Since the election of Donald Trump, immigrant communities across the United States have experienced a series of deeply unfortunate events. Immigrant communities had to deal with a surge in racist and hate-based incidents. Their families are now learning to live in fear of the Trump administration’s attempts to tear them apart through anti-immigration policies that involve detention and deportation.
The rise in the number of incidents that spread hatred and encourage harassment leading to cases of personal injury and even wrongful death has a rather clear source. Since the beginning of the presidential campaign, Donald Trump explicitly and implicitly shared racist and anti-immigrant sentiments that directly and indirectly emboldened the white supremacists of the country. Other supporters and members of the current administration, like Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions, also echoed the same rhetoric against immigrant communities. Inevitably, racial intolerance surged.
To use the old strategy of “divide and conquer” can maintain an administration’s control over groups of people by splitting them up. It is by sowing dissent can a conqueror retain its control over individuals, even opponents.
In the first couple of months since the inauguration of Trump, policies that could potentially divide the country began rolling out. However, various communities of families who emigrated from different countries all over the world are in solidarity with other progressive allies, all working towards turning the table against the administration that aims to “make America great again.”
A Question of Solidarity
Different people, teachers, engineers, managers, laborers, attorney, etc., are coming together to stand against the anti-immigration policies of the Trump administration. But the movement has been going on even before the Obama administration, which also played a significant role in the deportation system of the country. For the past years, the movement pushing for immigrant rights already made substantial strides. The people involved have continually answered immigration queries and critics.
However, it is also difficult to agree with well-meaning organizations and advocates, that come in solidarity with marginalized immigrant communities, when they maintain questionable and seemingly progressive points. Examples of arguments some of these activists use are total immigration reform that ignores the effects on small towns and immigrant roles particularly concerning jobs that no one else has interests in doing.
Most of these arguments come from well-intentioned and educated folks who have little experience living with concerned communities or groups of undocumented, foreign-born people. Sadly, there are many occurrences when the college degrees of the intellectual elite still weigh more than the experiences of the street-smart.
Citizenship as Answer
While it is good that many different people refuse a system that tears them apart, those who are one with the movement should rethink what they are eventually asking as a result. Many people treat citizenship as the answer to the struggles that undocumented individuals are experiencing.
However, looking at it as such would deny the fact that black communities also received the citizenship they deserve, yet are continuing to pay a hefty price for matters that a majority of white people can get away with. Back in 2012, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement conducted a study that found how the police would kill a black person every 28 hours, extrajudicially.
Fighting for the privilege to gain a US citizenship is indeed noble. However, that citizenship has underlying socio-political strata that, unfortunately, still discriminates black communities, indigenous peoples, immigrant groups, and other minorities. The citizenship, though highly prized has less meaning when the system continues to alter the history of marginalized groups and treats foreign-born people as starkly different regardless of their immigration status.
The problem remains with the individuals who are passionate about bringing meaningful and just change but do not include undocumented and documented immigrants in the conversations by assuming they could simply speak for them. The dialogues must always have the voice of the concerned stakeholders and must take into account the life experiences of people.
Focusing on citizenship alone, and treating it as the sole solution to the current hate and injustices, will not address the cause of the problem. People should also tackle issues at the local level. Even Latino communities also have to deal with a culture that is encouraging colorism. The movement, though impactful and well-meaning, has still a long way to go with addressing internal problems.