The Birth of a Movement

Posted on: November 30th, 2016
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“If you strike me down I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine”

The words of Obi-Wan Kenobi to Darth Vader just before he is killed are some of the most memorable in movie history. They remind me of what we’ve seen play out over the last week in this country. Donald Trump, himself about as popular as Darth Vader to about half of this country, may have beaten Hillary Clinton, but he has unleashed a protest movement  that could be larger than any we’ve ever seen – even the anti-war movement of the 60s and the long civil rights movement of the 20th century. The flash protests across the country last week are just a taste of what is coming. The Inauguration march on Washington will be the largest protest in American history. Tens of thousands of lawyers are organizing (many of you reading this have no doubt joined that movement). The ACLU got 150,000 new members this past week. Or just look at your Facebook feed. Have you ever seen people on the left as fired up and angry?

I provide this quick rundown because after a few days being depressed, I’m less so now. It’s becoming apparent that rather than cowering and talking about moving to Canada (I’ll admit for a couple of days that thought crossed my mind), a mass protest movement is building and Donald Trump is going to have to battle over everything that smells of overreach.

Lawyers will not roll over and let their clients get deported without fighting. The courts are already so overloaded that it takes years to get deported in some places. That will get a lot longer as case volumes increase and lawyers slow walk cases. Whether Republicans kill the filibuster or not (and I’m guessing Senator McConnell will be reluctant to do so because a lot of Republicans secretly worry about the Trump agenda), Democrats have enough votes that they will be able to stop a lot of the most excessive legislation. The President may try and roll back some of the new regulations from USCIS, but just as it took a massive effort at USCIS and the other agencies to get these regulations on the books, it will be even tougher to get them changed against massive public opposition.

This is not to say that the Trump campaign won’t try and carry out much of what it promised. The first fight is likely to be over DACA. And then NSEERS. And TPS. And the “wall”. And skilled workers. And the scrapping of the prosecutorial discretion memo. And on and on. But each will come with a fight and opponents will push back hard. Hopefully, at some point, President Trump will view it as being easier to cut a deal on immigration.

What heartens me the most is that this time, the immigration advocacy community is not on its own. The newly awakened activist movement will be ready to come to the aid of immigrants and we’ll find allies in many places we haven’t seen before.