By Maribel Hastings and David Torres
There are some who think that the anti-immigrant climate that the United States is living, due to the rhetoric and public policies of Donald J. Trump, only affects immigrants who do not have their documents in order. Nothing could be further from reality, which has obligated us to confront this seemingly insuperable wave of prejudices ruthlessly unleashed against minorities, especially Hispanics of color.
We know citizens of Hispanic origin, born and raised in the United States, who at all times carry with them their passports, birth certificates, and Social Security cards, “just in case,” as if we were under a state of siege, or as if there were a permanent “curfew” like under those military or totalitarian regimes.
There are also Puerto Ricans who have lived in the United States for more than three decades who also carry around their documents. One of them said just a few days ago that he does so “because with my dark skin and my accent, anything could happen these days.” Not for nothing, but the “racial crusade” that this administration has been determined to carry out has advanced so violently, in leaps and bounds, that even U.S. citizens with everything in order don’t feel secure in the face of an administration that threatens and intimidates them systematically.
In reality, these are times when speaking Spanish in public can also give rise to a verbal or even physical attack from racists who have become emboldened due to the fact that the occupant of the White House has normalized prejudice.
Examples of attacks on our language—which they certainly spoke before English in this part of the world—have been many, and each one of those attacks or threats on the part of supremacists has included specifically a furious hatred toward the language, to the point of hoping for its extermination. In fact, Trump followers and Hitler admirers have declared as much, such as the attacker who left twenty-two people dead in El Paso. And, there have been at least twenty-six other people arrested like him for the same reasons across the country.
In the same way, there are Latinos who support Trump and who are convinced that the president is doing the right thing. Well, perhaps until one of their own is affected by the immigration policies of this president. There have been various cases of U.S. citizens married to immigrants, who voted for Trump and applauded his hardline methods on immigration and then confronted the reality that these same measures resulted in the detention or deportation of their spouses. The answer is always the same: they thought it would focus on criminals.
It just so happens that the net Trump threw in immigration matters is as wide as the community it affects. It is also based in prejudice against people of color, particularly Latin Americans, although those of Muslim origin also occupy a special place in Trump’s heart.
The objective is cruelty and minorities are the victims. Such cruelty continues to intensify and some sectors do not consider it problematic because the victims look different or speak differently from them. Even within the same Hispanic community there are segments that do not consider what is happening to be a problem because their reality is different. Or because the conditions under which they arrived to this country were different. They believe that anti-Latino or anti-immigrant prejudice does not touch them. Of course, until they are hurt directly and then realize that the fight is not one of political ideology, but simply racial. Regrets, however, always come too late.
But also we have to remember that prejudice is not exclusive to this country. In our countries of origin prejudice and discrimination against marginalized classes, which are the ones who make the trip up north, is brutal.
What we seem to ignore is that Hispanics, whether light or dark skinned, do not have a symbol that says we were born here or that we are naturalized citizens, permanent residents, or undocumented. For the current regime, we are all to be eliminated as part of his master plan. Because that which we are seeing and living is certainly only the first part of a much larger project in which, of course, they don’t want us to have a place.
Ironically, according to racists and prejudiced people we are all the same, a concept practiced by Trump himself when he told a group of Democratic congresswomen, including one from New York of Puerto Rican descent, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, to go back to their countries of origin, when that very country is the United States.
If a federal-level congresswoman receives this attack, it’s understandable that many of us opt to carry our documents, because in this era of Trump one never knows when that paper will stop protecting us.
To read the Spanish-language version of this column, please click