Image from Wikimedia.
At first glance, one would assume the hordes of people making their way down Eastern Avenue in Highlandtown to Patterson Park are part of a Latinx celebration. Dressed in colorful frocks, women sing while holding a baby in one arm and the hand of a toddler with the other. Children excitedly weave in between the legs of their elders. Musicians strum the strings of their ukuleles, while the flags of half a dozen Central and Southern American countries fly in the wind, dancing smoothly to the group singing La Bamba.
Upon closer examination, however, it becomes visible that this is not just a parade to celebrate heritage; it is a parade to protest the Trump administration’s immigration policy – kicked off in recent weeks with sweeping executive orders that have drawn ire from countless interest groups, courts, and Americans.
On January 24, Donald Trump signed an executive order greenlighting the development of plans to construct a wall along the Southern border between Mexico and the United States. On the same day, he signed an executive order effectively banning the entry of immigrants and refugees from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. U.S. District Judge Allison D. Burroughs and U.S. Magistrate Judge Gail Dein ruled that the detention and removal of the affected parties would constitute a violation of “their rights to Due Process and Equal Protection as guaranteed by the United States Constitution.” Most notably, on the night of February 16, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson claimed legal victory in his fight against the executive order. Furthermore, earlier this month, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the ban. Unwavering, Trump declared that he would follow up with a new executive order, which will “be very much tailored to what I consider to be a very bad decision.”
Trump’s hard line against immigrants is not limited to non-American Muslims – he has also tasked agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement to conduct sweeping raids of undocumented immigrants across the nation. So far, 683 “criminal aliens” across the U.S. have been placed in detention – many of whom have no criminal records. Two of these immigrants include Ecuadorian Manuel Lopez Suarez and Honduran Serbando Fernando Rodriguez, who were detained on February 8 in nearby Highlandtown. Trump promised to go after “criminal immigrants;” neither of these men have criminal records. The detention of Suarez and Rodriguez sent shockwaves through the community, especially in light of their successful assimilations to American culture: Suarez is a construction business owner and Rodriguez is a well-known barber and local volunteer. Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh addressed the city’s spending board on the matter: “we don’t want them [ICE agents] in Baltimore.”
Earlier this month, President Ronald Daniels issued a statement highlighting his own immigration story, focusing on the welcoming nature of the United States that he was exposed to and the opportunities presented to him. “In this historic moment, when universities such as ours find our fundamental mission imperiled by an executive order that erodes our core values and the founding principles of the nation, we cannot stand by,” President Daniels wrote. Although President Daniels did not make reference to the United States’ history of discriminating against foreigners and immigrants, he did acknowledge the potential injustices that would surface following the successful implementation of the immigration ban.
A few days later, Daniels joined his counterparts from 47 other American universities, asking Trump to rescind the ban. Earlier this week, Johns Hopkins joined 16 other universities in filing an amicus brief in support of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s lawsuit against the ban; the prevailing argument was that the ban “threatens [the schools’] continuing ability to attract these individuals and thus to meet their goals of educating tomorrow’s leaders from around the world.”
And as dozens of tomorrow’s leaders take the day off from school to join in on the demonstrations, they are exposed to an America that promises to fight for them. Support for immigrants’ rights is widespread in the city of Baltimore; many restaurants and local businesses closed their doors to partake in “A Day of Immigrants.” Community members are united in strife as they work to fight the xenophobia and racism which have manifested themselves as seemingly unconstitutional executive orders. And somewhere beneath all this noise – the protest chants, angry shouts, acoustic music, and laughter – lies a quiet uncertainty, as millions of unauthorized immigrants who call America home await what the future holds.
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