From Anguish to Advocacy

by Andrea Elizondo, intern in the Texas Legislative Study Group

I am going to be honest. It has been a few weeks since what I term the anti-immigrant sentiment bill – formally known as SB 4, “the anti-sanctuary city” bill – was signed into law by Governor Abbott on Facebook Live, and I am still mad. Additionally, the fact that SB 1018, which is a bill about giving childcare licensing to immigrant family detention centers, even passed one chamber makes me angry. Although, I feel some sort of relief that this bill has since died.

I am upset because SB 4 is going to hurt family friends who are hard-working parents, but just happen to be undocumented, and former classmates who are achieving their dreams while being undocumented. SB 4 and bills like SB 1018 have the potential of hurting mothers and children who are running away from personal and community violence from the Northern Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador). SB4 also harms those who I have assisted at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas and those living in the short-term shelter in McAllen, Texas after being released from similar detention centers. These bills have the ability to hurt the unaccompanied minors that are fleeing personal and community violence in the Northern Triangle, whom I met through focus group interviews as a research assistant . Overall, this legislation is going to hurt the immigrant community that I am part of and the community I plan to work with as a social worker.

As a daughter of immigrants and an immigrant myself, it has been challenging to stay sane and remain hopeful during this legislative session and at the beginning of the Trump Administration. It is during these times that remaining bitter, disillusioned, and hopeless are tempting. There is the daily reminder I give myself that dwelling in these negative emotions is not going to help me, nor is it going to help anybody else, for that matter. I should also turn my energy from anger to planning advocacy efforts when I am fully established back home.

Robin Chancer’s recent blog post titled, “How to Stay Sane if Trump is Driving You Insane: Advice From a Therapist,” talks about the “radical acceptance” of moving forward by remaining hopeful and finding ways to help disfranchised populations during this harsh political climate. The radical acceptance is that our nation and this state are passing policies based on fear and misunderstanding, and that people are hurting. Then there is grief in realizing that the pain is real. Finally, the next step is to practice “mindful attention” to the good. This is where you ask yourself “How can I support ____ people in my community?”.

My examples of mindful attention of after this internship:

  • Get in touch with United We Dream to get training on conducting presentations on “Know Your Rights,” “How to Plan in the case of Deportation,” and “Protect Yourself from Deportation.” Reach out to local immigrant communities in my area and give these presentations in both English and Spanish.
  • Register to be a Deputy Voter Registrar for Harris and Galveston County so I can register and teach people how to vote in their local and state elections every year. This will be my way to encourage more civic engagement.
  • Volunteer with the University of Houston Law Center’s Immigration Clinic whenever they take weekend trips to help prepare asylum-seeking immigrant mothers at immigration detention centers for their asylum interviews.
  • Reach out to the Children’s Center, Inc. to see how I can help unaccompanied minors in Southeast Harris County and Galveston County.

I look forward to working towards these steps now that the session is over. After all, one of the reasons that I decided to embark on this internship is that I wanted this experience to make me a better advocate for my community and I am planning on achieving that.

No matter who is president, governor, or who is in Congress or the state legislature, I can still help and organize my community for political advocacy. There is still good in this state and this country, and neither Governor Abbott nor President Trump cannot take that away. I will not let them rob my joy, and I will not let these policies define me and my community. We have been here before and we will get through this.

About GCSW Legislative Interns

This blog is brought to you courtesy of The Graduate College of Social Work's Austin Legislative Internship Program. The College selects graduate MSW students to intern at the Texas Legislature during its legislative session every two years. Student interns work as full-time staffers in the Legislature, either as policy analysts with the Legislative Study Group, a Caucus of the Texas House of Representatives, or in legislators’ offices. Here, they will share their unique experiences!
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