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The dehumanisation of immigrants continues

16 November 2018

The outcome of the mid-term elections is unlikely to curtail President Trump’s cruel policies, says Juve J. Cortés

AT THE conclusion of the 2018 United States mid-term elections, analysts of all stripes attempted to explain what the results meant. The evaluations, which continue to emanate from both media and academia, mechanically regurgitated descriptions of a blue and red map and, depending on ideology, either celebrated a blue House or a redder Senate.

And so it seems that the elections left everyone in limbo: no one is too happy, and no one is too upset, and both parties can claim a victory.

Elections, however, are not purely about parties. For individuals who have been on the receiving end of President Trump’s policies, the outcome did little to reassure us of our place in this country. Immigrants, the undocumented, and indeed all Americans have seen Trump implement some of the most damaging and immoral policies in recent memory.

Yet, the prophetic backlash and the drowning blue wave largely did not materialise. This is disappointing, to say the least, but it was also expected.

THE fact of the matter is that for most Americans the party in power makes little difference to the safety of their person. But for immigrants there is a very real danger of losing our home, our family, our country, our humanity.

This is our reality, past and present, and little to me suggests that it will stop any time soon. The elections were certainly historic for women — and we should celebrate their unparalleled numbers and diversity and resilience — but congressional composition matters little to victims of Trump’s policies if it does not translate into a radical curtailing of cruel policies.

I don’t mean to sound utterly defeated — God knows immigrants must always be optimistic — but the reality is that we don’t see a bright new day ahead of us. What immigrants see is instead at least two more years of Congressional gridlock on major issues including immigration reform, more nationalist rhetoric, given our increasingly polarised Congress, and our continued dehumanisation. If there is good news, we hope a blue House means more humane control of immigrant rights or even subpoenas to investigate Trump’s behaviour and dealings. This is our hope. But in this hope we do not forget our current reality, and our current reality is anything but positive.

We know, for example, that the undocumented who were brought to the US as children are still in danger of losing protection. We know, furthermore, that the military have been deployed to the southern border to fight asylum-seekers. We know that our children were stripped from us and kept in cages, and many still have not been reunited.

We know that structural barriers to voting remain, often in blatant fashion. We know that many see us as nothing more than terrorists and rapists and animals. What we know, in summary, is that our dehumanisation continues.

These is our unfortunate reality. To different degrees, it has been the reality for my family since 1994 when we first had a glimpse of this wonderful, but divided, society. From Wilmington, one of the most forgotten neighbourhoods in Los Angeles, we first understood that migrating was the easy part, that the challenge would be finding a place for ourselves in the country.

But despite these realities, immigrants remain devoted to the US. We continue to love and cherish this land from sea to shining sea, and we continue to respect its institutions and find ways to aid the country’s survival. This — the immigrant leap of faith — requires us to believe that one day we will belong here, that America, too, can be our home. But we don’t ignore that everyone now here is also an immigrant, that the true inheritors of this nation are indigenous, and that they, too, are in need of a place in the sun.

WHAT immigrants ask now is that America pause and take a long look at itself. In the past two years the real tragedy of America has begun to unravel: that many people who say that they care about her do not care, and that the hatred against migrants and minorities has little to do with migrants and minorities, but everything to do with those unwilling to accept us. And those who have tried so hard to dehumanise us must ask themselves why they find it necessary to do so.

The immigrants of Latin America wonder what our place in America is, and what our future looks like. In the mid-term elections, we were in need of direction, hope, a foundation for a new beginning.

In the next two years, blue and red America must see itself and it must see us and it must decide what it will do. It must realise that this nation that we love so much and for which many of us have died cannot survive if it first does not accept and then begin to love all those who are here now and who were here before us.

Dr Juve J. Cortés is Assistant Professor in the Department of Diplomacy and World Affairs at Occidental College, in California.

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