Massive “listening tour” reveals voices, fears of immigrant communities
After almost four years of the Trump Administration, many immigrants in the U.S. feel an intense amount of fear, experience damaging trauma, and face pervasive racism, according to a groundbreaking new report issued by one of the nation’s leading immigrant advocacy groups.
The report, entitled Our Stories, Our Futures: The Voices of Immigrant Communities, recently was released by LA RED, Faith in Action’s campaign dedicated to immigrant justice. It is the result of a massive “listening campaign” conducted over the summer that organizers say is unprecedented and will help researchers and advocates alike better understand the experiences and attitudes of both Latinx immigrants and non-Latinx Black immigrants alike.
Over this past summer, the listening campaign conducted 100 small group listening sessions in 13 states and Washington, D.C. Sixteen grassroots organizations that are part of Faith in Action’s network spoke with 715 immigrants with non-permanent immigration status, either undocumented, from mixed-status families, or people with precarious status such as the “dreamers,” (people who arrived as children), people admitted under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) due to dangerous conditions in certain countries, or visas, about their experiences in the U.S. during the past three years, and their hopes, dreams, and visions for the future.
“A participatory action research project with over 700 immigrant respondents across 13 states is unprecedented,” said Dr. Alexandra Pineros Shields, Executive Director of the Essex County Community Organization, who wrote the report. “The results provide a vivid picture of the inhumane impact of the Trump Administration’s immigration policies against immigrants. I hope lawmakers heed the call of impacted communities and take bold and immediate action to realize this vision shared by immigrant people in the report.”
Among the many ideas and experiences shared by the 715 interviewees, three broad themes stood out:
Participants felt an extreme sense of fear, damaging trauma, and pervasive racism. Participants consistently identified the agents of this fear to be Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the police, with some naming Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
“My family is scared to go out. They even have fear of going grocery shopping.”
Participants longed for freedom and belonging in the U.S. — a world where all are free to travel, work, study, and plan ahead for their families with peace and freedom from fear.
“I feel that I am being treated like a criminal when all I did was come to America for a better life for me and my family. I am a general contractor by trade, which requires me to travel for work. But because of the ankle bracelet, I am limited to where I can go and how long I can stay out. I feel like I am being punished over and over again when all I am trying to do is provide the American dream for my family. I just want to work, pay taxes and be a productive citizen.”
Participants expressed deep longing for a world in which their families were permanently together and safe. Protecting their families from forcible separation by the U.S. government law enforcement systems and laws was mentioned multiple times in every listening session across the country.
“ICE should stop chasing us, we feel being chased. We want to follow the law but are not given the opportunity to do so.”
Cirenio Cervantes, a community leader with Faith in Florida, said the listening campaign allowed doors to open for more immigrants to share their stories.
“Normally, these stories stay in the shadows, but the listening campaign allowed us to bring people’s experiences to light and uplift their hopes and dreams,” she said. “I hope this encourages others to share their own life experiences so that policymakers can hear us.”