Locals discuss Trump’s immigration policies

Hisham, left, and Mariam Yasin, center, welcome their mother Najah Alshamieh, from Syria, after immigration authorities released her at Dallas Fort Worth Airport, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017, in Dallas. Alshamieh was held by immigration authorities after President Donald Trump signed an executive order barring Muslims from certain countries from entering the Unties States. Photo credit: Associated Press

By Rylee Seavers | Staff Writer

Locals met to discuss how to make Waco a welcoming community in light of President Donald Trump’s executive actions. About 100 residents gathered at the Mission Waco chapel at the Meyer Center Community Clinic on Washington Avenue to discuss the president’s executive actions and what to do in response to them. The event was sponsored by the Waco Immigration Alliance and Grassroots Leadership.

The goal of the Waco Immigration Alliance is to make Waco a welcoming community for all immigrants of every faith, religion and legal status, according to its website. Attendees were invited to sign petitions in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the DREAM Act and petitions in opposition of a southern border wall.

“We want Waco to be a welcoming city,” Ana Chtham, member of the leadership team for the Waco Immigration Alliance, said. “We want people who are here, our neighbors, whether they are documented or undocumented, to feel like they belong [and] to feel like, if they are victims of a crime, they can call law enforcement and know that they are going to be heard and protected. Whether we call ourselves a sanctuary city or not is less important.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s comments about seeking legislation to remove any officials who support sanctuary cities were also a topic of discussion. Many attendees compared these comments to fascism.

“We are working on laws that will … ban sanctuary cities [and] remove from office any officer-holder who promotes sanctuary cities,” Abbott said in an interview with “Fox & Friends” on Wednesday.

Alejandro Caceres, immigration organizer for Grassroots Leadership, spoke about the promises the Trump administration has made thus far, including defunding sanctuary cities, deporting 3 million people within the first year, implementing extreme vetting and overturning DACA. Caceres also spoke about Trump’s recent executive actions ordering construction of a wall along the southern border of the United States. and the temporary ban on immigrants from majority muslim nations entering the United States.

Baylor also addressed recent the executive action, sending out an email regarding the new immigration policies on Monday. The email acknowledged that some members of the Baylor community may be affected by the executive order that could lead to changes in policy. Baylor’s Center for Global Engagement is monitoring the situation and will aid those that may be affected by Trump’s executive actions. Baylor advises that any member of the Baylor community from any of the specified countries, consult with the Center for Global Engagement before traveling outside the U.S.

A national poll from Quinnipiac University conducted between Jan. 5 and Jan. 9 shows that 48 percent of Americans support “suspending immigration from ‘terror prone’ regions, even if it means turning away refugees from those regions.” Forty-two percent oppose this policy.

“Not everybody has the same opportunity to encounter people from other countries, other religions, other demographics,” Jake Crowther, staff member at Grassroots Leadership and speaker at the event, said of the poll. “That helps create the divide just because we’re not intentionally going out to try and interact with those groups of people. I think that if more people had the opportunity to interact with them, they would realize that just because they’re from another country or have another religion or different thoughts, that doesn’t make them a bad person.”

Caceres encouraged immigrants attending the event to make folders containing identification, proof of residence and power of attorney documents, especially for those who have children, in the event that they are detained. Caceres also said Grassroots Leadership does not advocate for completely open borders. They also encourage conversation on how U.S. policy drives immigrants to the U.S. border.

“It’s important to stay informed,” Chtham said.

She also said people who are concerned need to take action by calling local representatives and uniting with others in the community. She encourages people to organize with others who have similar concerns and work to understand the new actions and take steps towards progress.