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Concerns Over Trump's Take on Immigration: First Fear, Then Resolve



The day after the 2016 election, Libna was scared.

The 19-year-old Treasure Valley Community College student was born in Puebla, Mexico and came to the U.S. with her family when she was barely a year old. She and her three siblings are among more than 3,000 young Idahoans protected by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama administration program that gives work permission and temporary deportation relief to some unauthorized immigrants who arrived as minors. Due to the sensitivity of her family's status, Boise Weekly agreed not to use Libna's last name.

Libna works 30 hours a week at Dairy Queen—-a job made possible by DACA—to pay tuition and help her parents with the bills. As she headed to work on Nov. 9, 2016, she was nagged by worry, knowing DACA is a program the new president will have the power to cancel.

"When [Trump] got elected, I felt like 'Oh my God. This is going to end,'" Libna said, but quickly added that she knew she wasn't alone in the fight.

Over the past few months, Boise-based immigrant and minority advocates have worked to help people like Libna. With gatherings to address community concerns, free legal consulting and even a fundraising run, the proceeds of which will help offset the high cost of citizenship applications, advocates and allies have rallied to prepare for the new administration.

Libna said those efforts have been a comfort.

"I feel more confident now, having that support," she said.

During his campaign, Trump declared he would try to deport an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants. He has since dialed back that pledge, claiming now he'll focus on the few million immigrants with a criminal background.

A study by New American Economy—a think tank for immigration reform—shows Idaho has more than 100,000 immigrant residents, most of whom are from Mexico, Canada and China. An estimated 41,000 are undocumented.

According to Leo Morales, executive director of ACLU Idaho, policy affecting undocumented individuals can have "collateral consequences."

"Nowadays, you find someone who has no status and is undocumented, and in the same household, you'll find a legal resident. It's a mix of individuals of different statuses in that home," Morales said. "[Immigration policy] impacts not only the individual but also catches extended families. It makes this a much bigger issue."

In light of concerns, the University of Idaho College of Law and Boise immigration firm Andrade Legal have put together a comprehensive guide to questions they were asked after the election, such as, "Can President Trump take away my green card?" and, "Can schools share information with immigration agents?" On Saturday, Jan. 21, Andrade Legal will host a Citizenship Day for people to get help with their applications.

The Centro de Comunidad y Justicia, a nonprofit that works with the Latino community, has also been hosting informational meetings and offering legal aid. Director Sam Byrd said a "flood" of people have asked for consultation and advice, but as Trump's policies have seemed to "flip flop" there is still little assurance about what will happen after inauguration.

"People are afraid, but I think they're taking the little bit of change, getting prepared for the worst, but also saying, 'We'd better wait and see what's really going to happen,'" Byrd said. "There's a real urgency not to just sit back—but at the same time not to overreact."

One of the first concerns Maria Andrade heard when she began hosting post-election meetings was harassment aimed at minority groups.

"People reported either first or secondhand experiences of harassment or bullying, mostly in schools," said Andrade, founder of Andrade Legal. "There was concern about safety and [protecting] children.'"

Following the election, the Southern Poverty Law Center counted more than 1,000 incidents of "bias-related harassment and intimidation" aimed at racial, ethnic and religious groups nationwide. Andrade and her team are doing outreach to local communities affected by this trend, and plan to come up with a way to help.

Fred Betancourt, adviser for the Future Hispanic Leaders of America chapter at Caldwell High School, noticed an immediate uptick in bullying at his school.

"After the election there were a few kids going around, telling some others, 'You're not going to be here very long—we're going to deport you back to Mexico,'" Betancourt said. "Some kids, it really impacts them."

Caldwell School District Superintendent Shalene French said students and administrators stepped up to fight bullying and harassment, and incidents have become less frequent since the election.

"Making comments about people's gender, race or ethnicity—that's not how we treat people," French said. "Kids helped police that. They protected their friends. And our principals were very diligent."

At the Agency for New Americans, Interim Director Slobodanka Hodzic said she didn't see a significant increase in refugee harassment reports after the election. What she did see was an increase in volunteer support.

"'I think that people probably want to show that instead of all of the rhetoric about politics and everything we are all the same—that we welcome people in need and we are ready to help them," Hodzic said.

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