COMMENTARY: Racism already knocked on the door long ago during the current president’s campaign trail. The words of the president of the United States of America matter. The Office of the President impacts and shapes public discourse and sentiment. So do the words and actions of Congress. What Trump says matters, and most importantly, must be countered with the truth.
During his campaign, he said, “build a wall.” When speaking of Mexican immigrants, he claimed, “they’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” More recently, as the president of the United States, he referred
to El Salvador, Haiti, and African countries as “shithole countries” while explaining his opposition to accepting immigrants who were born there.
When white supremacist rallies increased in cities across the country, and white power nationalists clashed with racial justice advocates in Charlottesville, Trump defended the white nationalist protesters, saying there were “some very fine people on both sides.”
At his State of the Union address, a tragic incident was exploited to paint all immigrants with a broad brush as violent criminals. Many of us might not have noticed, or dismissed it as yet another lie used by Trump to further his agenda. And many of us sympathized and prayed for the parents of the victims. I know my heart went out to those families.
The narrative Trump used in his State of the Union address was reinforced by the Albuquerque Journal’s decision to publish an editorial cartoon that depicted Dreamers as criminals. This is the racist narrative Trump has been espousing since his campaign began, in his words about immigrants and in his policy proposals.
There is no clean DACA bill or DREAM Act in the Senate deal. Instead, we have a cartoon depicting MS-13 gang members as Dreamers. And for those of you who missed it, it also portrayed them as “future Democrats.” Are Republicans worried about more registered Democrats, more than they care about the futures of Dreamers?
The reality is that to qualify for DACA, among many other requirements, Dreamers must:
- Have come to the United States before reaching their 16th birthday.
- Be currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a General Educational Development (GED) certificate, or be an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States.
- Have not been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
Here is the truth about Dreamers: They are just like you and me — no better; no worse. Dreamers are Americans. And like many Americans, this is the only country they know. Like many Americans, they struggle to make ends meet. Like many Americans, they work hard to get an education, to provide for their families, and to build a better life than their parents had.
They are teachers, doctors, small business owners, military service members and veterans. They are pillars of our community.
But unlike many Americans, Dreamers live in a constant state of worry and fear. Fear of law enforcement, fear of losing their livelihood, fear of being exploited, fear of having to live in the shadows — and, most of all, fear of being deported back to a country they don’t know.
I too am afraid to live in a country that does not offer an opportunity for hardworking Americans to build a better life.
I know, however, that the American Dream is alive and well if we are looking to work and help each other. Yes, we can build a better America. And yes, we can build a better New Mexico, together.
Damian Lara, a Democrat, is running for the Albuquerque-area First Congressional district seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is a naturalized U.S. citizen from Mexico. Agree with his opinion? Disagree? NMPolitics.net welcomes your views. Learn about submitting your own commentary here.