saying it’s exactly Obama’s failure to do so that has led to despicable legislation like this – they would be looking for the truth about the impact of immigrants on the U.S. economy and social structure, who is actually coming to this country and why, what the process of becoming an American citizen is really like and how we can best change it to benefit everyone. In fact, according to Tara Tidwell Cullen:

“Numerous studies also have shown that immigration benefits the American economy. A recent report from UCLA shows that “legalizing undocumented workers through comprehensive immigration reform would yield $1.5 trillion to the U.S. GDP over a ten year period, generate billions in additional tax revenue and consumer spending and support hundreds of thousands of jobs.”

Does Senator Pearce, with his new target of women and their babies who, according to the 14th amendment, are U.S. citizens if born on United States soil, really care to understand any of this? Does he want to know the immigrant woman’s experience? The reasons she comes here and why it’s so important for the babies and children of women who live here undocumented to remain here?

According to the New American Media report released in 2009, the results of a survey of immigrant women from around the world, the second most popular reason given for coming to the United States is ” to make a better life for my children” and the first is “to join family members already in the U.S.” Even though immigrant women face significant and sometimes unimaginable economic hardship the biggest challenge women immigrants in the U.S. face, they say, is “helping my children achieve success.”

So, immigrant women are coming to the United States, and staying in the U.S., struggling through poverty and stigma, racism and fear because they want a better life for their children. But Senator Pearce believes that the root of  (what – crime? Violence? Violent crime?) Arizona’s immigration issues lies in the women and babies of his state. Not only that but, as another email (not from Pearce himself but included in the collection) puts it, the children who are now considered U.S. citizens, who were born here and have lived here all their lives should be immediately deported under a new law:

“All underage and/or dependent children should be deported with their parents…no matter how long they have been in the U.S….no excuses…no exceptions. The parents created the mess…let them deal with it back in their own countries!!! The underage children are not the responsibility of American taxpayers!!!”

It’s hard not to be shocked by the vitriol behind the words.

But, of Pearce’s bill brainstorm, Tidwell Cullen tells me:

“Bills such as Pearce’s have been introduced regularly over the past several years. That this kind of vile proposal, which contradicts the U.S. Constitution and America’s legacy as a nation of immigrants, is gaining any traction now is an indication of the level of frustration people feel at the failure by President Obama and Congress to find solutions to our country’s broken immigration system.

In order for a woman who entered without inspection (meaning without documents and without going through customs) to get legal status through a baby born in the United States, she would have to (1) wait until the baby turned 21—the age at which a child can petition for a parent and (2) after the petition is approved, return to her home country for 10 years because she would be subject to a 10-year bar as a result of her previous unauthorized entry.  She could petition for a waiver of the 10-year bar, but it is a high standard – she must prove extreme hardship to a U.S. citizen relative – and is very difficult to meet.”

Pearce seems to feel, then, that women who “drop” babies in the United States (oh, if it were only as easy as that Senator Pearce) are somehow “working the system?” Says Tidwell Cullen:

“When you say “working the system” I assume you are referring to undocumented immigrants’ use of public services. In fact, undocumented immigrants are restricted from access to many public services, and tend to access those services for which they are eligible at a lower rate than U.S. citizens because of language barriers, lack of understanding of the U.S. health care system, and fear of deportation if their lack of status is detected.”

Here’s where it gets tricky though. Maybe Senator Pearce is on to something. Again, according to the New American Media report, women immigrants say that “if they were forced to leave the U.S.” they would take their children – even those born in the U.S. – back to their home country. Brilliant move, Senator Pearce. You really do understand how important the mother/child relationship is, leveraging unending maternal love to help you play your political game.

Finally, when asked whether they would “like to become a citizen of the U.S. in the future or would you prefer to remain a citizen of your home country” 90 percent of Latin American women, documents the New American Media report, say they would prefer to become a citizen of the U.S.  The main reason why these women want to become a citizen of the U.S.? It’s not to be able to live in the U.S for the rest of their lives, in fact. And it’s not to “get a better job or make more money.”  It’s “to make sure I am never separated from my children.”

So, what exactly are immigrant families to do under state laws like SB1070 and federal policies like 287(g) – both of which seek to criminalize immigrants, the majority of whom are now women who come to this country seeking a better life for the children they have or the children they are yet to have? 

