THE IMPORTANCE OF ART IN THE TRUMP ERA
By Rodrigo Dorador and Reyna Montoya
Widespread speculation and panic about a Trump presidency have run amok, and with good reason. While no one knows for certain how the new, more “presidential” Trump will behave himself once in office, one thing is certain: immigrants will suffer. To what degree? It depends. Based on comments from Trump and his appointments since Nov. 8th, a handful of undocumented immigrant leaders (who benefit from DACA) in Arizona explored a couple of future scenarios (see below) hoping to learn lessons about how to best face impending suffering. One key learning, prepare for the worst, hope for the best. Really, really hope for the best.
Scenario 1: The Worst Case
Super-criminalization of immigrants
Increased resources created for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
Nationwide mandatory E-verify
ICE agents kicking in doors of DACA beneficiaries and other folks who are already in the “system” with a warrant
All undocumented immigrants will be targeted for deportation. Kris Kobach, famous for writing SB 1070 and his “Attrition through Enforcement” approach to immigration, has already met with Trump to discuss an immigration plan that includes passing mandatory E-verify and increased resources for DHS through congress, criminalizing our community even more, and deporting three million “criminals.” These three policies would make it nearly impossible for immigrants to find a means to survive financially, while emboldening law enforcement, local and federal, to detain and deport millions of immigrants at will.
Since early in his campaign for the Republican nomination, Trump has promised to terminate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, also known as DACA. If he follows through, this means that DHS will have an extensive repository of information to utilize against the immigrant community. Emboldened, ICE agents may begin to kick doors in to pick up DACA beneficiaries no longer protected from deportation- taking and breaking entire families apart along the way.
We hope this does not happen. Thus:
Scenario 2: The “Not So Worst” Case Scenario
DACA beneficiaries keep their protection and work permit until these expire
Continuation of mass deportations, criminalization, and dehumanization of undocumented immigrants
Although Trump has promised to end DACA, recent rhetorical changes in his immigration policy have made us believe he may reconsider his stance on DACA, especially given the Center for American Progress’ recent calculation that terminating the program will cost the American economy over 433 billion dollars over the next ten years. Two well trusted sources of information for DACA beneficiaries, E4FC and UWD, issued statements that “DACA is likely to end,” but mentioned that there might be a chance beneficiaries will be allowed to keep their benefits until the expiration of their work permit.
In recent weeks, Senators Durbin (Democrat) and Graham (Republican) have announced that they want to propose a law to protect DACA beneficiaries. A law would supercede the power Trump would have upon becoming president to end DACA, although his latest remarks hint that he might not be cancelling DACA after all. Trump was quoted as saying that “"We’re going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud.”
Regardless of his treatment towards Dreamers, Trump, similar to Obama, will continue to criminalize non-Dreamers and divide our community and movement. Remember, the Obama administration deported a record breaking three million immigrants in 8 years. The Trump administration is likely to increase the number of over-all deportations as well as the percentage of people who are deported for non-deportable reasons. Preventing a reversion to the pre-2013 years will depend largely on how the immigration movement positions itself and fights the deportation machine and the mass criminalization of immigrants.
While many organizations are thinking about creating legal funds for protection, know your rights trainings, and advocating their officials to declare their cities a sanctuary, there is one organization committed to building the power of undocumented communities through art. Art? Yes, that is right. Art.
We believe that immigrants (like us!) will need protection and know your rights trainings and advocates who keep DHS from collaborating with local law enforcement. We also need spaces where undocumented immigrants can process the stress and anxiety induced by a Trump presidency. We need spaces where that stress and anxiety can be expressed meaningfully and creatively. Where people who are directly impacted by these threats are processing what this means to them, and sharing their own stories in a way that empowers them and allows them to be their whole selves.
In the midst of uncertainty - when president-elect, its cabinet nominations, and the media continues to dehumanize undocumented immigrants, it is pivotal for us to have a space where they can process, heal, and organize in community. In Aliento we create a space where undocumented immigrants are able to use different art mediums such as: song-writing, poetry, painting, drawing, and dance to express their emotions, release anxiety and stress, and be in community. These spaces filled with colors and art allow undocumented immigrants to imagine a different future and be in community- and meet other folks are going through similar challenges. Art allows us to be grounded in who we are, instead of being defined by one act. Art allows us to heal and to imagine a new reality. Art is the great equalizer - where oppressed communities are no longer defined by how the world sees us; where we become creators of how they want to be seen and how their stories are going to be shared.
What can you do?
Save the Date! Our next event is slated for the Friday evening of January 27th at Fair Trade Cafe where Stephanie Camba will enliven us with her music and poetry as she explores the the depth, nuance and intersectionality of human-undocumented experience.
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