With Both Communities Concerned, Latino Muslims Learn About Their Rights President Trump's executive orders on immigration and border security have Latinos and Muslims concerned. In Los Angeles, Latino Muslims are educating themselves about their rights and going public.
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With Both Communities Concerned, Latino Muslims Learn About Their Rights

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With Both Communities Concerned, Latino Muslims Learn About Their Rights

With Both Communities Concerned, Latino Muslims Learn About Their Rights

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

President Trump has signed executive actions on different aspects of immigration - securing the border with Mexico and speeding deportations, restricting refugees in travel from several majority Muslim countries. And in southern California, these issues all come together. As Jesse Hardman reports from Los Angeles, immigrants there are relying on mosques, community groups and their own families to navigate a complicated new landscape.

(CROSSTALK)

JESSE HARDMAN, BYLINE: On a Sunday morning, around 40 worshipers gather at a mosque in downtown Los Angeles. In between Quranic lessons and an Arabic class, this group of Muslims gets advice on how to respond if immigration officers knock on their door, not surprising in the current political climate. What is surprising - the lecture is in Spanish.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Speaking Spanish).

HARDMAN: This group goes by the name La Asociacion Latino Musulmana de America and supports a growing number of Hispanic converts to Islam in Southern California. This gathering reflects the merging of cultures in a part of the country where neighbors are often from different parts of the world. Like many Latinas, Guadalupe Fernandez grew up Catholic. Then she moved from Mexico to the U.S. around a decade ago and met a guy in English class.

GUADALUPE FERNANDEZ: (Through interpreter) In the beginning, we were just friends because I was afraid of the fact that he was Muslim.

HARDMAN: But the pair began to date, and Fernandez got more interested in her partner Hamada Abdallah's religion. Eventually she converted. Imam Cesar Dominguez says that narrative is more and more common, especially in southern California.

CESAR DOMINGUEZ: (Through interpreter) In every mosque around here, there are Hispanics.

HARDMAN: While many Latino and Muslim immigrants are looking over their shoulder right now, Dominguez says his community is exploring how to assert itself.

DOMINGUEZ: (Through interpreter) I think it's a really great moment to forge alliances and to work together.

HARDMAN: In fact, President Trump's immigration policies have inspired a Latino-Muslim collaboration in southern California. Community organizer Shakeel Syed recently brought together six local groups that specialize in everything from Muslim rights to Latino labor issues. Syed says the two communities are being singled out unfairly.

SHAKEEL SYED: People being demonized and dehumanized, which leaves near-permanent scars on their mental state.

HARDMAN: That's already happened to Guadalupe Fernandez. She's Latina, Muslim and here on an expired visa.

FERNANDEZ: (Through interpreter) The day Mr. Trump won, I couldn't sleep.

HARDMAN: Fernandez and her husband, Hamada Abdallah, both in their 30s, run a salvage yard on the outskirts of Los Angeles.

HAMADA ABDALLAH: You leave the tools here, yeah?

HARDMAN: Fernandez has a visa pending with the federal government. If she gets it, Abdallah's status changes, too. They're also trying to make their case to whoever will listen, including customers.

ABDALLAH: What you feel now when you hear about news about the Muslim people...

HARDMAN: After fixing customer John Harold's truck, Abdallah switches from business to politics. He wants to know what his client thinks about Trump's immigration policies.

JOHN HAROLD: Well, it's not a ban. It's - what he's trying to stop is a lot of people coming from Mexico.

HARDMAN: The conversation ends on a friendly note, but Abdallah's clearly frustrated with the results.

ABDALLAH: The one who help him are Muslim people, and the mechanic, the one help him to put the engine - Latino people. The two people the one he doesn't like to keep here - the two people that help him.

HARDMAN: Abdallah says next time his customer might need a part for his truck, he and Guadalupe might not be around. They're trying to sell the business in case one or both of them gets deported. For NPR News, I'm Jesse Hardman in Los Angeles.

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