Amid a packed crowd of protesters at a #HereToStay rally on Sunday, Nov. 13 in Columbus Circle, 22-year-old Juan stood outside the entrance to Central Park holding a sign that read, “I’m a dishwasher, not a rapist.”
Juan arrived in the United States from Colombia a mere six months before Donald J. Trump, who called immigrants “rapists” and “criminals,” was elected President.
In faded jeans and a green hoodie, he joined thousands of New Yorkers, many of them immigrants, to protest Trump’s anti-immigration agenda. Afterwards, he headed to work in the kitchen where he washes dishes.
“Hispanic people, Latin-American people, we are good workers. We are not rapists. We are the base of this country,” he said. “Donald Trump knows nothing about people who work in kitchens. It would be nice to see what kind of people work in the Trump Tower kitchen.”
It was the fifth consecutive day that protesters hit the streets over the election of Trump in cities across the country.
In New York, the protest was organized by Make The Road, a nonprofit organization made up primarily of low-income Latino and African-American immigrants. Earlier in the day, members and advocates had gathered in the group’s Bushwick headquarters to prepare for the protest. After eating a meal together, they put on T-shirts, slapped on stickers, and carried protest signs onto the subway.
As they spilled onto the streets, they chanted, “Say it loud, say it clear, immigrants are welcome here!” They marched from Trump’s hotel to his skyscraper headquarters, watched by Secret Service agents, police officers, and civilians on the sidelines.
“We’re here to stay, we’re resilient and we’re going to continue,” said Paola Lebron-Guzman, a young LGBT community organizer who moved to the United States from Puerto Rico.
The day after the election was tough for Guzman. The first conversations she had about the Trump presidency were with LGBT youth of color inside Gender Sexuality Alliance networks in Bushwick schools. Many of them, she said, wanted to sit and rant, or to ask questions about the election’s outcome.
“It was very intense,” she said. “How do you give them hope when you yourself are just floating by in a numb state?”
Guzman believes that the election results don’t represent the majority of America, because, “there were so many people who didn’t get to vote and weren’t accounted for.” (Democrat Hillary Clinton got more than 1 million votes than Trump, according to returns available a week after the election.) Of New York City’s 3 million foreign-born residents, many can’t vote because they’re not citizens. More than 500,000 are undocumented.
In an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” on Nov. 13, Trump said he plans to deport 2 to 3 million undocumented immigrants immediately, particularly individuals with criminal histories. “We are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate,” he said.
He also told CBS that he still plans to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and that once the border is “secure,” immigration officials would make “a determination” about whether to deport the remaining undocumented.
Under the Obama administration, the United States increased the number of border patrol agents, heightened border surveillance, and deported more than 2.5 million people — more than under any other president. But the administration also made reforms. It granted protection to undocumented immigrants under its programs deferring action against those who had arrived here as children or were parents of American citizens, also known as DACA and DAPA.
Over 840,000 undocumented immigrants have been shielded from deportation under DACA for two-year periods and granted work permits. Trump, however, could revoke these protections through an executive order and direct the Department of Homeland Security to ramp up enforcement policies.
Sylvia, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, attended the rally with her two American-born sons. She arrived in the United States 16 years ago and works as a community health worker.
Although she is scared about Trump’s presidency, she said she was ready to return to Mexico if forced. “But then who’s going to contribute to the country?” she asked.
Sylvia plans for her sons to stay here if she is deported.
Marco Reinoso, 78, immigrated from Ecuador and has lived in the U.S. for more than 40 years. He is a deli owner in Brooklyn and joined Make The Road 11 years ago. He said he attended the protest because he felt that this was the first time someone was unfit to be the president. “To me, [Trump] don’t know nothing,” he said. “He’s only a businessman, a real-estate guy, who wants to make billions.”
“Our people are suffering and our hearts are breaking,” Reinoso continued. “We need someone who understands what it means to be president of this country.”
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