Tara Tidwell Cullen says that for many people who need to come to the United States to reunite with family, “there simply is no lawful immigration option” and calls the process for family-based immigration “extremely restrictive.”

 “There are only a few ways to lawfully migrate to the United States and they are very specific in their qualifications for eligibility: 1) employment-based 2) family-based petitions, 2) asylum  seekers or refugees fleeing persecution, 3) victims of violent crimes, domestic violence, or trafficking who are willing to assist in a law enforcement investigation, and 4) through a diversity lottery. “

So, once again, we are left with a clear call to women’s rights advocates that women and children in Arizona need our help. “Anchor babies,” “illegal alien mothers…dropping babies,” “targeting the mothers” – these are phrases used to justify a further step towards inhumane immigration “reform” on the backs of women and babies. These are also phrases that reflect the underlying issue for Pearce and his cronies. It is not about legality but fear of the power that immigrant women, in their reproductive years, have to change the face of American society with their bodies.

Tidwell Cullen says that, “Immigrant women are affected by laws that restrict their access to medical care, education, economic security and other basic rights that are at the center of the women’s rights movement” and implores women’s rights organizations that haven’t already to “recognize that our own wellbeing as a nation, as a democracy, and as a people, is tied up in the wellbeing of immigrants who come to our country seeking a better life. Denying basic fairness and justice to any group, as SB 1070 and federal immigration policies are doing, endangers us all….”

As Obama moves to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on sending troops to patrol our border, women’s rights advocates can help groups like the National Immigrant Justice Center and others, in Washington DC and online, educate about and mobilize around the need for true, humane immigration reform; organizing people to support, says Tidwell Cullen, policies that protect human rights not threaten them, and oppose legislation that seeks to criminalize mothers for daring to seek a better life for their children. 

Analysis Politics

Donald Trump and Mike Pence: The Anti-Immigrant Ticket

Tina Vasquez

“My greatest fear is that this ticket doesn’t seem to realize immigrants are actually an incredible resource that fuels our country," Wendy Feliz of the American Immigration Council told Rewire.

On Friday, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump announced Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate, giving legitimacy to concerns a Trump presidency would be anti-choice and decimate LGBTQ rights. As Rewire reported last week, Pence has voted against nondiscrimination efforts, signed a so-called religious freedom bill, opposed marriage equality, and attemptednumerous times—to defund Planned Parenthood, something Trump has promised to do if elected president.

But the two Republicans also have something else in common: They are brazenly anti-immigrant.

Despite a misleading article from the Daily Beast asserting that Pence has had a “love affair with immigration reform” and has “spent his political career decrying anti-immigrant rhetoric,” the governor’s record on immigration tells a different story.

Let’s take a look at Trump’s “xenophobic” and “racist” campaign thus far, and how closely Pence’s voting aligns with that position.

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Donald Trump

For months it seemed, Donald Trump’s talking points in the media rarely drifted away from anti-immigrant rhetoric. During his kickoff speech, he referred to Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and “killers” and in the months since, has promised to build a 2,000-mile-long wall along the United States-Mexico border to keep “illegals” out, a wall the billionaire has promised that Mexico will pay for.

Despite being called “racist” by members of his own party, Trump’s immigration plan is largely consistent with what many Republicans have called for: a larger border wall, increasing the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers, requiring all U.S. companies to use E-Verify to check the immigration status of employees, increasing the use of detention for those who are undocumented and currently residing in the United States, and ending “birthright citizenship,” which would mean the U.S.-born children of undocumented parents would be denied citizenship.

Again, Trump’s proposed immigration policies align with the Republican Party’s, but it is the way that he routinely spreads false, damaging information about undocumented immigrants that is worrisome. Trump has repeatedly said that economically, undocumented immigrants are “killing us by “taking our jobs, taking our manufacturing jobs, taking our money.” 

Market Watch, a publication focusing on financial news, reported that this falsehood is something that a bulk of Trump supporters believe; two-thirds of Trump supporters surveyed in the primaries said they feel immigration is a burden on our country “because ‘they take our jobs, housing and health care.'” This, despite research that says deporting the 11 million undocumented immigrants who currently call the United States home would result in a “massive economic hit” for Trump’s home state of New York, which receives $793 million in tax revenue from undocumented immigrants. A recent report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy also found that at the state and local level, undocumented immigrants nationwide collectively pay an estimated $11.6 billion each year in taxes.

