President Trump's Controversial Policies Are Inspiring A New Generation Of Protesters

"Trump doesn't know the first thing about America if he doesn't realize that immigrants are what make it so special."

In his first week as president, Donald Trump unraveled decades of American foreign policy and unleashed confusion within the international community. With a series of executive orders universally condemned by civil rights organizations, Trump is making good on his controversial campaign promises.

Each new immigration-related executive order that Trump signed was met with global protests and public outcry. And at the almost-daily demonstrations since he was sworn into office were first-time protesters who feel now, more acutely than ever, the need to take a public stand. 



As Trump continues to defy conventional political norms, his actions are motivating a new generation of protesters to participate in the time-honored tradition of political demonstration for the first time in their lives — from parents who protested alongside their children to senior citizens more outraged by Trump than any other political event in their lifetimes. 

The first protest 24-year-old Helena Jaramillo joined was the Women's March in London on Saturday. A U.S. permanent resident currently based in England, Jaramillo also participated in the protest against the Muslim ban outside Downing Street on Monday, as the UK parliament debated a petition calling for Trump to be barred from the country. 

As an immigrant herself, Jaramillo indicated that the Muslim ban was personal. "It is the opposite of what America is to me," she said. "I was thinking of when I was a kid and I wrote some cheesy poems about what America was to me, and about the Bosnian refugees who filled up my apartment complex — and I thought Trump doesn't know the first thing about America if he doesn't realize that immigrants are what make it so special."

Jaramillo said that she joined the executive order protest to express her support for other would-be immigrants. "I want those people who've been to shut out to see the protests and know that there are thousands who care about them and want them to reach whatever land they are aiming for," she said. 

Trump's executive order banning people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. sparked similar emergency rallies across the U.S. last weekend. Thousands flocked to airports where green card holders, international students, and foreign workers were held up as officials were left to interpret the order's vague and broad language. Refugees were detained for hours before lawyers secured their release. 

At Portland International Airport, dozens protested in solidarity with demonstrators across the country. Among them was Brandon Workentin, a 30-something father protesting for the first time because he wanted to show his kids that sticking up for others is important. 

"We went to church on Sunday morning, and I was disappointed the pastor didn't mention the Muslim ban and the need to support human rights, especially after I had seen other religious leaders release statements about the executive order," Workentin said. "What pushed me over the line to decide to go, though, was comments along the lines of, 'If you wondered what you would have done in the 1930s or 1960s, now is your chance to answer.' I just felt that going would enable me to look back years from now and say that at least I did something."

While Workentin said he doesn't think his participation was a big deal, he hoped that the protests will "peacefully raise people's awareness that racist policies are wrong." 

Trump's Muslim ban has caused disarray among immigration officials and has likely affected many people's lives for the worse. International students at America's top schools are unable to re-enter the country after leaving for winter break. Foreign workers in STEM have been barred from traveling to the U.S. despite having a valid visa. Many Muslim Americans are fearful that family members who have gone abroad for vacation may not be able to come back home. 

Despite the administration's cries of media bias and exaggeration, the ban sends a strong message to the global Muslim community that the U.S. government does not welcome them. And for those like Jaramillo, that's all the more reason to demonstrate.

"At the protest today, I saw a Muslim family standing on a tall ledge overlooking the crowd. They had a child with them. And the mom was telling her kid, 'Wow, look at all these people! Look at all these people who are here to support us!'" she recalled. "And that's fucking rad that they know that and can feel that."

Cover image via Cate Matthews / A Plus.

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