Mere days after President-Elect Donald Trump announced his intention to deport up to three million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, immigrant rights groups rallied on the steps of the Colorado Capitol to fight back.
Led by the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, dozens of immigrant activists and their allies gathered Wednesday with signs, banners and American flags to share their stories and specify their demands at the city, state and national level.
Speakers praised Mayor Michael Hancock for his recent video statement in support of keeping Denver safe for refugees and immigrants and called on all Colorado mayors to follow suit. But Trump’s impending presidency dominated the discussion.
Cristian Mateo Lozano, a 22-year-old Coloradan and a recipient of Deferred Action for Children of Immigrants, or DACA, described his fears of deportation under a President Trump.
He said his parents, who are undocumented, left behind high-status careers to work menial jobs in the United States in hopes of giving him a better life. His older brother, who had established a plumbing company, was ultimately deported, leaving behind two daughters and becoming, in Lozano’s words, little more than a statistic.
“I am not a number! I am not a statistic!” Lozano said. “I am a human who dreams. I have dreams and aspirations, and one day I will come to lead the people.”
On Sunday, Nov. 13, during an interview on 60 Minutes, Trump said that he planned to deport up to three million immigrants “that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers,” saying, “We are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate.”
It falls short of Trump’s campaign promise to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. Trump has yet to say publicly whether he will follow through on his promise to deport more.
Guadalupe Lopez, who works for the American Friends Service Committee and Mojados Unidos — Wetbacks United — said that President Obama must do what he can before Trump’s inauguration in January.
“We cannot let millions of people be deported without immigration status. We have fought for an immigration reform that is comprehensive, necessary and urgent,” she said. “Now, in the last moment, we ask President Barack Obama…to demand an immediate stop to the deportations, that he stop the expansion of immigration detention centers and that he stop using private prison companies for profit in the immigration system.”
Among the other speakers Wednesday were Kerry Gutierrez, a young, first-time voter who noted the growing number of Latinos who are turning 18 and becoming politically active; Alexandra Flores, an advocate for greater access to driver’s licenses among immigrants; and Mike Ramirez, the state field coordinator for Latino voter mobilization group Mi Familia Vota.
Ramirez praised the passage of a statewide $12 minimum wage ballot measure, and stressed the importance of continued local political action.
“We should take the week to mourn our loss,” he said, “But we should also now double up on our efforts to get even more civically engaged. If we can remain together…there’s no reason that we shouldn’t be celebrating immigration reform soon.”
As the rally drew to a close, a young white man holding a red “Make America Great Again” sign made his way up the Capitol steps and squeezed in. He held the sign up high overhead and shouted, “President Trump!”
The crowd’s chants of “sí se puede” — yes we can — carried on, uninterrupted.