PHOENIX – Arizona immigrants at a prayer vigil said they fear President-elect Donald Trump will follow through on his pledge to deport millions of Muslim and Mexican immigrants.
One after one, speaker after speaker walked up to an “open-mic” night on the Arizona Capitol lawn, expressing grief and disappointment as if they were at a memorial.
Julio Talamantes, 27, is a “DREAMer,” the familiar name for those in DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. President Barack Obama instituted DACA for youths who were born outside the country and were brought to America by their families before 2007. Trump had campaigned on a plan to stop the program.
Trump “said he was going to take it away first, so I was afraid,” Talamantes said Sunday night as about 30 people gathered in the shadow of state government buildings. “Is he going to send immigration officers to take us away? They have everything. They have our information.”
He and others at the open-mic and prayer vigil, organized by Promise Arizona, a pro-immigration advocacy group, feared mass deportation is in immigrants’ future.
However, Trump has taken some steps back from the campaign stump, saying illegal immigrants who are criminals would be deported.
“What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers, we have a lot of these people, probably two million, it could be even three million, we are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate,” Trump said Sunday on CBS’ 60 Minutes.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, a fellow Republican who had clashed with Trump but supported him, recently said in a CNN interview that deportation is not Trump’s main focus.
“We believe an enforcement bill, a border-security enforcement bill is really the first priority, and that’s what we’re focused on,” said Ryan. “We are not planning on erecting a deportation force. Donald Trump’s not planning on that.”
Talamantes said he’s not buying it.
“I’m still fearful because when a person says that, and he tries to go back and say he didn’t – I don’t, I don’t fall for that,” Talamantes.
Angelica Bernabe, 18, is a U.S. citizen, and she said she, too, is having a hard time forgetting Trump’s original plans for immigrants like her parents.
“We feel like he disrespected our community, and as well as my family,” Bernabe said. “My mom, my dad.. they work very hard for this country for what it has given us, and we just want to give back.”
A high-school senior, Bernabe said she has many cousins, friends, and teachers who are DREAMers. She doesn’t want to lose the joy they bring to her life.
“It’s really special and I feel that that’s gonna fall apart with everything that’s happening,” Bernabe said.
Promise Arizona leader Petra Falcon said the vigil to get a feel for immigrant families’ reactions to the election.
“What we heard is that very much so they are fearful,” Falcon said. “They know what it means to be separated from their families. They know what it’s like to be targeted.”
Falcon said the younger generation told some of the most painful stories.
“He said, ‘are they going to come for me?’ How can you live like that? Go to sleep, and know that in the morning, maybe family members won’t be there,” Falcon said.
Tony Navarrete, program director for Promise Arizona, said group leaders will continue to work on behalf of immigrants and will keep Trump accountable for the next four years.