Let me start by saying that I know nothing about community organizing or political disobedience or really anything that qualifies me to figure out where we go from here. What I do know is that most of America, probably even most of the people who voted for Trump don’t actually want another Trail of Tears. We are a nation of immigrants — it’s the core of our strength and our resilience — and most people still believe that.
So when the Washington Post announces:
I’m, of course, filled with righteous fury. But also bewilderment — how would anyone even start to “immediately deport 2 to 3 million people”?
Let’s make a to-do list, shall we?
- Decide who to deport: are there databases that are easily searchable? Can USCIS simply print out a list? If yes, how vulnerable are those databases to attack? If no centralized databases exist, how can we keep it that way? The WaPo seems to think even this most primary question will be hard to answer.
- Find the people on the list: So now you know who you’re going to arrest. How do you actually find them? Does the USCIS keep current addresses? Presumably people who think they might be on a deportation list are already considering moving to sanctuary cities. Can they move and resettle within the next 6 weeks or so? What help might they need?
- Arrest the people on the list: so now you have to arrest 3 million people across the country. Do you rely on local law enforcement? Will local law enforcement cooperate? Are they required to cooperate? How long will the courts take to decide whether to compel the mayors of sanctuary cities to carry out the arrest orders? This is probably not how it would even work but surely it’s not actually all that easy to just drive around arresting 3 million people overnight without an experience even more dramatic than Kristallnacht, during which “only” 30,000 people were arrested. Won’t nearly every citizen in the country know someone whose friend or family member was arrested? Won’t we see people being dragged out of homes and business? This event will be dramatic, emotional, horrific. The Trail of Tears, live on CNN. Surely most of the “holding my nose and voting Trump” voters will begin to understand what they’ve unleashed?
- Hold the people you’ve arrested: Does the USCIS have space to hold 3 million people? If not, does USCIS rely on local law enforcement to hold people who have been arrested? If yes, see #3 above — how’s that going to work? You’ll likely have to hold these people for weeks or months, feeding them, etc — not cheap! Because, see below:
- Conducting hearings for each person at risk of deportation: unless we’re deciding to simply do away with our immigration court system — perhaps not such a farfetched concept at this point — everyone arrested gets some sort of hearing. Many of those will appeal the results of the first hearing. How long does each hearing take? How long will it take to process 3 million people through that system? Surely many of the individual immigration court judges are human beings who will recoil from the inhumanity of this round up? What other opportunities exist to obstruct this process?
- Transporting people back to their country of origin: Around 62% of undocumented immigrants are thought to be from Mexico, so let’s start there. There are undocumented immigrants in every state in the union. If roughly 1,860,000 of them are from Mexico USCIS would need to figure out how to transport them back to the border. By bus? If 30 people fit on one bus, that’s 62,000 buses full of weeping families driving through the country on the way to the border. And for the 1,080,000 people from other countries— maybe we’ll send them home in several thousand flights? On commercial airlines? Does the US have thousands of planes to transport people? What will this all cost? Who pays for it?
These are all just guesses. I don’t actually know what all the steps are. If you’re an expert in immigration and you’re reading this, please correct me!
But regardless of whether it’s 6 steps or 10 steps or 60 steps, the complexity of this process is actually a blessing for those of us who abhor this plan, and who voted against it. Each point of complexity is an opportunity to obstruct, a opportunity to protect the people affected and an opportunity to publicize the atrocities that are going to be required in order to carry it out. It will take thousands of people, all with different skills and ideas, brought together with a common purpose: to preserve our sweet land of liberty.
We won’t be able to prevent every injustice planned by this new administration but we can prevent some injustices and for the ones we can’t prevent, we can witness and share as widely as possible. We have energy, we have resources, and we have a common sense of what is right. If we work together with the many different organizations already poised to defend those most at risk — the ACLU, immigration advocacy groups, others? — we can pull down mountains.
Where do we start?