On Humanity, and the Value of Immigrants.

Today, President Donald Trump signed yet another Executive Order. Since taking office 5 short days ago, President Trump has managed to sign orders that remove the United States from a major trade partnership, effectively gut the Affordable Care Act, prohibit foreign aid from going to organizations that provide abortion services, and freeze federal hiring capabilities, among 8 others. While these actions remain unequivocally infuriating in their own right, the 2 orders signed today truly up the ante when it comes to sheer audacity in moving the United States towards a xenophobic, irrational, and isolationist future. Today, President Trump not only signed an Executive Order requiring forthwith the construction of a border wall  (that Mexico will totally pay for, eventually. Really, he swears!), but an order entitled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” as well. As you might imagine, this Executive Order has very little to do with truly enhancing public safety across America. What it does do is unfairly and systematically fixate upon immigrants throughout our nation and target them for discrimination, harassment, and racial profiling. 

Copyright 2016 Associated Press
Wow, I had the same look on my face when I heard you signed such a ridiculous Executive Order, President Trump! Copyright 2017 — Associated Press

Of the plethora of ridiculous tenets outlined in this order — of which there are too many to list — the most absurd is perhaps the following:

To better inform the public regarding the public safety threats associated with sanctuary jurisdictions, the Secretary shall utilize the Declined Detainer Outcome Report or its equivalent and, on a weekly basis, make public a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens and any jurisdiction that ignored or otherwise failed to honor any detainers with respect to such aliens.

What does this mean exactly? Well in plain English, it means that every week, the White House is going to take the time to publish a comprehensive list of crimes committed by immigrants. Then, it’s going to denote in which of the ‘sanctuary cities’ some of these crimes took place, and publicly shame said cities for…not allowing the people accused of crimes to be immediately deported?  Of course, the order doesn’t specify whether or not that applies to all immigrants or merely undocumented ones. It also fails to show if this list will include all criminal accusations, or just convictions. (Perhaps innocent until proven guilty no longer applies to foreign nationals?) Additionally, the order fails to indicate whether this list will include misdemeanors, or merely crimes of a felonious nature. Nor is there any clarification as to whether the “comprehensive list” will include crimes committed by minors, or only those perpetrated by adults. At this point, the order doesn’t tell us a whole lot.

What it does tell us, though, is this: immigrant is now a dirty word. In Trump’s America, immigrants — particularly undocumented ones — are evil. They are drug-dealers and rapists and criminals of all kinds. They are not to be respected, trusted, or treated equally under the law.

The thing is though, I know that Trump’s stereotypes and generalizations regarding immigrants are patently untrue. Sure, just like in every population, there are some immigrants — undocumented or otherwise — who happen to be criminals. The nature of humanity and the certainty of statistics prove as much. The majority of immigrants, though? They’re just like you and I. They are people, trying to provide the best possible opportunities for their children. They are fathers and daughters, sons and mothers, husbands and wives. They are friends and colleagues and next-door neighbors. They are just like us.

So, if President Trump wants to make a weekly list of actions taken by immigrants, that’s just fine. Of course, I myself have a similar list in mind:

California.
The gorgeous landscape undocumented immigrants help maintain.

Week 1: List of Ways That Immigrants Have Positively Impacted My Life

1. As long as I can remember, my family was lucky enough to have a cleaning crew come to our house biweekly to tackle the bigger cleaning jobs. Cleaning windows and baseboards, polishing wooden furniture and dusting off light fixtures. For the majority of my childhood, this team consisted of H, C, and their crew. At the time, the team seemed like it was comprised of stylish, sophisticated ladies. I now realize that most of them were young women between the ages of 18 and 25 who had recently come to the United States from Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. Regardless, they used to slip me sweets and let me practice my abysmal Spanish. They never complained when I lost track of time and continued reading in parts of the house that were quite obviously obstructing their efforts. They smiled and cooed over pointless awards I won, pictures of family vacations and various other glimpses of my life. Often, they took a few moments between tasks to slip a treat or 3 to our dog. They were hardworking, efficient, and unfailingly kind people who worked as house cleaners. They also happened to be immigrants.

2. As mentioned in a previous post, I worked with a pair of undocumented immigrants at my high school fast food job. L, the woman, changed my view of the world. She willingly shared the story of her life with a clueless, sheltered fifteen-year-old. Not once, as she patiently described the struggle and heartbreak of her life, did she resort to resentment or hyperbole. L was honest, yet matter-of-fact about the events that had brought her to America. She had taken a risk in order to — in the true meaning of the words — save the lives of her children from a violent and imminent threat. She worked at Quiznos and McDonalds, and also as a maid, to provide for her family. She paid American taxes and did not reap the benefits and she never complained. For L, giving her children a better life was indisputably worth it. L was hard-working single mother who volunteered at her church bringing meals to the old and infirm. She also happened to be an immigrant.

3. M, the man I worked with at Quiznos, was the father of 2. A certified accountant in his native Mexico, he and his wife had decided that their boys would have a better life in America. In exchange for providing more opportunities for his children, M gave up life as a white-collar worker. He took on 3 grueling jobs with aplomb and good cheer — to him, his sacrifice was worth it if it meant giving his children access to American schools. To allow them to be bilingual, able to move seamlessly between worlds. When I met him, he had not had a day off in over 3 years. M showed me how to take pleasure in the little things. He displayed a generosity of character that many of the folks I grew up alongside lacked. He was a diligent employee and dedicated taxpayer (although the system would never pay out to him). On his lunch breaks, he had me drill him on new English vocabulary words. Daily, he asked me for book recommendations so that he could stop by the library on his way home. There, he grabbed picture books that he read out-loud nightly to his sons. M was an enthusiastic member of his community, a caring father, and a loving husband. He also happened to be an immigrant.

Hey, President Trump? If you want to do this every week, I do too. I’m absolutely positive that I won’t run out of stories about the myriad ways immigrants make America great. Are you as confident that immigrants will be committing weekly crimes for your exciting new listicle? Only time will tell. I look forward to seeing which one of us is right.

–S

Day 25: January 25, 2017

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