Kept Or Not, Trump's Immigration Promises Change Lives

Jun 21, 2019

Most weekdays, Ana wraps up cleaning houses around 4 and gets in her car. That’s when she starts her second job: cruising the streets of Houston County on the lookout for law enforcement officers.

Ana, who asks we only use her first name, cruises the four-lane arteries in the county south of Macon with eyes peeled for the police. Why? So she can warn undocumented immigrants about where not to drive.

 

She tells people what she sees on a special smartphone app. It works like a walkie talkie, and on recent Thursday she’s not the only one talking. There are people patrolling places like Gwinnett County and Gainesville, too. After she gave her call sign, a colleague's voice crackled down the line.

 

"We have Señor La Placa (Mr. Badge) on the lookout on Buford Highway," the voice warned in a loose and friendly voice from the well known center of the Latino community in Atlanta. 

 

What they share is meant to keep undocumented people from being arrested and potentially deported while they are traveling home from work.

 

President Donald Trump said this week he wants to begin deporting millions of undocumented people starting next week.  And while what Trump promises and what he actually accomplishes around immigration don’t always align, his words affect people - and change how they live their lives. That’s something Ana has been attuned to since 2016.

“When Trump became president of the United States, I decided I had to do something to help my people,” she said.

Ana says even the years when the Obama administration broke deportation records were more tranquil for undocumented immigrants than today. She says back then Obama’s way with words papered over a lot of anxiety. But Trump’s words work another way.

“It’s really hard because it’s this thing where Trump is always in your head,” she said. “Our people are afraid.”

Now fear keeps people from daily routines. That was clear when we stopped at a mobile home park popular with undocumented immigrants. It’s close enough to shopping that you could walk if the roads weren’t terrifying. Ana says many people spend money they barely have on ride-sharing apps such as Uber rather than drive and risk a police stop.

But, families take care of each other, as one mother, a U.S. citizen, explained in front of the home she shares with her parents, who are undocumented. She said her mom and dad love what the U.S. has done for their kids. But today, fear has them housebound.

“I have a daughter and my sister is married and we all have our own families and new lives...but we all live with the same fear because our parents have to be hidden,” she said. “They can’t leave the house. If they aren’t going out with us, they aren’t going out.”

Some, both inside and outside immigrant communities, say that for people who are just working and staying out of trouble, the president’s threats mean nothing. It’s people who already have deportation orders or criminal records who are in jeopardy. But that’s cold comfort for people like the young man who just arrived in the U.S. with the headline-making migrant caravan.

He trembles as he says the first thing he and his dad did when they hit the U.S. border was tell immigration who they were and why they were here.

“The truth is my country has a lots and lots of crime,” he said.

Now he and his dad have immigration court dates to keep, but no idea what Trump’s new statements mean for them.

“We’re just praying to God that we can get more time to stay here,” he said.  

In another part of the park, two boys, brothers, tore around on their BMX bikes. Their mom watched from the yard in front of their home.

“We are afraid,” she said. “More from the point of view of a mother because what happens if a husband gets deported and we are left alone with the kids?”

And what about her sons?

“They feel it. They're terrified to be left here alone without their mom and dad,” she said.

Trump has signalled that he would like immigration raids and deportations in the millions to begin by sometime next week.