When documents released by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) laid out President Trump’s plan to significantly increase the government’s capacity to deport undocumented people, thousands of Change.org users were ready to respond to what they saw as an unwarranted targeting of immigrants and refugees. The announcement laid out policy that requires Immigration and Customs Enforcement to target immigrants who have been convicted of any criminal offense for deportation, in addition to mechanisms that will increase the speed at which people are removed from the country.
Under President Obama, the department focused solely on violent undocumented offenders, and protocol for expedited removal only applied to those who had been in the country for less than two weeks and were located within 100 miles of the country’s borders. Now, the DHS can apply expedited removal to any undocumented person who has resided in the country for two years or less, and is located anywhere in the United States.
In order to implement these new policies, Trump has directed the department to hire 10,000 new immigration and customs agents.
In response, Change.org users are petitioning their local city governments to do what they can to provide sanctuary to immigrants in the face of President Trump’s new policies. Over 20 universities, counties and cities are represented on the sanctuary city movement page here.
And decision-makers are listening. In Columbus, Ohio, Council President Zach M. Klein told the press “Columbus’s police department is Columbus’s police department; we are not immigration and customs patrol.” Earlier this month, the sanctuary movement page saw its first victory when town trustees received 600 Change.org signatures delivered by SOMA Action and listened to them, voting in favor of South Orange, New Jersey, becoming a sanctuary city.
Now more than ever, people are using Change.org to hold elected officials and decision makers accountable to protect undocumented people and refugees.
That’s precisely what Christian Tirado, a University of Florida (UF) student behind the petition to make his college a sanctuary campus is doing. “Many undocumented students have come up to me (in this moment more than ever) very saddened and fearful of their futures on campus,” the petition starter relayed by phone. “I want to assure them that I will continue to fight for them.”
Once the petition’s signatures surpassed 2,000, UF’s administration agreed to meet with the students. Tirado and the student-led group behind the petition, Gators for a Sanctuary Campus, will be meeting with the vice president of the university in the coming weeks to discuss their ask.
While UF is a recipient of federal funding as a public college, Tirado is optimistic that the university has the autonomy to protect its students without risking the loss of that crucial funding. “I remain very hopeful in what we can accomplish as students. Change, historically (in this country and across the world), has started with students.” After his meeting with the vice president, Tirado would like to meet with the university’s president, Dr. Kent Fuchs, who will be the ultimate decision-maker on the petition’s ask.
Tirado’s efforts are particularly relevant in the state of Florida, where last Friday Miami-Dade County passed a resolution to comply with Trump’s executive order to ban sanctuary cities. Now local police must comply with federal immigration officers to arrest undocumented people and flag them for deportation.
Still, Miami-Dade residents are calling on Mayor Carlos Gimenez to take actions toward protecting immigrants at risk of deportation. EmergeUSA, the Muslim advocacy group behind the petition, is reminding Miami-Dade’s leadership of the resolution that just four years ago, vowed to honor “the spirit of sanctuary” in Miami.
Meanwhile in Texas, a group of high school students are standing up for their undocumented parents, loved ones, and community members by asking the State House not to pass a bill that would punish cities that provide sanctuary to undocumented people. If written into law, the bill would require local law enforcement to comply with ICE in the detention of undocumented people.
A total of 26 petitions now live on the Sanctuary City movement page, and with them 16,948 supporters fighting to protect undocumented people across the United States. You can add your name to stay updated on this growing movement.