Nashali is 13 and constantly scared that her mother, an undocumented immigrant in San Francisco, will be deported.
“My father left because my grandparents were sick. Now, I’m fearful that my last support, my mom, will be taken away from me. She takes me to school every day, she does everything for me,” she said in a teleconference Thursday announcing a new report from the We Belong Together campaign that discusses the impact of President Donald Trump’s first 100 days on immigrant women and their families. (Rewire is not using the last names of the children in this story for safety reasons.)
“But even though I’m afraid, my mom has prepared us in case she gets taken away. We know that we shouldn’t open the door and we have the right to remain silent,” said Nashali, who has participated in the campaign, delivering letters to elected officials asking them to support women and families. “Kids my age shouldn’t have to deal with the stress of if and when we will see our parents again. We only want our families to stay together.”
There are approximately 5 million undocumented women living in the United States: mothers, daughters, sisters, workers, organizers, members of the LGBTQ community, and survivors of gender-based violence. The current administration’s policies have made them fear for their safety and a target for deportation, said Amanda Baran, co-author of the report and a policy consultant for We Belong Together.
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Part of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the We Belong Together campaign mobilizes people “in support of common sense immigration policies that will keep families together and empower women,” it explains on its website.
“One thing is clearer than ever—the fight for women’s equality is inextricably linked to realizing the needs of immigrant women and women of color,” said the authors of Trump’s First 100 Days: Immigrant Women and Families on the Frontlines in the report.
“It is no surprise that women are under attack around the world as Trump, who dismisses boasting about sexual assault as innocent locker room talk, makes good on hateful campaign promises premised on nativism, and that among the primary targets of his Administration are black women, immigrant women, Muslims, the LGBTQ community, and families living in poverty.”
The 15-page report outlines how attacks against immigrant women have increased during Trump’s first 100 days in office. Policies like the administration’s travel ban against refugees from six majority-Muslim countries, executive orders on immigration enforcement, and persistent efforts to defund and limit women’s access to sexual and reproductive care have created a climate of fear where women feel hunted, exploited, and are often afraid to report crimes, Baran said.
Gilda Blanco, a Black immigrant from Guatemala and an organizer with the National Domestic Workers Alliance in Seattle, said in the press call that she sees firsthand how unsafe Black undocumented immigrants in her community feel when the criminal justice system is designed to criminalize and profile them.
“These 100 days have been a dizzying violation of our human rights and our human dignity as Black immigrants. But I am part of the resistance, and we will not allow this new administration to continue to attack immigrant families.”
Nevertheless, immigrant women and their families are leading the resistance and standing up to the discriminatory policies that effectively leads to their separation.
“Women and children are organizing in their communities to protect each other from immigration enforcement, demand that local leaders protect schools and healthcare, stop bans and walls with legal action, and create safe spaces for immigrant lives and Black lives,”said Andrea Cristina Mercado, chair of the We Belong Together campaign, in a press release.
Just this month, several such families gathered in front of the White House to send Trump the message that they belong together, she said.
The We Belong Together report closes with a paragraph celebrating the “visionary leadership” of women and families who are speaking out and demanding change.
These include six undocumented hotel housekeepers in North Carolina who say their boss sexually assaulted them for years, threatening them with deportation if they were to complain, the Charlotte Observer reported earlier this month. The women have filed a lawsuit against the Hilton Charlotte University Place, with their trial scheduled for July.
Other brave women and families include Jeanette Vizguerra and her children, who have joined the We Belong Together campaign and have spoken publicly about their case. Vizguerra sought refuge at a local church in Colorado to avoid deportation after becoming a target under the Trump administration, the Denver Post reported.
And 11-year-old Leah in Florida took part in the four-city We Belong Together Kids Caravan tour earlier this month to tell President Trump that she will speak out for her undocumented mother, and that families matter.
The report concludes that policymakers, elected officials, the media, and the public can support these women and families by opposing policies grounded in nativist, racist, and misogynistic ideologies; disrupting narratives that equate immigrants and communities of color with criminality; and exposing the impact of immigration enforcement and criminal justice policies.