Trump has also been accused by Muslim Americans and members of the media of engaging in “reckless, dangerous Islamophobia” at every opportunity, using terrorist attacks to call for a ban on all Muslim immigration, while also using terrorism in a self-aggrandizing manner. In a statement released after the Pulse nightclub shooting, Trump said, “I said this was going to happen.”

These dangerous assertions that all U.S.-based Muslims are secretly harboring terrorists or that undocumented immigrants are killing “thousands of peoplea narrative he continued to push at the Republican National Convention by having the families of three Americans killed by undocumented people speak—can be deadly and inspire hatred and violence. This was made all the more clearer when in August 2015 two white brothers cited Trump when they urinated on and beat a homeless Latino man. According to Huffington Post, the men “alegedly [sic] told police they targeted the man because of his ethnicity and added, ‘Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported.’” Trump’s response? He said that his supporters are simply “passionate” people who want America “to be great again.”

Mike Pence

Wendy Feliz, a spokesperson with the American Immigration Council, succinctly summarized Pence’s immigration approach to Rewire, saying on Monday that he “basically falls into a camp of being more restrictive on immigration, someone who looks for more punitive ways to punish immigrants, rather than looking for the positive ways our country can benefit from immigrants.”

After Trump’s announcement that Pence would be his running mate, Immigration Impact, a project of the American Immigration Council, outlined what voters should know about Pence’s immigration record:

Pence’s record shows he used his time in Congress and as the Governor of Indiana to pursue extreme and punitive immigration policies earning him a 100 percent approval rating by the anti-immigration group, Federation for American Immigration Reform.

In 2004 when Pence was a senator, he voted for the “Undocumented Alien Emergency Medical Assistance Amendments.” The bill failed, but it would have required hospitals to gather and report information on undocumented patients before hospitals could be reimbursed for treating them. Even worse, the bill wouldn’t have required hospitals to provide care to undocumented patients if they could be deported to their country of origin without a “significant chance” of their condition getting worse.

Though it’s true that in 2006 Pence championed comprehensive immigration reform, as the Daily Beast reported, the reform came with two caveats: a tightening of border security and undocumented immigrants would have to “self-deport” and come back as guest workers. While calling for undocumented immigrants to self-deport may seem like the more egregious demand, it’s important to contextualize Pence’s call for an increase in border security.

This tactic of calling for more Border Patrol agents is commonly used by politicians to pacify those opposed to any form of immigration reform. President Obama, who has utilized more border security than any other president, announced deferred action for the undocumented in June 2012, while also promising to increase border security. But in 2006 when Pence was calling for an increase in border security, the border enforcement policy known as “Operation Gatekeeper” was still in full swing. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Operation Gatekeeper “concentrated border agents and resources along populated areas, intentionally forcing undocumented immigrants to extreme environments and natural barriers that the government anticipated would increase the likelihood of injury and death.” Pence called for more of this, although the undocumented population expanded significantly even when border enforcement resources escalated. The long-term results, the ACLU reported, were that migrants’ reliance on smugglers to transport them increased and migrant deaths multiplied.

There are more direct ways Pence has illustrated a xenophobic agenda, including co-sponsoring a congressional bill that would have made English the official language of the United States and as governor, blocking Syrian refugees en route to Indiana, saying he would not accept any more Syrian refugees out of fear they were “terrorists.” The governor also added Indiana to the Texas lawsuit challenging expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). And he praised the inaction by the Supreme Court last month to expand DACA and DAPA, which leaves millions of undocumented immigrants living in fear of deportation.

According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, “when a child who is not accompanied by a parent or legal guardian is apprehended by immigration authorities, the child is transferred to the care and custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Federal law requires that ORR feed, shelter, and provide medical care for unaccompanied children until it is able to release them to safe settings with sponsors (usually family members), while they await immigration proceedings.”

