Image from the Southern Poverty Law Center
I forced myself to listen to your speech last night while running on a treadmill in the gym. I had no other choice, every screen in that gym had your face on it. In attempts to make it more palatable, I simultaneously read #SOTU hashtagged tweets on Twitter.com. It was scary, sad, but also hopeful and reassuring to see the reactions of individuals from all over the world furiously popping up on my iPad screen. I was severely disappointed, yet not at all surprised, to hear your typical approach of fear-mongering, especially around the issue of immigration.
The issue of immigration is a topic I hold dear to my heart. My mother and father came to the United States from South America by plane. This happened many years before I was born, some 44 plus years ago. I am not sure about my dad, for I did not grow up with him long after my parents’ divorce, but my mom overstayed her visa and lived as an undocumented citizen in the U.S. for many years. Finally, in the early 90’s, after years and years of what seemed like never ending paperwork, she finally became a U.S. citizen. The issue of immigration is also dear to my heart for I grew up in a Latino neighborhood in Jamaica, Queens in New York City. Living in Queens, I knew, loved and was friends with many people who lived, worked and paid taxes to the U.S., while all along being undocumented. None of these people were rapists, murderers or gang members. None of these people had any other intention besides the single finite goal of helping out their families, whether they were here or abroad. One thing I know for sure they were is “hard working.” When one comes to America with a dream of “making it,” one comes emotionally armed to work harder than anyone or ever before in order to realize that dream; it is an unrelentingly brutal path for all who come, but a path one consciously chooses with resolve and determination. From experience, I know very well that oftentimes “working hard” required working while ill, working long dreary hours, or even working in physically unsafe situations and of course, doing all of it for very, very little pay. To this day, I don’t recall my mother ever taking a vacation; it was just not part of her world, not part of the life she set out to live for herself. First generation immigrants like her just cannot afford to be replaced at their jobs, so work is all they know.
Last night, at your State of The Union address, you deliberately chose to show the face of immigration as a bunch of murderers, rapists or gang members. While my heart cried and prayed for the poor parents of the girls, Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens, savagely murdered by six members of the MS13 gang (of whom you spoke about in your speech), these evil murderers are by no means a representative sample of the immigrants that live in America today. Of course, I agree, no family should ever have to lose a loved one in such an evil, senseless way and I hope the two families find peace, if not justice, in this lifetime. Yet, the undocumented immigrants I grew up around were not murderers, rapists or gang members. Devastatingly, murders do happen every day but lots more of these murders are actually committed by United States citizens, Mr. President. A tweet from @tcurrais last night best describes this stating that, “Las Vegas shooter: Not an immigrant. Sandy Hook Shooter: Not an immigrant, Charleston Church Shooter: Not an immigrant. Aurora Movie Theatre Shooter: Not an immigrant. Texas Church Shooter: Not an immigrant. Columbine Shooter. Not an immigrant.” To be fair, Mr. President, shouldn’t you have also mentioned the larger threat of domestic terror or perhaps any of the many other numerous threats to our safety, from domestic abuse to police brutality, or maybe even lack of health insurance, poverty….and on and on?
Mr. President, your sinister not-so-subtle attempts at brainwashing the citizenry and villainizing all immigrants with this one horrific double murder of these young lives is manipulative and plain evil. With your use of just this one example I am more than ever convinced you have no interest in closing the great divide that now plagues our country. Instead, you are attempting to capitalize on our emotional reactions to your carefully chosen examples in order to create an even wider separation among us. I just hope most of us are aware enough to see through your tactic.
Hopeful in Springfield, Va. and Letters2Trump