by Cecilia Dos Santos, Executive Coordinator and Program Manager
Executive Coordinator and Program Manager, DREAMER committee member, and enthusiastic user of face make-up for Halloween, Cecilia Dos Santos has a background in dating and sexual violence advocacy for youth. A native of West Hartford, CT and graduate of Tufts University, she writes about the intersection of immigrant youth experiences and gender-based violence.
The leadership, staff, and participants of LAYC are appalled to learn of the Department of Homeland Security’s plans to raid immigrant communities and homes under the guise of securing our borders, enforcing immigration laws, and deterring new waves of Central American immigrants.
Conditions in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala rise above and beyond the level of a humanitarian crisis. Our newly arrived Central American immigrants are true refugees, escaping violence and war and unable to ensure the safety and livelihood of their families in their home countries. They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and offered the basic protections and security to live free from the kind of state violence they’re fleeing. These raids stand in stark contrast to our country’s values.
In response, local community leaders, government officials, activists and residents have quickly gathered to form rapid response strategies to address the Department of Homeland Security’s plan to raid homes and communities of immigrant families. We’re spreading information to our youth, their parents, and our community members to understand their rights should they face an action from the Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid. And, we’re working with our local government and civic leaders to stress that our communities will not be intimidated and scared into isolation. All our youth participants and their families are urged to continue to go to school and work, attend their enrichment programs, religious centers and sports activities, and visit hospitals and clinics to meet their health needs. The District of Columbia Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs Director, Jackie Reyes announced the city is not cooperating with ICE at a recent press conference.
When we at LAYC talk about immigrant’s rights, we know that it is not just policy and procedures. We know these raids will overwhelmingly impact vulnerable mothers, children, and unaccompanied minors. We know that many victims of these raids, though targeted by enforcement actions to round up those with existing removal or deportation orders, may have not been properly notified or given adequate legal assistance and representation to navigate our complex immigration processing system. We know that our community began 2016 with the terrifying knowledge that ICE has apprehended more than 120 immigrant individuals across a number of states. And, we also know that those forced to return to Central America are going back to the same conditions of extreme poverty, gang and state violence, extortions, physical and sexual assault, and even death. These are hard-working mothers and innocent children and youth who made the impossible choice between living in continuous fear and facing death, or risking their lives crossing multiple countries and dangerous terrains in hope of finding relief, compassion, and asylum.
In our community, in the neighborhoods and schools where LAYC and MMYC staff offer their programs and services, we have witnessed the fear, isolation, and violence that these actions have caused. While these actions are directed against recent arrivals, fear is widespread regardless when someone came. Our friends in Langley Park, Maryland are processing the reality and impact of confirmed ICE raids that have separated immigrant families. In DC, we’re hearing youth and students express too much fear for their safety to keep them attending after-school activities, or simply moving about public spaces from home to school where they feel exposed and vulnerable.
We stand with our community, our families, and youth to demand President Obama bring an immediate end to these raids and scare tactics and grant temporary protective status to Central American families fleeing violence and extreme poverty.
Resources and Events
- February 3, 2016, 5–7 p.m. Know Your Rights: Understanding the Immigration System workshop.
- March 5, 2016, 10 a.m.–1 p.m. Free DACA Clinic.
- Resources from United We Dream