The ORR added that these sponsors “live in many states,” including Indiana, which received 245 unaccompanied minors between January and July 2014. Pence was reportedly unaware that unaccompanied minors were being placed in his state by the federal government, something he said he was made aware of by media reports. These are asylum seeking children, often girls under the age of 10, escaping violence in their countries of origin who arrive at the United States-Mexico border without an adult. Many, including advocacy organizations and the Obama administration, have contended that the circumstances surrounding unaccompanied minors is not simply an immigration issue, but a humanitarian crisis. Not Pence. In a letter to President Obama, the Indiana governor wrote:

While we feel deep compassion for these children, our country must secure its borders and provide for a legal and orderly immigration process …. Failure to expedite the return of unaccompanied children thwarts the rule of law and will only continue to send a distorted message that illegally crossing into America is without consequence.

In the four days since Pence was named Trump’s running mate, he’s also taken a much harsher stance on Muslim immigration. Back in December when Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” Pence tweeted that banning Muslims from entering the United States was “offensive and unconstitutional.” However, on Friday when Pence was officially named Trump’s VP pick, he told Fox News’ Sean Hannity, “I am very supportive of Donald Trump’s call to temporarily suspend immigration from countries where terrorist influence and impact represents a threat to the United States.”

Wendy Feliz of the American Immigration Council told Rewire that while Pence’s rhetoric may not be as inflammatory as Trump’s, it’s important to look at his record in relation to Trump’s to get a better understanding of what the Republican ticket intends to focus on moving into a possible presidency. Immigration, she said, is one of the most pressing issues of our time and has become a primary focus of the election.

“In a few days, we’ll have a better sense of the particular policies the Republican ticket will be pursuing on immigration. It all appears to point to more of the same, which is punitive, the punishing of immigrants,” Feliz said. “My greatest fear is that this ticket doesn’t seem to realize immigrants are actually an incredible resource that fuels our country. I don’t think Trump and Pence is a ticket that values that. An administration that doesn’t value immigrants, that doesn’t value what’s fueled our country for the past several hundred years, hurts all of us. Not just immigrants themselves, but every single American.”

Analysis Human Rights

Immigrant Rights Groups Call for Moratorium on Deportations After Supreme Court Ruling

Tina Vasquez

“Given the pain and the suffering immigrants have been facing with family separation—the minimum the president can do is stop deportations," said Tania Unzueta, policy and legal director at #Not1More, a campaign to stop anti-immigrant laws.

The undocumented community received a devastating blow when the Supreme Court deadlocked on United States v. Texas, the lawsuit challenging President Barack Obama’s 2014 executive action on immigration. The Court’s decision leaves 3.6 million undocumented parents without the ability to work legally in the United States and with no relief from deportation.

Immigrant rights organizations say forcing such a large segment of the undocumented population to live in fear is “unacceptable,” and they are calling for a moratorium on deportations.

“Honestly, we were waiting on the Supreme Court to give us something, anything in the form of relief, and it didn’t happen,” said Tania Unzueta, policy and legal director at #Not1More, a campaign to stop anti-immigrant laws. “This is why we’re calling for the moratorium. It feels like this is the minimum we can ask for. People would be much happier with rights and citizenship and being able to do things like legally work in this country, but that’s not on the table right now. Given the pain and the suffering immigrants have been facing with family separation—the minimum the president can do is stop deportations.”

Stopping deportations, which have separated thousands of families, is within President Obama’s power, advocates say. As Unzueta wrote recently at the #Not1More site, the Supreme Court’s inaction in United States v. Texas “did not result in a challenge to the federal government’s jurisdiction over immigration enforcement issues or the President’s executive power to expand, reduce, or shut down the immigration enforcement programs that it has invested in.” And as Peter L. Markowitz, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, wrote in the New York Times, the president does have the “pardon power,” which includes “the power to grant broad amnesties from prosecution to large groups when the president deems it in the public interest.” Unlike deferred action, amnesty would not provide work permits, but there would be no complicated application process and it would be a form of immediate relief for millions of undocumented immigrants. However, given the president’s immigration track record, it’s unclear if President Obama is even considering amnesty.

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Deportations: An Urgent Crisis

The president’s executive action would have expanded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, enabling eligible undocumented immigrants to receive three-year work permits, and created Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). DAPA would have provided a renewable work permit and exemption from deportation for two years to undocumented parents with children who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents and also meet certain requirements.

