EVEN IF TRUMP DOES NOT CARE AND DEHUMANIZES THE UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS IN THE UNITED STATES, LORD JESUS CARES VERY MUCH ABOUT THEIR PLIGHTS AND THEIR DESIRES TO MAKE A BETTER LIFE FOR THEMSELVES IN AMERICA.
Undocumented in Trump’s America
By JOSE ANTONIO VARGASNOV. 19, 2016
Demonstrating in Barrio Logan in San Diego after the election with a message of “Trump Out!” Credit Sandy Huffaker/Reuters
On election night, while making my way through a crowd gathered outside the Fox News headquarters in Midtown Manhattan, a white man wearing a Mets cap patted my back and said through the noise: “Get ready to be deported.” Rattled, I made it inside the green room and waited to go on the air.
I am an undocumented immigrant. I outed myself in a very public way in The New York Times in 2011, and since then have appeared regularly on cable news programs, especially on Fox, to humanize the very political and polarizing issue of immigration.
I was born in the Philippines, and my mother sent me to America at age 12 to live with my grandparents, who are both naturalized citizens. As an immigrant of Filipino descent, I am part of what is believed to be the fastest growing undocumented population in the United States — Asian and Pacific Islander immigrants. Though you might not know that if you listened to Donald J. Trump kick off his presidential campaign calling Mexicans “rapists,” and lead his campaign rally crowds in chants of “build the wall,” whipping themselves into a frenzy over some perceived threat from the southern border.
“What does it feel like to be the country’s most famous illegal?” the Fox anchor Lou Dobbs once asked me. We were off the air at the time, luckily, so I didn’t have to answer on live television. In general, it feels daunting. Since Mr. Trump was elected president of the United States, it has felt terrifying.
This is a time of palpable and overwhelming fear for immigrants, our families and friends. To many of us, it seems that the message from the roughly 60 million American voters who chose Mr. Trump — especially white voters who live in predominantly white towns that are getting less white because of immigration — is something like this: We don’t want you here.
I’ve been getting a flood of texts, emails and direct messages on Twitter and Facebook from undocumented Americans like me. “What’s going to happen to us?” the messages ask. “Should we make plans to leave?” A young woman I had met four years ago couldn’t stop crying on the phone. Her mother is from El Salvador and her father is from Guatemala. She is in 11th grade and she told me her parents might leave and entrust her care to relatives. She is a citizen, born in this country, but her parents are both undocumented.
The pain and vulnerability underlying these conversations are a direct contrast to the vulgarity of the public messages I get on social media, particularly on Twitter. “Christmas came early this year. It will be even earlier next year when @joseiswriting becomes Deportee # 1,” reads one message. “I can’t wait until @joseiswriting gets deported. It’ll be such a great day,” reads another.
In my mind, the day Mr. Trump made his speech proclaiming victory in the presidential election, 11/9, was the culmination of the hate, and ignorance that Americans have inflicted on one another since the attacks of 9/11. Along with Muslims, immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, have carried the brunt of this hate.
It’s not clear what Mr. Trump will do in office. He has vowed to deport two million to three million “criminal aliens,” but that is not a precise definition of anything. Whatever enforcement his administration does pursue, it will be an expansion of what President Obama has already done. By June of this year, the Obama administration had deported more than 2.4 million immigrants — more than any other president.
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My first meeting with an immigration lawyer was right after the Sept. 11 attacks. I was accompanied by Rich Fischer, the superintendent of my high school. The lawyer said the only solution for me was to return to the Philippines, accept the 10-year ban on re-entry and apply to come back. I was convinced that I had to go back to Manila. Rich felt differently. “You’re already here,” he said. “You’re staying.”
I told that story to Esmeralda, a 22-year-old from Mexico I recently met at Rio Hondo College, a community college just outside Los Angeles, which is home to the largest undocumented population in the country. Esmeralda came to the United States at age 6. She told me she was scared, especially because she is one of about 700,000 undocumented young people who registered in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which offers short-term protection from deportation as well as the right to work. Mr. Trump has repeatedly vowed to repeal it.
To apply for the program, undocumented youths had to give their names, birth dates and addresses to the very government that Mr. Trump will be in charge of.
“You’re not going anywhere,” I told Esmeralda, thinking of Rich Fischer. “It’s going to be tough, but you’re not going anywhere. We are not going anywhere.”
The fear of the first days after the election has turned into resilience and determination, all the while knowing that under President Trump, the worst-case scenario, our nightmare, may prove to be a reality. The people who devised anti-immigrant laws (Kris Kobach, the secretary of state of Kansas who helped write the “show me your papers” law in Arizona), pushed for those laws in Congress (Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the leading immigration hard-liner in the Senate) and enforced those laws (Joe Arpaio of Arizona, who just lost re-election as sheriff and has been charged by federal prosecutors with contempt for defying a judge’s orders to stop targeting Latinos) have been or are likely to be given prominent roles in the Trump administration.
Though there are a lot of questions about what President Trump will do when it comes to immigration, I have a few questions directed at my fellow Americans.
How many more Rich Fischers are out there, allies who will stand up for undocumented immigrants?
How many local school districts will declare themselves sanctuaries for immigrant families? How many college presidents, administrators and teachers — from schools like Harvard and Stanford to community colleges such as Rio Hondo — will declare their schools safe spaces for undocumented students?
How many other mayors will declare their cities sanctuary cities?
How many churches, synagogues and mosques will give shelter to us?
How will employers protect their undocumented workers?
What will the news media do — the same media that largely bought the misleading narrative from Mr. Trump that undocumented immigrants are a burden and danger to society?
What will you do when they start rounding us up?
Jose Antonio Vargas, a former Washington Post reporter, is the founder of the organization Define American.