Time to stand against hate and division on both sides of the Atlantic
On 20 January 2017, Donald J Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States of America.
Even before becoming president-elect, his rhetoric on immigration – and the encouragement this has given to extremists advocating xenophobia, hatred and violence – has caused fear and uncertainty within many families and communities.
Among his most prolific statements: building a wall at the border with Mexico, stopping arrivals of Syrian refugees, banning the entry of Muslims to the US, deporting three million people and undoing President Obama’s executive actions.
The latter includes the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme, which offers many undocumented young people – who arrived in the United States as children – protection against deportation for a renewable period of two years with the opportunity to work lawfully. Scrapping it would leave more than 750,000 young people registered under the programme at risk.
Both the rhetoric and policies are toxic. Millions of people have reason to fear for their immediate future in the country they call home. Millions more are left fearful for their family, friends and colleagues.
Such fears can only exacerbate social exclusion. They give people reason to distrust and shun officials and neighbours. And they encourage suspicion and worse towards people who are or are perceived to be marginalised – particularly migrants.
Apart from those who propagate hate and exploit marginalised and vulnerable people –everyone loses.
Resistance and solidarity
Since Trump’s election, several mayors, including those of New York, Los Angeles, Seattle and Chicago, have made clear public commitments to uphold their cities’ ‘sanctuary’ status – a place people can trust that city officials and police won’t participate in deportation crackdowns by federal authorities.
Several have established funds to make legal advice and representation available to anyone targeted for deportation.
And the day following Trump’s inauguration, the Women’s March on Washington, and in cities around the world, is set to send a clear message in defence of women’s human rights and in solidarity with migrant and other threatened communities.
These are just some of many examples of resistance and solidarity in response to Trump’s forthcoming presidency. While they alone cannot stop what one columnist has referred to as 'the impending Day of Darkness', they offer real hope and encouragement to those most at risk.
And they provide opportunities for others – shocked and dismayed at the triumph of a poisonous campaign – to reject despair and reassert their own humanity and values.
And here in the UK…
As in the United States, many migrants in the UK face an uncertain future at a time of increased xenophobia and hate crime. The situation of European citizens and their family members following last June’s referendum has attracted particular attention.
Leaving the EU poses a clear threat to the right to stay in the UK for many who’ve made this country their home. A threat made all the more real by the government’s stated intention to treat these people as pawns in its Brexit negotiations.
Poles in UK fear spike in hate crimes when Brexit process begins https://t.co/riCwV8T2uJ
— The Guardian (@guardian) January 10, 2017
This callous treatment of human beings is a reminder that over many years profound insecurity has been the lot of so many migrants in the UK.
UK immigration rules have not only become increasingly complex, they’ve been changed and changed again with alarming regularity. Fees for immigration applications – which even if successful must often be renewed after a relatively short time – have been repeatedly hiked.
Meanwhile, legal aid has been withdrawn for most non-asylum immigration applications; as has the right to appeal except in asylum and human rights cases.
Most recently, thanks to Immigration Acts of 2014 and 2016, a raft of measures have been introduced to create a ‘hostile environment’, a term first coined by the Prime Minister.
In this environment, public services (such as NHS providers and marriage registrars) and private individuals (such as landlords and employers) are encouraged or compelled to act as pseudo-immigration officials – checking people’s immigration status and reporting people to immigration authorities.
This environment harms many people – including British citizens and others with permission to be in the UK but suspected of not having permission. And those who are entitled to be here but face growing hurdles in establishing their rights – the ever-rising fees, the myriad of rule changes, the loss of legal aid and rights of appeal.
Pushing people to the margins and harming integration
It is precisely this sort of environment which mayors of ‘sanctuary’ cities in the United States have rejected because they recognise that pushing people to the margins, and beyond, harms the whole community.
As this increases people’s vulnerability to exploitation, it undermines social integration. All of us better integrate when and where we feel more welcome, and when we feel more secure about our own future.
So while Trump’s inauguration will be a focal point for those concerned for migrants in the United States, it also highlights the need for solidarity and activism in support of migrants in the UK. One opportunity for that will be the #1DayWithoutUs national day of action on 20 February celebrating the contribution of migrants to this country.
Find out more at www.1daywithoutus.org
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.