The same afternoon, local immigrant justice organization Many Languages One Voice held a powerful and defiant gathering called Sanctuary DC: Immigrant Community Speak Out which of over one hundred District residents poised to speak out against hatred and to remind local elected officials of the tremendous responsibility that DC has to protect all residents and make DC a true sanctuary city. The rally also served as a public introduction of MLOV's DC Immigrant Organizing Center, as a hub for building ongoing resistance led by DC immigrant residents.
A string of multigenerational, multiethnic and multifaith immigrant residents including MLOV youth and worker members who are being directly targeted by the Trump administration, offered words of hope to the crowd as well as recommendations to local officials. As Columbia Heights community leader Ana stated in her remarks yesterday, "This is our city not Donald Trump's!”
The line-up of speakers came from many different immigrant communities, transgender communities, Muslim communities, immigrant youth, workers and more. As Ruby Corado, the founder of Casa Ruby and outspoken local activist stated, "I am here in solidarity with all those under attack just for existing." Speakers broke down a wall that represented Trump and his administration’s hateful policies, brick by brick - including Hate, Police Brutality, Deportations, Muslim Registries, Language Injustice, Racism, Marked Licenses, and ICE, in a powerful and symbolic demonstration of the power of organizing to destroy any wall.
Councilmembers Robert White (D-At Large) and Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1) were in attendance, and Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) sent a representative to join the gathering. All three offices vocally affirmed their commitment to ensure the District’s immigrants residents will not be targeted. Grosso’s office affirmed support for voting rights being extended to non-citizens and for one driver’s license for all in DC that is not marked ‘not for federal purposes’ like the current Limited Purpose License. Earlier this week, the Council unanimously passed a Resolution to Affirm the Rights of All, as introduced by Councilmembers White and Grosso, which does include important pieces recommitting DC as a Sanctuary City including for local police to not act as immigration officers. MLOV was present at the signing, and our ED was invited to give remarks to affirm our principles of human rights.
Despite repeat invitation, Mayor Bowser and the Directors of her immigrant constituent offices failed to attend. Instead, Mayor Bowser chose to hold a separate press conference, in which she loosely reaffirmed that DC shall remain a sanctuary city, still without a concrete plan about how she intends to replace possibly lost federal funding. Mayor Bowser also lost an opportunity to meaningfully engage with her immigrant constituents s to hear their solutions for a broad plan for sanctuary for all.
In response to immigrant communities’ repeated requests for more details on how Bowser’s administration will protect District residents from hatred, deportation, detention and surveillance, she released a statement via Twitter at the same time as the Speak Out rally affirming that local police would not do the dirty work of the federal government. While we appreciate the affirmation of local control, MLOV remains concerned at the failure to address the impunity of the Metropolitan Police Department in the shooting deaths of unarmed black and brown DC residents and the repeated emphasis solely on ‘public safety’ alone.
- Decline all warrantless detainer and notification requests issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); close all loopholes to ensure that city resources are not being used to advance any deportations and no information about District residents is being shared with ICE;
- Commit to using local District funds to make up for any federal money withdrawn from the city, following the recommendations made by the Fair Budget Coalition;
- Immediately pass and fully fund the Language Access for Education Amendment Act of 2015 so that all limited and non-English proficient District residents can access District resources, such as medical, housing, worker protections, and education services, in their language;
- Have one standard DC identification card and driver's license for all;
- Put an end to unchecked violence committed by the Metropolitan Police Department, Metro Transit Police Department, and special police forces against Black and Brown D.C. residents. Black and Brown immigrants in the District are systematically targeted and terrorized both by ICE as well as our our own police forces;
- Refuse the use of DC government information to build a Muslim registry or specialized surveillance of DC's Muslim communities;
- Establish a Community Task Force and follow the leadership and guidance of community-led and community-comprised organizations such as Many Languages One Voice (MLOV) that will be affected by the new administration’s policies and priorities when determining what solutions to propose.
MLOV remains outraged and condemns the Trump Administration’s orders which are tantamount to building a costly police state to terrorize our immigrant and refugee communities. We call on our DC City Councilmembers and Mayor to suggest real protective measures in opposition to these policies which are against the values of our District.
MLOV is in the eye of the storm, as one of the only immigrant-led and immigrant-staffed movement organizations in DC. The moments since the election has been difficult, as we navigate our own personal fears and anxieties with those of our members and partners.
Our DC Immigrant Organizing Center will serve as a local hub for the continued coalition building that MLOV does, as a multilingual space for immigrants to come together and to receive political and tactical education in the practice oforganizing, and as a nexus for coordinated immigrant-led action to protect our communities and defend DC. We will create strategic and coordinated campaigns to build power with immigrants. For more information about the DC Immigrant Organizing Center, please contact Yasemin at yasemin(AT)mlovdc.org.