Five Key Lessons from the Immigrant and Refugee Rights Fight

April 6, 2017
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Last week, we had the honor to host three leaders in the immigrant and refugee rights movement in a 90-minute webcast exploring the impact of Trump’s policies and rhetoric on immigrants, refugees, and Muslims, how activists are fighting back, and what allies can do.

Here are five key lessons on fighting for immigrant and refugee rights from presenters Mark Silverman of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Yasmine Taeb of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, and Emilio Vicente of United We Dream:

1. Keep up the pressure: There have been important successes at stopping some of the administration’s policies, said Taeb, “because we’ve been speaking up, we’ve been speaking out, we’ve been out in the streets organizing, mobilizing, protesting.”. Taeb showed that even the text in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision, which stayed the first travel ban, noted the “massive attention” the executive order had garnered.

2. Personal and movement connections are critical: Vicente discussed the power of immigrants telling their personal stories. “We’ve seen again and again that the more personal you can get, with someone especially who is anti-immigrant, the less likely they are to call you illegal to your face.” The speakers also talked about the need for progressives to stand together against the Trump administration and the power they see when we do. Taeb gave kudos to the Sierra Club for getting their supporters to a recent rally against Muslim Ban 2.0. “In order for us to be successful, to be victorious,” said Taeb, “we need to continue to show up and we need to be there for all of our communities.” And if you’re not an immigrant yourself, part of being a good ally, said Silverman, is seeing this work not as “helping” immigrants but as collaborating with immigrants, “to build political power so that we never again have a president like our current president from either party, and we build power to bring about long-term. immigration justice as well as justice in general.”

3: Plug in where others can’t: “We strongly encourage anyone who has the ability and isn’t going to be detained by immigration to check and see and be able to confirm if a raid is happening near where you live,” said Vicente as he outlined several programs to support targeted people. 

4. Make the case against the policies in multiple ways: For example, advocate around how much policies like a border wall and increased enforcement are going to cost taxpayers. 

5. Be part of the long game: Silverman talked about the rights and political gains won by immigrants in California in the decades since the anti-immigrant Proposition 187 was passed. He sees how these changes can happen nationally, too. “When political work and organizing, along with the demographic change, turn Texas purple in presidential elections I think it’s a whole new ballgame,” said Silverman. “I think it will make it virtually impossible for the Republican party to oppose immigration reform, and we need to be pressing on both parties.”

On that same lesson, Vicente noted activists and allies need to be ready for years of work to reform U.S. immigrant and refugee policies. “It’s a long-term battle but I think it’s one we’re going to win,” said Vicente, “because I think most people are on our side. That’s what makes me hopeful.”

To learn more and get involved:

Resources and engagement opportunities from Friends Committee on National Legislation:

Join the Syrian refugee coalition where you can receive updates on the coalition’s advocacy efforts on the Muslim and refugee ban.

Resources and engagement opportunities from Immigrant Legal Resource Center:

Resources and engagement opportunities from United We Dream:

Allies: Show up when needed & join our Here to Stay Network: