I woke up this morning in the safety and warmth of my house.
I woke up this morning knowing that I am relatively secured in my neighborhood, community, city, country.
I woke up this morning with mundane worries about the weather, things to do at work, and what gifts I should buy for Valentine’s Day.
I also woke up this morning thinking about the millions – yes millions – of people in this country that woke up to a new America. To a new reality. To a new danger.
These are not some hypothetical people from the news. These are my neighbors. My friends.
And it hurts.
So many of them woke up with a level of anxiety unmatched in years. Even the documented folks… (Oh God, I never thought it’d come to this…)
In today’s America if you are black or brown or Spanish surnamed, you woke up to a new reality. A new America. Your federal government suspect you of being in this country illegally. They will come after you. They will deport you if you are here illegally. If you are here legally, they may detain you. For hours; maybe days.
This is NOT a ‘scare tactic’. The federal government’s Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) has clear directive from the President of the United States to vigorously enforce immigration laws. ICE is holding raids to round up suspects. And in these raids if you look the part, you are suspect. And in these raids – VERY different from raids under recent Administrations – they make NO distinction on the severity of your crime. If your crime is simply that you entered this country illegally, you will be detained as firmly as if you just raped someone.
A spokesperson for the President made it very clear that ICE enforces the law unilaterally and without distinction: If you are here illegally, you are a criminal and you will be detained for deportation.
Forget focusing on the rapist. Forget focusing on the gang member. Forget focusing on the serial criminal… “Round them all up! Deport them all!” is the new battle cry from the President to the ICE officials and personnel.
And THAT is what is different. Recent Administrations – particularly recent Presidents – had sent the clear signal to the undocumented community that the federal resources would focus on going after the criminal elements in the undocumented community… And, many – including many in the undocumented community – actually helped the federal government round up this criminal element. (Yes, mistakes were made and overzealous ICE agents disregarded this directive. But that was the exception, not the rule.)
What we have now is a ‘full court press’ – from the top down – to indiscriminately round up people first, ask questions later, and make no distinction of the severity of the ‘crime’. This approach creates a confusion and fear in the community that is unprecedented. And right down dangerous.
For decades local police departments worked hard at establishing trust in these communities. They solicited and gained the trust of folks in these communities so they’d call in when they saw crime happening. Folks knew that the police were there to keep the community safe from criminals, not to round up and deport people. While many local police departments will continue this ‘community policing’ approach, expecting community members to parse the nuance that your local police is with you, but the feds are coming to get you is just an unrealistic expectation.
And what happens when that trust is broken? What happens when the folks don’t feel comfortable calling the police because of a domestic violence case, a drug deal going on at the corner, or other criminal activity? Things get out of control. Folks take things into their own hands. Gangs flourish. Mafia-like and vigilante activities flourish. People lose hope.
And when people lose hope, people do stupid things.
And when people do stupid things all too often the government’s response is to hunker down, display more power.
And when more power is displayed, some people do even stupider things.
And thus the spiral of criminality spirals out of control.
All because the unfounded fear of some in America that undocumented folks are bad for America, bad for the economy, bad for our communities.
The fact (yes, fact!) is that the vast majority of these undocumented folks come to America to do work that no American is willing to do; they form families and friendships that strengthen communities; and they are value added to the local, national, and international economy. (It is only been days and we are already seen the devastating effect of workers not showing up in the fields of Alabama and the chicken coops of Georgia.) These are facts, not perceptions.
The folks in power perceive different and they are hell bent on rounding up these undocumented and deporting them. “Damn the torpedoes!” If things get worst, they will just ‘hunker down’ and bring in bigger guns and more troops. “America First! America for Americans!”
Good freaking luck.
Things will get a lot worse before they begin getting better. AND – unfortunately – when they begin getting better (at most in 3 years and 9 month, November of 2020) – it will take decades again before the trust that had been established over the last decades is reestablished.
In the meantime, to all our black, brown, and Spanish surnamed amigos and familia > Don’t think for an iota of a second “it can’t happen to me”… Got ‘a foreign flag’ hanging on your rear view mirror (take it down)? Got that sticker of Our Lady of Guadalupe on your car (take it off)? Wearing that ‘Si se puede’ t-shirt (don’t wear it)? Got a broken headlight (fix it)? Walking while black/brown (beware)? > It can happen to you.
Make sure you have the name of a good immigration lawyer on speed dial. And:
- If you were born in this country, have a copy of your passport with you.
- If you are a naturalized citizen, have a copy of your citizenship certificate with you.
- If all you have is a green card, have it with you.
- If you are undocumented, good luck friend.