Outrage over President Trump’s decision to end the DACA program for undocumented immigrants brought into the US as children is spurring immigrant advocates in Philadelphia to call for “resistance zones,” starting in South Philadelphia.
“The Community Resistance Zones is a plan to teach every person in a neighborhood how to defend themselves and their neighbors during a Trump administration through door knocking, information sharing, know-your-rights training for both ICE and/or police abuse,” said organizers from Juntos, a Latino community organization. “Our first Community Resistance Zone will be in South Philadelphia to train every one of our neighbors how to resist criminalization from our homes and community.”
More than 7,000 people in Pennsylvania applied for the Obama-era DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program, 5,000 of those from Philly, while an estimated 21,000 are eligible across the state.
“Once again, this president has confirmed that he is a coward by attacking the Dreamers who are solid contributors to our country,” City Councilmember Maria Quinones-Sanchez said in a statement. “This short-sighted decision is particularly disappointing given that until now, even many of the most conservative lawmakers have recognized that DACA is a necessity until we muster the political will to address comprehensive immigration reform.”
DACA, however, is reviled by Trump-aligned conservatives.
Robert Law, director of government relations at the D.C.-based Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), said the estimated 800,000 immigrants affected by the program were only granted “temporary status by a rogue president,” referring to Obama. (FAIR is listed on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s controversial “hate group map.”)
“President Trump has made a very smart move here,” Law said. “By ending DACA, which is unconstitutional, and phasing it out over the next two years, he’s given them time to get their affairs in order and leave quietly. This is not about rounding up people.”
But for immigrant activists, the end of DACA means fears of being removed from their homes and communities where immigrant children have lived their entire lives.
“Trump has increased the arsenal of white supremacy by unleashing an unaccountable terror machine against immigrants,” said Erika Almiron, executive director of Juntos. "ICE [Immigrations and Customs Enforcement] has essentially snatched people outside their front doors, chased them down in their cars and disappeared them from outside of our courtrooms in ways that can only be likened to the Gestapo.”
Law asserted that DACA participants will not be a priority for immigration enforcement.
“These people do not have a legitimate claim to be here,” he said. “Their parents or some other family member decided to disregard our laws and come here. To reward that unlawful behavior is only going to perpetuate more unlawful behavior.”
But city officials who disagree with Trump’s stance said they will continue to fight the proposed changes to DACA, which would go into effect in March 2018.
“Philadelphia remains a proud sanctuary city,” said City Councilwoman Helen Gym. “Now more than ever, we stand with our immigrant communities, with Dreamers and our DACA youth, to say that they will not stand alone."