Fighting Back the Attack on Immigrants

With a series of devastating ICE raids across the nation coming on the heels of anti-immigrant executive orders, and after this week’s release of White House memos on implementation of those Orders, I wanted to send to you information on how AFT is responding to the immigration policy crisis and offer tools to help state affiliates to do the same.

These federal actions have affected AFT members directly. They also affect the people our members serve, including patients, children, and others. We hope you’ll find the information and resources useful for standing in solidarity with immigrants and supporting our members who directly serve those being targeted by the Trump administration.

Sanctuary Jurisdictions

Sanctuary jurisdictions (whether they be states, cities, counties or other entities) have policies in place to increase their community’s wellbeing, safety and security by strengthening the trust between immigrant community members and local government, particularly law enforcement. There is no uniform approach to achieving this goal, but two common elements are:

  • The practice of jurisdictions declining ICE “detainers” which are requests to hold people without a warrant. Declining these requests is something that is legally at the discretion of the locality.
  • Policies regarding not questioning people about their immigration status.

Sanctuary policies do not insulate criminals or undocumented immigrants from federal immigration law enforcement. Local government might not ask you about your immigration status, but it will comply with a federal warrant.

Even though Trump’s Executive Order  paints broad brush strokes on the “immeasurable harm to the American people” caused by sanctuary cities, the legal intricacies of these local ordinances matter. Attached [Trump Sanctuary City EO Memo] you can find a review of the order that draws on resources from the National Immigration Law Center, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Immigrant Justice Network and others.

State Responses

The Executive Order is only the latest push by the right against sanctuary jurisdictions.  You may remember the No Sanctuary Cities for Illegal Immigrants model bill adopted by ALEC years ago.  Last year 26 states introduced bills to punish or prohibit sanctuary cities, all of which were defeated.

This year bills to preempt sanctuary cities/counties have been introduced in AZ, TX, OH, TN, FL, NC, IA, ID and PA. We ask that you keep an eye out for the introduction of preemption bills like this. Talking points for state bills can be found here.

There are also states that have responded in opposition to Trump’s immigration policies; bills have been introduced in California and New York to expand sanctuary status. These efforts—also seen in NM, CO, CT, IL and OH—have received push back from Trump himself as well as Republican state legislators.

AFT’s Response to the Orders & Tools

In the days after signing the executive orders to ban Muslims from entering the United States and to cut funding from sanctuary cities, the AFT opposed the administration, showed up to protest, issued statements and released toolkits and resources for our members. You can find those materials at the AFT Immigration landing page and at AFT All In. The main flyers informing students and families of their rights and covering how to create an emergency plan in case of deportation are attached. They are also available in Spanish on the website. Also attached is a flyer on a digital campaign for publicizing our advocacy via social media.


Higher Ed: For the past several months, thousands of students from colleges and universities have staged walk outs, organized petitions and written letters to their administrators in an effort to protect their communities from discrimination and deportation. Many of your own state federations have supported this work. Attached you will find AFT’s Sanctuary Campus Action Guide & Resource Packet, calling for the protection of our country’s most vulnerable people—including undocumented immigrants, Muslims, black people, queer people, and all people of color. It includes sample action ideas, guides for planning meetings, a sample demand letter, sample recruitment templates, and more.

K-12: The AFT is in the process of developing a webinar to inform our affiliates about a train-the-trainer course for educators to teach them how to hold Know Your Rights workshops in schools. The school workshops are then intended to provide vital information about immigrants’ basic rights in the face of raids and ICE interactions to parents and students. This work comes out of an initiative from a 2016 AFT resolution on Latino students. The webinars are scheduled for Tuesday, February 28th at 4pm (eastern), and Thursday, March 2nd at 7pm (eastern). Registration information will be forthcoming.

Locals in their Cities: We are also in the process of drafting sample demand letters and other resources, which will eventually land on, to help locals call on their mayors and city councils to declare their city a sanctuary city.


There are many resource guides and toolkits to help advance legislative advocacy, political action, legal assistance and grassroots action to help resist the Trump immigration agenda.

We are heartened by the activism we are seeing in response to the administration. In order to keep up that pressure, our officers are making 3 asks of affiliates: 1) please share the work you are already doing with AFT so we can amplify it; 2) let us know if you are hearing stories from your members about noticeable decreased attendance, or increased use of school counselors (where they exist); and 3) coordinate your support and solidarity with your local immigrants and refugee rights groups—we can help you make connections where needed.

And keep fighting.