A new grassroots community organization has formed in response to President-elect Donald Trump’s proposed pursuit of large-scale deportations of undocumented Latino immigrants.
“It is clear that President-elect Donald Trump has declared war against the Mexican American community by his immigration policies,” said Irene Tovar, a coordinator for a group that calls the Mexican Resistance Army. At a press conference at Los Angeles Mission College on Monday, Nov. 21, Tovar said the group intends to nonviolently “resist, defend and protect our children and families living in fear.”
“Is that an exaggeration on our part? We don’t think so,” said Tovar, while describing deportation efforts against Mexicans in the 1930s and 1950s to a mixture of students and residents in attendance. “We will fight back to defend and protect our children who are now living in fear that when they home their parents won’t be home.”
Tovar was flanked by City of San Fernando council members Sylvia Ballin and Joel Fajardo, LAPD Capt. Robert Marino, Assemblyman-elect Raul Bocanegra among others at the conference.
Marino, an area captain for the LAPD Mission Community Station, reiterated the department’s “Special Order 40,” which prohibits officers from only questioning people about their citizenship status.
“‘It is the policy of the Los Angeles Police Department that undocumented alien status in itself is not a matter of a police action,’” Marino read from the 1979 order. “We are not the arm of [ICE]. We are not the arm of Homeland Security to enforce that. It is therefore incumbent on all employees of this department to make a personal commitment to equal enforcement of the law and service to the public regardless of their status is.
“We do not enforce anything that goes with immigration status. We’re not going out and checking out people based on a belief that somebody maybe in country illegally….That’s not our job.”
Bocanegra said the community must “show some resolve” in the new political climate that could prove harsh for minorities and immigrants.
“This is very serious,” said Boconegra, who takes office on Dec. 5. “It must be clear in no uncertain terms that we will defend, we will resist, and at some point as a community we need to be on the offensive. That may mean taking it to the streets. That may mean legislation that we work in partnership with Democrats and Republicans because there are some people in the legislature we can talk to that understand the situation, and our governor. And it may mean litigation.
“We shouldn’t be afraid to lead on this issue. Los Angeles has done it before, where sometimes we have to drag the rest of the state on issues…This is just the beginning. We need to be prepared to defend, to resist, and to be on the offensive as a community, and in a nonviolent manner.”
Ballin said she implore the Republican Party and others newly elected “who are apparently doing a victory lap at our expense” to help all Americans feel safe again. “And all those here in the United States that are not US citizens, help them all feel safe again. … What I see [the diversity] in this room today you might not see in other states. And that is scary.”
Fajardo told the audience “I’ve determined that the only solution” is to continue fighting, and fight harder than we ever have before.”
“For the City of San Fernando, a Trump presidency will be disastrous,” Fajardo said. “He’s called our friends and families ‘rapists’ and ‘criminals.’ ‘Make America Great’ doesn’t mean pulling children away from their parents. Or pulling children out of school.”
Some students attending the conference said they were encouraged by what they heard.
“Today what I heard was that, in this community we’re starting to come together,” said Benjamin Alatorre, 18. “And we’re gonna fight and stand up for what is right, and not let this fear take our community over.
Jackie Gonzalez, 18, said she was “offended” by the onslaught of hateful and racial comments she has seen posted on the Internet since Trump was elected on Nov. 8.
It’s really affected me and my family,” Gonzalez said. “My grandparents just became American citizens. And I’m scared that, even for them, we might be asked for our ‘papers’ and all that stuff that really shouldn’t be happening in a county that’s made for freedom.
“We’re all immigrants; that’s how this country came to be. And it’s really sad to that everyone’s living in fear, especially people of color. It just hurts my heart that this is what it’s come to.”