After the Supreme Court announced its split decision, President Obama essentially washed his hands of the undocumented community for the remainder of his presidency, while also leaving behind a “deportation machine” for the next president of the United States, Unzueta told Rewire.

In remarks after the Supreme Court ruling, President Obama said that in November when the next president is elected, he believes the country will get an immigration policy that reflects “the goodness of the American people” and that he has “pushed to the limits” of his executive authority. “We now have to have Congress act,” the president said, while also assuring Americans that the enforcement policies enacted by his administration will remain in place.

The president is referring to policies like the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), announced November 20, 2014, the same day he announced the expansion of deferred action. PEP replaced Security Communities, an immigration enforcement and deportation program, though advocates argue that PEP is simply a continuation of Secure Communities. Both programs include local law enforcement working with ICE to detain undocumented immigrants.

“Since that announcement of both DAPA and PEP, there are members of our community who have experienced no relief. Now, because of the [Supreme Court] ruling, all that’s come is an increase in the ability to deport people. To me, that proves that you can’t put all of your eggs in one basket, and Obama can’t rely on trying to expand deferred action as the only response to immigrant communities. There’s so much more that he can do,” Unzueta told Rewire.

In a post for #Not1More, the policy and legal director outlined all of the avenues President Obama could take in light of the Supreme Court ruling, including stopping the home raids that have been taking place since January, reviewing his enforcement priorities such as targeting those who recently arrived in the United States, and ending “all programs that entangle local law enforcement and immigration enforcement.” Unzueta also wrote that the president could stop defending “the erosion of the few rights that immigrants have in detention centers,” referring to Jennings v. Rodriguez, a case the Supreme Court announced it would take four days before it issued its decision on DAPA. In Jennings, the Court will debate how long undocumented immigrants detained for immigration violations can be held in detention. “The case had already been decided in the 9th Circuit Court, indicating that immigrants had a right to a regular review of their case via a bond hearing,” Unzueta wrote. “The Obama administration is pushing against this decision asking the Supreme Court to overturn it, arguing effectively for fewer rights for immigrants who are detained.”

The most pressing concern, however, is deportations, which is why #Not1More and other groups, including ICE Out of Austin and the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance (CIRA), are calling for a moratorium on them.

On June 27, the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights blocked the ICE Atlanta field office and undocumented members of CIRA blocked traffic at the Hartford, Connecticut, immigration office demanding a moratorium on deportations. According to CIRA member Stefan Keller, the Hartford action resulted in the arrest of nine protesters, some of whom were undocumented. But because Hartford is a sanctuary city, which is a region that does not work with ICE for the detainment and deportation of undocumented community members, undocumented protesters were not at risk of deportation.

Alejandro Caceres, an organizer with ICE Out of Austin, a campaign to end Austin law enforcement’s partnership with the federal immigration agency, told Rewire the Supreme Court ruling has left many in Austin’s undocumented community feeling sad and frustrated, but that he’s now more committed than ever to focus his efforts locally.

“I think our organizing mentality is that we can’t do anything about the Supreme Court, but we do have the power to work to end deportations here locally,” Caceres said. “Our campaign has a four-resolution plan, and it ends with a city ID.” Community ID programs for undocumented immigrants have been adopted in various cities nationwide, including some in North Carolina, where this initiative is currently under attack. Under these programs, the city issues identification cards, which can make undocumented communities safer.

“That’s something we’re very recommitted to in the light of the Supreme Court ruling. It’s not a solution to the larger problem, but it’s a solution we can focus our energy on. It’s not citizenship. It’s not work authorization. But it’s something, and it’s one more barrier to stop folks from being deported.”

Like Unzueta, Caceres believes there is more Obama can do before he leaves office; there is more he must do, the organizer said, because without DAPA or the DACA expansion, millions of people are at risk of deportation. This is why ICE Out of Austin signed on to call for a moratorium on deportations.

“Saying, ‘DAPA didn’t pass, there’s nothing I can do,’ just isn’t true, and it’s not holding yourself accountable to the immigrant community. We know he [President Obama] can do more, and that’s why we want to put a stop to the deportations. Those who have been calling for comprehensive immigration reform understand people are being needlessly deported, and if they understand that, they have to agree that we must put a stop to deportations as soon as possible. If folks continue to be deported, that is the most urgent crisis we have and that is the issue we will continue to fight,” Caceres said.

