Local immigrants push back against Trump's asylum crackdown

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Nineteen-year-old Melvin Rubi Avila, born and raised in Raleigh, was one of the handful at El Pueblo Thursday night dialing up naturalized U.S. citizens and Latinos like him, born in America, and reminding them to vote.

President Donald Trump's hard-line White House speech on illegal immigration was still fresh in Avila's mind.

"It's kind of sad seeing what he's saying, that they're criminals and steal jobs," Avila said. "When in reality they're just trying to seek help."

The president's speech was billed as a response to groups of migrants currently walking toward the U.S. border.

"They're pretty tough people," President Trump said. "Even Mexico said these are tough people. I don't want them in our country."

Like many in that caravan of migrants seeking asylum from poverty and violence, Avila's father came here from Hondoras. His dad and Mexican-born mother live in Raleigh as undocumented immigrants.

They can't vote, but Avila can.

"I am getting a lot of yesses," Avila said describing the reactions from potential voters he's talking to at el Pueblo's election phone bank. "This election is actually surprising. A lot of us Hispanics are planning to vote."

Angeline Echeverria, executive director at El Pueblo, told ABC11 she believes the president's plan to deny asylum to anyone caught crossing the border illegally is more fear-mongering than facts.

"The reason it's being portrayed as this current crisis, I really believe, has a lot more to do with politics than finding solutions," said Echeverria.

Her immigrants-rights advocacy group is fighting back on the phones. They've already met their goal of 1,600 conversations but aren't stopping their efforts to convince more local immigrants not to be scared of the president's rhetoric, but to fight back with their ballot.

"It's a series of comments and rhetoric designed to frighten and make community members feel less than," Echeverria said. "Our communities are not less than. We are worthy and valuable and have human dignity."

More than anything, the president's announcement keeps the issue of immigration front-and-center in this final stretch of the midterm elections. He said his executive order on asylum could come next week, which means it could be after Election Day.
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