East Bay immigration and religious organizations have responded to news of Donald Trump’s presidential win last night with promises of resilience, saying they are unwavering in their determination to make this moment in history a call to action.
“It shows that we can’t just sit idly by and expect a positive outcome,” said Sameena Usman, the government relations coordinator for the Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “We need to make sure everyone is doing their part and has a role to play in improving our country and making it better for all, not just a few.”
The Islamic community was just one demographic attacked by Trump during a campaign that was often defined by xenophobic rhetoric. Earlier this year, Trump inspired outrage with his comments regarding the parents of deceased Army Captain Humayan Khan; Trump suggested that his mother, Ghazala Khan, “wasn’t allowed to speak” because she remained silent and stood by her husband while he spoke during the Democratic National Convention.
He also infamously called Mexicans rapists, criminals and drug dealers, and promised to build a wall between the southern U.S. border and Mexico. In the Bay Area, a stronghold of Democratic support with a large immigrant population, many were outraged by his racist and derogatory comments, yet his words and actions drove voters to the polls.
During the lead-up to the election, Usman said her group was able to rally and register new voters and recent immigrants, mobilizing members in their community to vote for the first time. Their focus now is to continue informing individuals of their legal rights, both in terms of immigration and security issues, she said.
“We need to inform the population of policies and ensure that any policies that might come about will not infringe on our constitutional rights and civil liberties,” she said.
Some members of the East Bay Latino community, however, said they are feeling more disillusioned by Trump’s win. At the Latina Center in Richmond, an organization that works with the local Hispanic community, the mood is somber. “We are in shock, we are very upset,” said Miriam Wong, the executive director of the center. “People are afraid. People don’t know what he’s going to do.”
Wong said that immigration issues including the future of the DREAM Act, which allows undocumented immigrants to take steps towards permanent residency and documented status, are especially concerning. As Trump prepares to begin his term, the center is already making plans to hold a roundtable with attorneys and immigration experts to address community members’ concerns.
Wong is optimistic that despite what has been said during the campaign, there is only so much Trump will actually be able to do to contravene established law. “He says a lot of things, but it doesn’t mean he’s going to do everything,” Wong said.
But she also said she is concerned that this election says something greater about the views of the American people towards immigrants and minorities. “We need to think, ‘What does this mean?’” she said. “What kind of society are we are living in? What kind of values do people have to elect a president whose plan is to destroy rather than to build?”
Adoubou Traore, program manager of the African Advocacy Network, which provides legal services and support to African, Afro-Caribbean and African immigrants, refugees and asylees, agrees, stating the election is a wakeup call about the reality of Americans’ views on race and immigrant relations. “The result of this election is telling us that so many out there were thinking just like him,” Traore said. “But the only thing is that they didn’t have the courage to come forward to say what Donald Trump said.”
In the Bay Area, staffers at non-political groups that work with immigrants to provide them shelter and legal protections say they believe they may face greater obstacles under the new administration.
Farzana Ali, the assistant director at the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, said they will continue to support low-income immigrants escaping terror, political persecution and violence, regardless of their documented status, because they believe in the value of their work. “It will be a challenge for us,” Ali said. “The work we do helps those that are fleeing violence, and unfortunately they are in the shadows.”
While changes to immigration and refugee policy may be likely during Trump’s term, immigrant community workers are hopeful that their constitutional rights will be honored.
“It’s up to us immigrants to get together,” Traore said. “We’re not doing it for Donald Trump. We’re doing it for the people whose dream is to come together, and that is the most important part.