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Guest Blog: I’m a US Citizen. The 2016 Election Was Hard For My Family – and That’s Why I’m Fighting Against Trump This Year 

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Written by Javier Jimenez

Growing up, I was privileged enough not to have to think about my or my family’s immigration status. I was born a U.S. citizen with a Mexican American mother and a permanent status father. It wasn’t until 2016, with Donald Trump’s first presidential election, that I began to drastically reconsider what immigration meant to me and my family in my small southern town in Virginia.  

My mother was born in Washington, D.C. in the 1970s when my grandparents first came to the United States from Mexico. Unlike today, when the US-Mexico border is very hard to cross, and people must generally choose to live on one side or the other, my grandparents lived during a time when temporary workers could move back and forth more freely. My grandparents were considered migrants, who came to work in the U.S. for a few months or years before returning to Mexico, where they continue living to this day. My mother lived in Mexico from age five and returned to the United States when she married my father in her early 20s.

My father, born in Mexico, came to the United States when he was 17. Like my maternal grandparents, he came to work to send money back to his family. My father, in those initial years, experienced his life here in the United States as an undocumented person. Like many others, he worked in underpaid construction and physical labor jobs. He constantly worried about being caught on his next dangerous journey between the United States and Mexico. It wasn’t until he married my mother, whom he had known for most of his life growing up together in Jalisco, Mexico, that he was able to get his green card and become a permanent resident. [Editor’s note: This was in the 90s. In 1996, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA) became law, making naturalization through marriage more difficult for immigrants like Javier’s father.]

While I have been privileged enough to not have to worry about my parents or my legal status in this country, I still have many extended family members, friends, and neighbors whose status is uncertain. Immigration laws and policy in this country have become a prominent issue for me as I saw the worrisome effects it had on my community.

The first time I truly worried about the status of immigrants was during the 2016 presidential election. Donald Trump’s offensive anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric sent shockwaves through my family. My father, who at this point had been a permanent resident of the United States for almost twenty years, was scared that Trump would take away his papers and questioned the status of his livelihood. 

Listening to Trump was the first time I realized the harm that dangerous and hateful rhetoric from politicians can stir up among the public. We lived in a largely Republican county, and the support for Trump was unnerving. For the first time, I experienced my fellow classmates begin to ask me about my status and openly say racist things about me simply because I was Hispanic. 

It was a scary time that I am starting to see once more being mirrored with the upcoming 2024 election and Trump running for president once again. He is spreading the same hate and amplifying disinformation to communities across the country. Now more than ever, it is time to fight against this anti-immigration narrative. I hope to serve my parents and – more importantly – my community in fighting back against these harmful acts of misinformation, while uplifting the real importance and contribution of immigrants to this country. That’s a mission I wish to carry with me as the elections come up and I as well as those who weren’t able to vote in the 2016 election go to the voting polls this year.