Students Join Regional Immigration Movement

Eight Georgetown students have joined the DMV Sanctuary Congregation Network, a local initiative launched March 21 led by regional religious groups, that provides spiritual support and legal resources to immigrants at risk of being detained or deported.

Sanctuary DMV consists of over 60 religious congregations who have pledged to provide aid to local immigrants through providing physical sanctuary, free legal aid and spiritual support.

Mizraim Belman Guerrero (SFS ’20), one of the students involved in outreach for Sanctuary DMV, and Austin Rose (COL ’18), who has been involved with Sanctuary DMV since it started, plan to form a team of Georgetown students and faculty to accompany immigrants attending mandatory check-ins with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

In January, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to increase the range of people who qualify as priorities for deportation. Since then, ICE arrests of immigrants around the country have increased. In the District alone, ICE reported it had arrested 82 individuals over the course of five days in the DMV area, according to Fusion, a media company owned by Univision. During the week of April 3, ICE reported it detained at least 367 individuals across the country.

ICE check-ins are meant for immigrants without documentation of which the government is aware, but who have low priority for deportation, often because they do not have criminal records or have strong involvement with their local communities.

Rose, who is also a student coordinator for the Immigration and Labor Project at Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, said initiatives like Sanctuary DMV are important to protecting immigrants.

“This is a time where we really need to stand in solidarity with the undocumented community in D.C.,” Rose said. “They’ve been persecuted for a while. It’s not necessarily anything new.”

Organizations like Many Languages One Voice are working with immigrants in the D.C. area to have their voices heard. On May 1, there will be a nation-wide immigrant strike.

Hannah Kane, a Worker Justice organizer at Many Languages One Voice, said she has high hopes for the protest next month.

“We hope that immigrants will be organizing and defending their rights themselves,” Kane said.

According to Kane, some students at Georgetown are planning on participating in the strike.

Belman Guerrero said he is personally committed to the Sanctuary DMV initiative because of his status as a student without documentation and his work as an immigration and labor justice coordinator with the Kalmanovitz Initiative.

“I personally care because I am undocumented so this is something that personally affects me every day,” Guerrero said. “I’m in it because it’s helping immigrants, but I do also come from a religious Catholic background and a lot of the churches there are Catholic, so it ties into my religious background.”

According to Rose, accompaniment involves going with people to their ICE check-ins, and explained that it is important for several reasons.

“There are three purposes for accompaniment. Emotional, so just being there for people. Logistical, so calling people, making sure their kids are ok if they have kids, making sure their stuff is ok. And then the third is putting pressure on the ICE field office, where you report for the check-ins,” Rose said.

Rose said he hopes the organization provides an outlet for students to support immigrants.

“This is something in the works so people will have to be patient with it,” Rose said. “But I think that it’s something that can really help in a way that individual people, no matter if they have experience with this issue or not, can get involved.”

Rose said the current national political climate has motivated people to rally support for immigrants.

Since Trump’s election, thousands of demonstrators have mobilized around the country to protest the administration’s ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries and policies advanced by the Trump White House. In Washington alone, protestors have gathered for the Women’s March on January 21 and the Tax March on April 15. Activists will also descend on D.C. for the March for Science this weekend and the People’s Climate March on April 29.

“I think right now, there’s a lot of momentum, a lot of anti-Trump sentiment,” Rose said. “Obviously, some people support Trump and are ok with his policies, but I think after he was elected the country was really shocked, and a lot of people are concerned with his presidency and want to provide a check against what he may do and some want to openly resist what he may do.”

Guerrero said he has seen support around campus.

“I think it’s going pretty well,” Guerrero said. “There definitely is a lot of support for undocumented immigrants here on campus it seems like. We had a meeting not too long ago where there were a couple students that came out to learn more about how to get involved with the sanctuary movement and we hope to continue those efforts in the coming weeks.”

Guerrero said people can help through accompaniment.

“It definitely doesn’t take a lot. You just have to have that initial drive to want to help out and be a part of the sanctuary movement,” Guerrero said.

Rose said anyone considering getting involved with immigrant rights should jump into it.

“If you are one of those people that wants to do something, and are looking for something to do, I really feel as though this is an ideal thing to do,” Rose said. “It’s ideal because it’s a low-bar commitment, because I know everyone is busy. It’s ideal because I really believe it can make an impact. It’s ideal because it’s needed.”

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