Originally published by USA Today
The Trump administration is targeting people who speak out and organize against its policies. I know. Members of my organization are being targeted. Members of my family could be next.
I am an immigrant rights organizer with temporary legal status under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and I have been tracking how the federal government has been targeting my peers across the country. As I prepare to defend myself and my family against potential prosecution and deportation, I see this increasingly overt retribution as a warning sign that the right to political dissent is under threat for every person in the United States.
Whether or not you agree with my politics, the pattern of law enforcement actions against immigration leaders in the U.S. — documented, undocumented and citizens alike — offers evidence of clear and dangerous suppression at the hands of the federal government. Consider:
In February 2017, Daniela Vargas, a young immigrant in Jackson, Miss., was detained following a press conference where she spoke out about the recent raid in her home and her family’s detention.
In March, Enrique Balcazar and Zully Palacios, two members of Migrant Justice leading the organization’s campaign for fair wages in Vermont’s milk industry, were followed by Border Patrol agents as they left their local community meeting. Both now face deportation.
In May, a California student, Claudia Rueda, was detained by Border Patrol agents outside her home. She had been trying to win enough public support to get her mother out of immigration detention.
In December, Maru Mora-Villalpando, an activist defending the rights of those detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement was issued a deportation notice, without any prior contact with the police or ICE.
And already this year, two well-known immigrant rights organizers in New York were detained by ICE. One, Jean Montrevil, was deported after decades of living and organizing in the United States. The other, Ravi Ragbir, had been transferred to Floridaand then back to New York City due to immense public outcry; he was released from detention last week but still faces deportation.
Also last week, Scott Warren of the humanitarian organization No More Deaths in Tucson, Ariz. was arrested for giving food, water and a bed to two suspected undocumented immigrants who’d crossed the desert. He was charged with a felony and could get five years in prison.
I do not believe it is possible to rationalize arrests and intimidation as simply the result of a broader targeting of immigrants under President Trump. It is true that ICE acting director Thomas Homan stated, “If you’re in this country illegally, we’re looking for youand we’re going to look to apprehend you.” It is true that in practice, ICE no longer considers what is in the public interest and it has full discretion to pursue enforcement on its own terms.
However, this targeting of organizers uncovers a dangerous characteristic of the Trump administration: the effort to squash and repress dissent.
Former president Barack Obama’s administration deported millions of undocumented people and I sharply criticized him for it, as is my right. However, he did not systematically target those of us leading campaigns against his policies for our political views, dissent or actions.
The way the Trump administration is using law enforcement agencies at their direct disposal is further evidence of a white supremacist agenda. The Department of Homeland Security (which houses both Border Patrol and ICE) and the Justice Department are being used to target and prosecute dissent.
A federal government so powerful that it can silence political and humanitarian speech without consequences should be a warning sign for all of us. If we allow the government to target any organizers without consequences, we are allowing the Trump administration to become a dictatorship right before our eyes.
Regardless of one’s politics, those who believe in the right of communities to resist repression are badly needed to stand with us now. This work is not just about what happens to immigrant communities. The constitutional rights to gather, organize and advocate are at stake for all of us.