We write to you from what feels like a country in reverse. As much as we’d like to send you a different note, one with no mention of the Election, we cannot. The hateful rhetoric and extreme anti-immigrant agenda put forward are far too dangerous – and too threatening to our work – to obscure. In a campaign made infamous for its vile attacks on women, Muslims, African Americans, LGBTQ people, and so many more, immigrants were among the earliest targets. Alongside verbal attacks, the next administration has promised to deport 2-3 million people and extend the border wall. With the country’s already-expansive detention and deportation infrastructure and tradition of scapegoating immigrants for political advantage, the threat is real.
We know that we have our work cut out for us in the years ahead. But our history as an organization demonstrates that what we do now will matter. Your partnership has been critical over the years. Can we count on your ongoing support to help us pull together the resources we need at this urgent time?
In 2017, the Immigrant Defense Project (IDP) will celebrate our twentieth anniversary. Reflecting on our origins in the days following the elections, we have been reminded and inspired by one simple, sobering fact. Our organization was not formed, and has not worked tirelessly alongside immigrant rights lawyers, advocates, and supporters, like you, because life for immigrants in 1997 was easy. No, we were borne out of a need to respond to the devastating passage of the 1996 immigration laws, which laid the groundwork for our current moment. IDP has prevailed in the face of many challenges because we have evolved and found strategic opportunities to adapt to, intervene, and transform the legal and political landscape.
Over the years, as the deportations continued to skyrocket and immigrants with convictions were increasingly demonized, IDP continually adjusted our tactics, devised new strategies, and innovated both programmatically and geographically. We expanded our alliances and support work with grassroots organizations around the country to equip communities on the frontlines with improved tools to safeguard and advance their individual & collective rights. Through litigation and advocacy, we challenged unfair laws and shaped pro-immigrant policies. We expanded our capacity to provide expert legal advice and defender support to ensure just outcomes in criminal and immigration court. And we deployed strategic communications to disrupt dominant narratives that vilify and dehumanize immigrants.
It is our duty to show up for this work during the bleakest moments – because that is precisely when we are most needed. While we have no illusions about the challenges that await us, IDP has never been more prepared. We have spent the past two decades developing our model of immigrant defense. With your support, we can scale up for 2017 – and carry out a plan of action grounded in:
Defense in the community:
- Responding to emerging legal issues more quickly by broadening our hotline & defender support systems.
- Preventing deportations through connecting even more community members to expert legal advice on criminal-immigration matters.
- Shoring up the capacity of immigrant-led organizations with must-have Know-Your-Rights resources and the latest information on ICE enforcement and deportation defense.
- Monitoring and undercutting ICE-police collaboration and abusive ICE raids in homes, public spaces, and entire neighborhoods.
Advocacy in politics and the media:
- Deepening our policy analysis and ability to intervene at the federal level to protect our most important political gains over the years and keep families together.
- Exposing the human toll of anti-immigrant legislation with a new communications campaign that cuts through the hate and gets the stories of the most-impacted on traditional & social media.
- Taking advantage of opportunities for building new alliances with more legal, community, and political partners to identify, develop, and advance critical initiatives nationally.
- Minimizing criminal justice contact and consequences by supporting key state and local polices, such as sentencing reforms and curbing local law enforcement’s participation in immigration enforcement.
Impact in the courtroom and the law:
- Coordinating impact litigation and amicus briefing at Supreme Court and federal courts to protect against harsh federal interpretations of immigration law.
- Preparing lawyers to understand and overcome the new challenges of a shifting landscape with up-to-date technical assistance, model materials, litigation tools, and trainings.
- Developing innovative legal arguments in state and federal courts to support defense of represented and unrepresented immigrants in deportation and criminal proceedings.
- Documenting government practices and enhancing litigation challenges around constitutional violations of immigrants’ rights.
Together, with you and our other supporters, we can get ahead of some of the most devastating policies that the next administration will attempt to pass in its first days, as well as bring more organizations and people together across the country to uplift a bigger vision for justice, rights, and safety over the next four years. Thank you for showing up with us to build a world of dignity, fairness, and justice.
Alisa Wellek Mizue Aizeki
Executive Director Deputy Director
On behalf of: Andrew Wachtenheim, Anthony Enriquez, Benita Jain, Genia Blaser, Lee Wang, Manny Vargas, Marie Mark, Michael Velarde, Michelle Parris, Ryan Muennich.
P.S. Over coming months, we will update you on the specifics of our plan. In the meantime, alongside making a contribution now, please feel free to reach out to learn more or share your thoughts with us on what comes next.