Please note the following column was translated from Spanish to English. This column is available online in Spanish here.
As immigrants, we have all felt fear at some point. In most cases – fear propagates across the immigrant community with frequency. This fear manifests itself in several ways for immigrants residing in the United States: answering immigration related questions at the airport, being a minority within predominantly white neighborhoods, trying to learn to speak a new language, trying to assimilate with the culture, laws, and history of this great country.
As time passes, persistency and routine make these fears invisible – especially for those who consider themselves part of this country.
However, when announcements that raids could target immigrant families and communities, these fears reappear – often stronger than before. And this fear does not discriminate. It does not matter whether your immigration status is stable, wether we are about to apply for citizenship, or whether all of your transactions with USCIS have been completed, -the fear is the same.
Right now we are witnessing how vulnerable communities, immigrants from central America in this case, are targeted and persecuted by raids in order to be deported back to countries like Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras – countries that known for gang violence and drug trafficking.
They keyword here is persecution, as suggested by the imagery and methods currently employed to carry out these raids: immigration officers knock on the door of a home, often using deception as a tool to trick residents to open the door, enter the home, and begin carrying our individuals after telling them that they are being deported. We know about these scenarios because Spanish and English language media continue to publish the accounts of family members who were present during the raid, witnessing the terror and fear from up close.
Sure, the government is doing their job – but is it their job to terrorize vast sectors of the immigrant community as if we lived in a totalitarian state? Because right now fear, uncertainty, and anxiety are not just subject of conversation among immigrant families from Central America, they are serious subjects within immigrants from Mexico and South America as well.
“Immigration officers went to my daughter’s house, knocked on the door, and asked for somebody who did not live there. Despite the answer that was provided to them, immigration officials still insisted with entering the home. After they refused to let them in, the agents finally left.” This was the account my older brother, who resides in North Carolina, provided me with last week. After this ‘encounter’ my niece and her family, who are originally from Mexico, are now taking extra precautions when leaving their home.
The immigrant community is known for trying to fix their own circumstances, often without asking for help, but this time around they have taken extreme measures. As some newspapers have reported in the past days, immigrant families have taken extreme measures on their own, such as abandoning their homes and moving in with relatives; to avoid leaving their homes; to remain united if anything were to happen; to carry a form of identification; carry information that informs authorities of the immigrant’s rights; call or text family to ensure that the individual is safe.
These are desperate measures that have been employed in order to combat the fear and uncertainty currently felt by immigrants across the nation; especially given the political climate that continues to brew xenophobia and discrimination – two notions that some believe to have banished from the United States. Instead, xenophobia and discrimination are the very things that are fueling the extreme right and and the nativists, tools that are only helping to propagate ignorance and intolerance.
The immigrant community is currently being attacked by two fronts. On one hand we have anti-immigrants, who continue to voice their support for mass deportations, and on the other hand we have a government that we believed to be on our side.
Between those two hands lays trapped the “American Dream,” the one ray of hope that many immigrants still hold near and dear. Instead immigrants are being targeted by what seems to be an unstoppable force, raids.