Despite Noise From Trump Fans, Activists Urge Jeff Flake to Save TPS

Joseph Flaherty
Betty Guardado, vice president of service industry union Unite Here Local 11, addresses the media at a demonstration outside Senator Jeff Flake's office in Phoenix.
On one end of the sidewalk outside Senator Jeff Flake's office in Phoenix, dozens of people marched in 85-degree heat, holding signs supportive of a clean Dream Act. They were also here to support immigrants who fled to the U.S. while escaping natural disasters or violence, many of whom the Trump administration is set to deport by rescinding Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for people from Haiti and Central America.

On the other end of the pavement, four Trump supporters, wearing red hats and waving American flags, screamed racist, anti-immigrant vitriol into bullhorns.

"We owe you illegals nothing!"

"Illegals go home!"

"You are all criminals!"

"Our American children come first!"

In between were a couple of plainclothes Phoenix police officers stood, arms crossed and stone-faced, making sure the two sides stayed apart and watching to ensure people didn't step off the sidewalk into Camelback Road.

Demonstrators largely ignored the Trump fans, who had brought a pair of red "Build the Wall" signs.

Paola Carrasco, a 22-year-old organizer who works for Living United for Change Arizona (LUCHA), was totally unfazed. "We're used to them at this point. They come to a lot of events, but we try not to pay too much attention to them," said Carrasco. "They scream a lot of really bigoted things and call everyone illegal who walks by, so we try not to engage them too much."

Carrasco was focused on the goal at hand. She urged Flake to support a permanent legislative resolution during upcoming budget negotiations that could save Dreamers and TPS recipients who are at risk of being deported.

"He needs to take a really strong stance that deportation is not the answer, and this is a humanitarian issue," Carrasco said. "And if he really is a Republican, he stands for family values — he would recognize that they're tearing families apart, and this basically goes against their platform."

Trump has announced an end to TPS for three countries — Sudan, Nicaragua, and El Salvador — while decisions on whether TPS will continue for immigrants from Honduras, Nepal, and Syria are slated to take place later this year. There are over 1,100 TPS recipients from El Salvador, Haiti, and Honduras living in Arizona, according to the Center for American Progress; over 1,300 children in Arizona have TPS-holding parents from these countries.
click to enlarge Anti-immigrant counterprotesters, who declined to be identified, also showed up outside Flake's office on Thursday. - JOSEPH FLAHERTY
Anti-immigrant counterprotesters, who declined to be identified, also showed up outside Flake's office on Thursday.
Joseph Flaherty
At the same time, hundreds of thousands of young people protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will be at risk of deportation once their work permits begin to expire. For now, the courts have tied up Trump's September decision to end to the program.

Represented outside Flake's office on Thursday were several organizations including LUCHA, Central Arizonans for a Sustainable Economy, and a few labor unions.

"There is no plan from within their own party to protect more than a million hardworking immigrants," Betty Guardado told the crowd. Guardado is the vice president of UNITE HERE Local 11, a labor union that represents hospitality workers in Arizona and California.

"Today, Congress is set to pass a new continuing resolution to fund the government without protection for immigrants," Guardado said. "It's shameful that so many legislators have walked away from their leverage, but we are pushing to make sure the Senate brings it to a vote next week."

When asked for comment, one of the Trump supporters declined. She turned to her friends to advise that they say nothing, too. "We don't want to talk to Fake News!" one of them shouted into the bullhorn.

As the group of Dream Act and TPS supporters gathered for a conference on the corner, one of the rabidly anti-immigrant counterprotesters continued to shout herself hoarse into a tinny bullhorn. Undeterred, Carrasco kept talking as she addressed the much larger crowd of activists.

Carrasco described how DACA allowed her to attend college, where she received a scholarship, and to work in order to support her family, some of whom are also undocumented.

"Every day I live with the fear and the anxiety that they're going to be deported, and that's an exhausting and taxing reality, to be completely honest," Carrasco said. "It's taken a huge toll on me and my family and my sister, who is a U.S. citizen, so my entire community is affected."