“I love Hispanics,” once proclaimed Trump in celebration of 5 de Mayo. With friends like him, who needs enemies, as we Latinos have suffered enormously during his first year in office.
The chaos of the Trump presidency can be summarized in the most famous phrase he has uttered as president so far, “shithole countries,” in reference to El Salvador, Haiti, and the entire African Continent during a bipartisan immigration policy meeting at the White House. Salvadoran Ambassador to Washington Hugo Martínez denounced that Trump “offended the dignity of El Salvador and other countries” and “vigorously” rejected, along with the rest of the civilized world, that kind of expression.
Ironic that Trump so meticulously picks the countries immigrants should come from. His own mother immigrated to the US escaping a dirt-poor corner of Scotland.
His intransigence caused the shutdown of the federal government. And as of today, he continues demanding that the renewal of the DREAM Act and the future of 800,000 Dreamers be conditioned to the approval by Congress of $25 billion for the construction of his border wall, a monument to xenophobia and racism that would cause irreparable damage to border communities and wildlife alike. Remember when Trump repeatedly promised that México would pay for the wall?
Irreparable would also be the human and economic damage if he fulfills his threat to deport 200,000 Salvadorans who have been living in the US since 2001 under Temporary Protection Status after their country and economy were devastated by earthquakes.
And speaking of catastrophes, during his State of the Union Speech he promised that the federal government would continue assisting the communities devastated by natural disasters in 2017. Incredibly, hours before, his own FEMA announced that it would stop providing assistance to Puerto Rico, even though 35 percent of Puerto Ricans remain without electricity and tens of thousands lack access to drinking water, more than four months after hurricanes Maria and Irma desolated the island. Fortunately, a day later, FEMA backtracked saying it will continue its relief operations.
In this xenophobic and racist atmosphere, it’s no wonder we Latinos fear for our safety. A recent national Latino Decisions poll revealed that 64 percent of Latinos believe they are more likely to be mistreated or abused by police. Fifty-seven percent feel less safe after Trump’s victory, and 72 percent think that whites have become more discriminatory and angry toward them since the election.
Latinos, and the rest of the country, must also fear for their health after witnessing the worst assault on environmental safeguards in history. Trump’s EPA and Department of the Interior have combined to achieve, among others, the following atrocities:
- The reckless weakening of air and water standards.
- The opening of almost the totality of the country’s coasts to fossil fuel drilling.
- Green-lighting the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.
- And shrinking national monuments and enacting an outrageous fee hike to enter the national parks, which will keep millions of Latinos from visiting these magnificent places.
It’s no surprise that his approval ratings are the worst for any president in his first year in office. The country overwhelmingly supports a humane and just immigration solution, including a path to citizenship for the Dreamers; building bridges and not walls with the rest of the world; not turning the federal government’s back on Puerto Rico after its worst disaster ever; and above all, treating one another with dignity and decency, qualities that have been painfully absent in the last year.
Javier Sierra is a Sierra Club columnist. Follow him on Twitter @javier_SC.
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