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Immigration Also Builds Democracy

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Washington, DC – Below is a column by David Torres from America’s Voice en Español translated in English and Spanish. 

It’s hard to believe, but one year has passed since the attempt to destroy nothing less than the U.S. democracy. On January 6, 2021, the entire world witnessed a mob of fanatical followers of ex-President Donald Trump breaking into the federal Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., intent on preventing the certification of the electoral victory of today’s leader, Joe Biden, at all costs.

Among that plethora of traitors to the very freedoms this democracy bestows were those who dared to deny both the facts and motives of this violent and frustrated insurrection, bluntly rejecting that Trump was the mastermind behind this historical mess, when everything else indicated exactly the opposite. His responsibility—or irresponsibility—is so evident that the former leader could neither escape from justice nor the historical condemnation that awaits him. This was not a “revolutionary act” to save the “oppressed,” like many historic revolutions that have changed the world, but an attempt to safeguard the privileges of a white supremacy that, in itself, has been the oppressor and the discriminator since the birth of this nation.

Moreover, this state of permanent denial has not served his followers—not even a little bit—as some of these perpetrating fanatics, now whining in the face of justice, have begun to face trial. With many more to come, as Attorney General Merrick Garland promised.

This attack against the most functional democracy on the planet (to date) serves, on the other hand, to illustrate a most interesting dichotomy on all fronts: on one hand, the democracy that Trump and his followers intend on destroying and, on the other, the democracy that is built and strengthened day after day through the work of immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, even though they cannot vote.

It’s true that the vast majority of Trump’s followers still agree with the anti-immigrant policies that their leader put into practice during his administration (2016-2020), the four most difficult years, especially for undocumented immigrants. The racism, discrimination, and xenophobia that emanated from the White House during that entire time has become an intractable stain on that era, while also revealing that U.S. society has not been able to overcome those anomalies, despite the evident diversity that has been unfolding among its inhabitants for decades now.

This type of self-destruction—which had its quintessence in the attack on the Capitol last year—is symptomatic of a part of society that has basically everything, compared to other societies around the world and above all in comparison to minorities who live here, fiercely fighting for a place in this nation that they call home and for which they have given everything. Let’s be clear: immigrants have not come to replace anyone, but to work, and principally to work hard to support their families.

Essentially, while Trump and his enablers were at the point of ruining everything that the United States has achieved, as far as the praxis of democracy goes, caring very little about the possibility of turning the country into a failed state and, in that regard, vulnerable to the predation of a single man and his economic ambitions, undocumented immigrants continued with their minds fixed on their goals: to sustain their families as well as contribute to the efforts to save a society threatened by one of the most lethal pandemics in the history of humankind–that of COVID-19 and its variants.

This pandemic, of course, is not the only concrete example of the commitment that immigrants of any origin, with or without documents, have to the nation that they have adopted to live in and continue to put down family roots, generation after generation, until their presence is accepted. They have shown repeatedly and permanently, over the course of decades and centuries, that this country and its culture are the product of waves of immigrants who have given life, first economically and then demographically, as well as educationally, health-wise, politically and, of course, by building democracy, among other contributions. It is no longer rare to see lawmakers who are the children of immigrants; making their way into the political sphere is not easy, but it does guarantee greater political and ideological diversity.

This first anniversary of the attack on the Capitol also reminds us that the development of industrial societies—that have so much—can become so unhinged that, in the blink of an eye, they can destroy the badly-needed democracy in other parts of the world.

But today we also remember that immigration helps build democracy, too. 

Read the Spanish version of this column here.