The Collegian
Saturday, April 20, 2024

OPINION: We must help the undocumented immigrants "living in the shadows"

<p>Graphic by Annie Scalet/The Collegian</p>

Graphic by Annie Scalet/The Collegian

No numbers, figures or trends, but real people.

In February, I was faced with a question that few on this campus would ever encounter: ¿Cuidarás de tu hermanito si algo nos pasa? [Would you take care of your little brother if something happened to us?]

Having my mom add my name to her savings account last summer was the first sign of things to come. At the time, I thought she was getting ahead of herself. Being a college student, I saw no way her worst fears would turn into reality. The possibility of deportation always haunted my family. Sensing that possibility was heightened, my mom put her savings account in my name to ensure someone from the family had access to her hard-earned money amassed over many years of cleaning houses. She didn’t know if she would be able to access that money from Mexico.

The combative rhetoric of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump was alarming, but I assured her there was no way he would get elected. How wrong I was.

This slap in the face came with the new administration’s tense relationship with Mexico. A warm one for many years, seeing the relationship turn sour so quickly signified this administration’s willingness to upend the status quo. While I comprehend why that style of governance is so appealing, what does it mean for the marginalized in the crosshairs of that style?

It is very easy to claim that undocumented immigrants are law-breakers, that they contribute nothing to American culture, that they’re rapists, or criminals, undeserving of a place in this country. Often times, these generalizations are masked in the rhetoric of “enforcing the law,” thus hiding the racist overtones that many refuse to admit in our “post-racial” society.

Over two months have passed since that morning on Jan. 20, 2017. Since then, we have seen increases in the separation of families, intentional targeting of formal DACA recipients by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, decreased reporting of crimes in major Latino cities — such as Los Angeles — due to fear and people making the tough decision of departing the U.S. and returning home.

This doesn’t even begin to describe the countless hate crimes that have occurred, such as the death of an Indian man in Kansas at the hands of a white man who allegedly yelled, “Get out of my country!” Or the recent indictment of a man and woman — both supporters of respecting the Confederate flag — who verbally abused and pointed a shotgun at a black family celebrating a child’s birthday party in Georgia.

Correlation does not prove causation, but when you have the “leader of the free world” using his bully pulpit to declare that Mexicans are rapists and that all Muslims should be vetted for terrorist links, is that not adding fuel to a raging fire? In this context, the rise of hate crimes was foreseeable.

With reports that ICE had stepped up its operations around the country, my mom realized that she had to plan for the unexpected. Like any mother would do, she ensured there was a plan in place for her children. I was the logical choice to take care of my younger brother; a senior on the cusp of commencement, I’d be entering the job market soon.

Not having my parents at commencement will be the most painful. Plans of travel tickets, Airbnb sites and even a quick visit to Washington, D.C., faded into a grim recognition that traveling was dangerous. And I don’t mean that just in terms of traveling across the country; a simple drive to drop off children at school, for example, can lead to someone's deportation (which happened in Los Angeles).

Trump's abusive rhetoric is taking its toll on my family, as well as countless other families in similar situations.

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This isn’t meant to garner sympathy. It is a call for action.

Across the nation, many are currently living in fear because of Trump’s rhetoric and actions.

What will YOU do to help protect them?

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