• September 27th, 2021
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The Fish Rots from the Head Down


By Javier Sierra

 

I’ll tell you a secret. I am writing this in Spanish as well. Don’t tell anyone, you know, it’s open season on us immigrants, especially Latino immigrants.

It’s hard to keep tabs on the abuses and humiliations we are subject to on a daily basis:

-A New York City lawyer threatened to turn the workers of a deli over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after they spoke Spanish with their customers.

-In Montana, ICE arrested two US citizens at a gas station after they spoke Spanish with each other.

-In Florida, a Republican candidate argued that Puerto Ricans who are moving in from the island should not be allowed to vote, even though they are as American as Key lime pie.

-The US Secretary of Education stated that each individual school had the right to turn undocumented students over to ICE, etc., etc., etc.

But the biggest scandal, the one that is making immigrants like me to look at the Statue of Liberty like just another piece of urban decoration, is the inhuman treatment immigration authorities are showing to immigrant families at the US-México border. Since October, ICE has separated some 700 children from their parents when, as families, they tried to enter the US. Later the children are taken to detention centers, where some of them have been caged, kicked, punched, threatened with sexual abuse and, in the tragic case of a Guatemalan girl, shot dead.

The minors are then transferred to the “care” of the Department of Health and Human Services, which finds sponsors and a place for them to stay. But, as if yanking a child from his or her parents’ arms were not enough, the Department recently acknowledged that out of the 7,000 children put in sponsor care by the end of 2017, it has lost track of 1,475 of them.

The fish rots from the head down. President Trump, who called us Latinos “rapists and criminals” during the campaign, has stooped to lower lows by saying undocumented immigrants “are not people, they are animals,” and his White House conceded that separating children from parents are “deterrents” to stop the flow of immigrants.

It’s not news that millions of undocumented immigrants live in the shadows of society, exposed to all sorts of abuses. A Washington State University study revealed that immigrants who do not speak English are the demographic group most vulnerable to deadly air pollution. Another report by the University of Minnesota concluded that Latinos in general are the ethnic group who breathes the country’s most polluted air.

Even so, the contributions by undocumented immigrants to our society are enormous. Each year, they pay $11.6 billion in taxes, at a higher effective tax rate than the top 1 percent income bracket.

It’s hard to swallow the hypocrisy on display by Trump and his administration given the fact that their families arrived in this country under very similar circumstances, escaping oppression, violence, and misery.

There is only one option: resist. The Sierra Club legal team has joined almost 80 other groups by submitting an amicus brief as part of a court battle to counter a Trump administration effort to challenge three California “sanctuary laws” that provide important protection to undocumented immigrants in that state. The lawsuit is part of a broader effort by the administration to crack down on “sanctuary cities” that limit their cooperation with the federal government’s effort to enforce immigration law.

History will judge us all — those who resisted and those who gave up.

 

Javier Sierra is a Sierra Club columnist. Follow him on Twitter @javier_SC.