As thousands of activists prepare to protest this week, immigrants—both documented and undocumented—may be relegated to the sidelines. The threat of deportation or detention is causing some to proceed with extreme caution and others to steer clear of protest activities altogether.
“I would be very surprised if a large number of immigrants come out, as much as they want to,” said Partha Banerjee, a community organizer with New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE). Undocumented immigrants run a tremendous risk as simply being discovered could lead to removal proceedings. Documented immigrants can be deported for criminal convictions. “Even people who have valid papers are afraid,” said Banerjee.
To quell anxiety, immigrant-rights groups like NICE are encouraging members to take specific precautions—namely, avoiding violence and disorder. But that doesn’t mean missing the action entirely. “I know a lot of people who are non-citizens who are protesting,” said Monami Maulik, an Indian citizen and green-card holder who organizes South Asian immigrants for Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM). “We advise that people go with organizations and coalitions since they have a mechanism for keeping track of their members and have internal security.”
Legal aid groups like the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and the People’s Law Collective (PLC) are working to ensure that immigrants are aware of the risks, and their rights, before attending any demonstrations. An NLG pamphlet currently being circulated advises non-U.S. citizens: “Talk to a lawyer before coming to a protest. Always carry the name and telephone number of an immigration lawyer. Carry your immigration papers such as your green card, I-94, or work authorization.”
NICE is even directing its members to particular locations and intersections where it will be safer for them to gather. One such location will allow immigrants to sandwich between two anti-war veterans groups, explained Banerjee. “We really have to create a safe space for them.” [8/26]