“I want to tell you what it’s like to not be listened to.”

An Immigrant Mother Says “No” to Trump’s Politics of Fear

Recently, a woman in Richmond decided to say “no” to the separation of her family. Facing imminent deportation, Abbie Herrera-Arevalo, a mother of two, chose to seek refuge at a local church instead of turning herself over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Last Wednesday, Abbie and her children were welcomed by dozens of community members at Richmond’s First Unitarian Universalist Church, whose congregation voted in January to make the church available for sanctuary. Prior to entering sanctuary, Abbie was informed that she would be detained at her ICE check-in and deported to Honduras, her home country and one of the most violent places in the world.

“I’m going to fight for my case and my family,” Abbie said during a press conference held when she entered sanctuary. “I don’t want to be separated from my family.”

Abbie fled Honduras in 2014 to escape her abusive ex-partner. She left her infant daughter with her mother and carried her other young daughter with her across two international borders until she reached the U.S.-Mexico border. Upon entering the U.S., Abbie applied for asylum on grounds of domestic violence and has been tied up in the immigration process since. She said she had been again threatened by her ex in Honduras just a few weeks before learning she would be deported—back to Honduras.

“I feel that this is an injustice and a violation of my human rights because I know that I have a right to live like everyone else,” Abbie said.

The escalation of Trump’s attack on the immigrant community has reached its newest low with the separation of families at the border. That said, immigrant families have been living in fear of having their families ripped apart by forced deportation for years. Terrorizing people by threatening their families makes people feel powerless and afraid to speak up for themselves and their community.

Sanctuary Doesn’t Mean You Stop Looking Over Your Shoulder

Entering sanctuary is not an easy choice. The Department of Homeland Security has determined that churches, hospitals and schools are sensitive locations where immigration enforcement will not take place. But under a Trump administration, unpredictability means that danger lurks everywhere. Despite the fact that someone who enters sanctuary is avoiding deportation, they are essentially giving up their freedom because they cannot leave their place of sanctuary until their immigration case is decided.

Abbie is married to a legal permanent resident with whom she has a two-year old son (a U.S. citizen) and is also the mother to an 11-year old girl who she brought with her from Honduras. She’ll be living with her children in the First Unitarian Universalist basement for the time being, adjusting to a life without privacy, but at least her family is still together.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced at the beginning of June that asylum seekers could no longer use domestic and gang violence as grounds for asylum. People close to Abbie’s case saw it as no coincidence that Abbie received her deportation order a week after the announcement.

Being A Person Isn’t A Crime, Except According to Trump

Trump’s zero tolerance policy was enacted to supposedly deter people from attempting to cross the border, but it fits into a larger context of criminalizing and dehumanizing immigrants and people of color in the country. Trump was elected on a vehemently anti-immigrant platform and he’s making good on his campaign promise to crack down on immigrant communities. He’s also using immigrants as a bargaining chip to get funding for his border wall.

Trump signed an executive order ending the policy of family separation at the border, but it still allows for families to be held in detention, an illegal policy because of the Flores settlement, which requires children to be held in the least restrictive conditions possible.    

What You Can Do, Today.

Trump’s attacks on immigrant communities show no signs of stopping, especially since it galvanizes his base and feeds his ego.

This is a crucial moment for people who believe in justice, equality and fairness in this country to stand up for immigrants in their community. Actions to keep families together are taking place all over the country, most notably the massive protest to occur June 30 in front of the White House.