The Impacts of ‘Send Her Back’ Have Real and Dangerous Consequences for Immigrant Communities

Jul 23, 2019
2:36 PM

Growing up undocumented, plenty of people told me to go back to my country. It’s a common refrain for the ignorant to disqualify any sort of criticism of the U.S. political system by telling that person to leave if they don’t like it here.

While it might be of no surprise to a lot of immigrants to hear those hurtful words from intolerant people in their communities, people across the country were disgusted last week when Trump spent a good portion of a rally in North Carolina throwing red meat to his racist base. He lied about Representative Ilhan Omar, wrongfully characterizing here as anti-Semitic and then calling for her to leave the country because she criticized his administration.

As Trump relentlessly attached Omar, his predominantly white crowd began to viciously chant “send her back,” over and over again.

Facing a barrage of criticism from both liberals and conservatives (who tried to have it both ways by condemning Trumps remarks while also attacking Omar), Trump initially seemed to want to distance himself from the hateful chanting but a day later he could not help himself to call the crowd in North Carolina “patriotic.”

Trump is descending into full fascist mode ahead of the 2020 election and it’s not going to get better, it’s going to get worse.

Fear mongering over the census to drive down participation, state based anti-immigrant legislation, attacks on asylum seekers and refugees, and threats of massive immigration raids are some of the tactics that the Trump administration has recently used to galvanize his base and intimidate people of color away from the political process.

The organization I work for, the Florida Immigrant Coalition spent the last few weeks preparing for the threat of these immigration raids. We staffed up our hotline with volunteers and lawyers, we canvassed across ten different counties in Florida to inform people of their rights, and held events to educate and rally the community on how they can protect themselves.

While Trump played political games with people’s lives, I saw firsthand the fear and anxiety that these threats cause within our communities, whether it was the undocumented mother with a final order of deportation who spent a week hiding in her house due to the fear that ICE would come knocking on her door to separate her from her U.S. citizen daughter, or the hundreds of daily calls that our team answered every day from people with heartbreaking stories, or anxious community members who asked us questions while we were canvassing about what they should do if ICE knocks on their door.

The bright side of these horrific attacks against immigrant families is that it has proven that our communities are incredibly resilient and that our movement is ready to fight back. We were able to beat Trump on inserting a citizenship question into the census and his threat of massive raids was mostly a dud. Local government and police refused to cooperate with ICE in these operations and when ICE attempted to pick up individuals, they were mostly unsuccessful due to people not answering their doors as a result of extensive know your rights organizing by immigrant advocacy groups.

As we move forward in the 2020 election cycle, we need to remain vigilant and cautious. Here in Florida we are already facing the threat of e-verify legislation, which would make it significantly more difficult for immigrants to work and would burden employers, being proposed by Trump acolytes in the state legislature. Things will get worse with Trump and his attacks will escalate as he doubles down in mobilizing his racist base. We need to make sure our community understands what’s at stake and that we are ready to kick Trump out of office for good.


Thomas Kennedy is the Political Director for Florida Immigrant Coalition Votes (FLIC Votes) and a communications fellow for the Center for Community Change Action. He tweets from @Tomaskenn.