Some US voters are feeling hopeful post-election. But others across the country don't feel that way, especially immigrants.
“How many synonyms are there for fear, anxiety and rage?” says KCRW Los Angeles reporter Saul Gonzalez. “It's all of those emotions every place I go to in LA’s many immigrant-rich communities. There is a lot of concern here about what's going to happen next in this country.”
What’s going to happen next is not a matter of abstract speculation about public policy. It’s a personal thing, he says. “They take it very seriously…any Immigration reform or a crackdown on illegal immigration could directly affect their lives and their status to remain in this country and they know it."
On the other hand, Gonzalez says he hears immigrants raising their voices, saying “Listen Americans, you have to understand what we do for this country. Every day we are your nannies, we are your gardeners, your housekeepers.”
This is particularly true in Los Angeles where immigrant labor, documented and undocumented, is sewn into the life of the community. “It’s how this city functions each and every day,” says Gonzalez.
California does have a reputation for being an immigrant-friendly place. There are an estimated 2 million undocumented immigrants living and working in California, at least half of that number in and around Los Angeles.
“Remember California cities have been a particularly welcoming place for the undocumented,” says Gonzalez. As examples, he cites the steps California has taken to provide assistance to the undocumented in recent years, from letting them apply for driver's licenses to Los Angeles opening an Office of Immigrants Rights in 2013 to provide assistance to undocumented immigrants navigating their way to citizenship.
But this week, the mood has suddenly shifted. There’s real anxiety out there over Trump's proposals, like mass deportation. With undocumented workers at a local day laborer center in his LA neighborhood, usually the chatter is about families back home or a favorite soccer club, Gonzales says. Now the conversation is fixed on the election results
"I think that this country is going to be harder for us to be here,” says Jujeño, an undocumented Mexican who’s been in the US for six years. “Trump is attacking Latinos a lot, especially Mexicans. We are scared that he’s going to go through with his threats."
Other laborers said they fully expect Trump to try to toss undocumented out of the country as he has threated during the campaign, or to target immigrants in other ways once he’s in the White House.
Many immigration advocates are mobilizing to oppose the threatened anti-immigrant policies that may be coming down the pike.
"The reality is he got elected. We need to face that reality in order to create strategies to confront the racism and the exclusion that is real,” says Angelica Salas who directs the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA). “But we have to do it from a place of love. That is one of the clear messages from our community. We are people who are going to create a more unified America. We are people who are going to fight for our families.”
Salas says community leaders and immigration advocates are now trying to calm immigrant fears of any negative impact to their families in the wake of Trump's victory. Given the new reality, she says, it’s important to do so, so that people, including children, can go about their daily lives without fear.
“Let's be conscious of what we are doing to a whole generation of children who feel that because Donald Trump got elected that somehow they are ‘less than.’ I want to tell them no, you are not, you are just as American as every other single child just as worthy, just as valuable."
Others fear that a confrontation could be coming soon. If Trump in his early days in the White House signs an executive order to deport undocumented immigrants, Gonzales says immigration advocates will challenge the policy in the courts. “They also promise to take to the streets, not to do anything violent or anything like that, but to let Americans know that undocumented [people] have a voice when it comes to issues that are important to them — namely their safety and their ability to stay in this country and have as normal a life as possible. “
From PRI's The World ©2016 PRI