Demanding a stop to deportations is a way to push President Obama to do more, according to advocates. Every immigration win that has come from the Obama administration began with pressure from undocumented organizers and activists, Keller said, and the call for a moratorium on deportations is no different.

“The president said it’s up to us, it’s up to Congress, it’s out of his hands. But if Congress isn’t going to help create a just immigration system, we need to put a halt on deportations until this broken system is fixed,” Keller told Rewire. “There is no justice in separating families. This is punishing people because no one is capable of reform or carrying out any other plan of action.”

Providing Tangible Support

President Obama is commonly referred to as the “deporter-in-chief” by immigrant rights activists. It is such a commonly used phrase, in fact, that in January when asking Hillary Clinton about her immigration policies, journalist Jorge Rivas asked Clinton if she would be the next deporter-in-chief. According to a Fusion report, President Obama has deported more immigrants than any president in history, more than 2.5 million since 2009. And as the Nation reported, under his administration the budget for immigration enforcement increased by 300 percent.

Chances are, Caceres told Rewire, that these deportations will continue no matter who is president.

“It was Democrats who [deported over 2 million people]; it was Democrats who implemented family detention. If this continues, the immigrant community, the undocumented community, Latinos, all kinds of people will no longer see any political party as viable or trust-worthy. Neither party helps us.”

“That’s why the response to the undocumented community from liberals and Democrats can’t just be, ‘We’re going to go out and vote and elect a Democratic president.’ We can’t rely on one party,” Unzueta added.

#Not1More’s policy and legal director said it’s hard to get behind any politician, presidential candidate or otherwise, who isn’t willing to say that they want to dismantle the deportation machine, stop deportations, and cut back on the policies and programs that target immigrant communities. “Saying you will work toward comprehensive immigration reform is not what we need at this moment. Saying you will work on stopping deportations is what the community needs. That is the immediate concern,” she said.

In March, the Latin Post reported that “the Democratic Party leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives, in addition to 223 additional members of Congress, filed the amicus brief defending DAPA and DACA’s expanded guidelines.” Advocates say those same politicians and lawmakers must provide tangible support to the undocumented community by helping to stop deportations. Whether that’s publicly pressuring the president to stop deportations after the Supreme Court ruling or lending their voice to individual cases of DAPA-qualified undocumented immigrants who are in detention or deportation proceedings, now is the time, Unzueta said.

Caceres and other members of ICE Out of Austin have been pressuring the Austin Police Department and city council for months to adopt a policy not allowing officers to ask about immigration status. Currently, Austin police officers are allowed to inquire about a person’s immigration status—and no one knows that better than Caceres, who was arrested for refusing to discuss his immigration status with an officer. Working to end these types of policies in their own communities is a way to provide the undocumented community with tangible support, the organizer said.

I think local politicians should really look into their police departments and what policies they have around detaining immigrants,” he said. “If we can’t instate DAPA or stop deportations, we can make it more difficult to deport people. Does your local law enforcement work with ICE? Work to end that. If immigration wants an undocumented person’s information, make sure they have to come with a warrant. Ending the Priority Enforcement Program in your community, that’s tangible support,” Caceres said. “It can make you feel good to write a letter to the Supreme Court saying you’re disappointed in the ruling, but that doesn’t really do anything for us. Tangible support is ending ties with ICE. Letting folks in the community know that if they get arrested, for any reason, they will not be deported.”

In addition, advocates suggest urging local politicians to turn their communities into sanctuary cities. Joining the District of Columbia and 12 states in allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license is also a way for local politicians to provide tangible support, Caceres told Rewire.

Unzueta said she doesn’t know if President Obama will provide a moratorium on deportations and she isn’t sure if politicians who voiced support for DAPA and DACA will step up to the plate to help the undocumented community in this time of need. “Hopeful,” she said, isn’t really in her vocabulary anymore.

“I’ve been doing this a long, long time and I’ve seen so many setbacks. As long as our humanity is debated and we have to fight for basic rights, I don’t get my hopes up because I don’t want to be disappointed. But that doesn’t mean I’m hopeless,” she told Rewire. “I believe in community and I believe in organizing. I believe in the power of an organized community. I choose to invest my hope in that.”