Latinos across the United States and in our territories have always understood the voices and policies of anti-immigrant hardliners in Congress, like Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and former senator and now Attorney General Jeff Sessions, to be code for anti-Latino. Most recently, King confirmed the true meaning behind their statements and actions when he denied our American identity by describing our children as “somebody else’s babies.”
Though these sentiments have always existed, President Donald Trump’s rhetoric has emboldened individuals who hold a nationalist attitude against Latinos, immigrants and people of color. Trump made Latinos his central campaign target, and two months into his presidency, he has kept his promise to terrorize immigrant communities, indiscriminately leaving children fearful to go to school, worried their parents may not be home upon their return. There are those who thought that they were immune to Trump’s anti-immigrant actions, like a South Bend woman who voted for Trump thinking he would only go after “bad hombres.” Sadly, now her husband awaits deportation. He has lived in this country since 1998, has three U.S. citizen children and owns a local business.
Trump says he is going after criminals and drug dealers, but the reality is that his policies and actions reflect a radically broadened strategy that targets nearly all 11 million undocumented immigrants for apprehension, detention and deportation. In his first two months in office, immigration officials have gone into a courthouse to arrest a domestic violence victim seeking a court order, arrested individuals after they left a church hypothermia shelter, detained a young woman who came to the United States when she was 7 years old as retaliation for speaking out at a press conference and detained a southern Illinois business manager who is a pillar of his community. In the last example, the pro-Trump town has rallied around the man and many say it has “complicated their views on immigration policy.”
Trump’s actions have come at a great cost to many individuals, families, communities and our entire nation. And now Trump wants more money. More money to build a wall that we were told Mexico would pay for, more money for private corporations to build private detention facilities and more money to hire agents to roam and terrorize communities. At the same time, he is asking Congress to cut funding for schools, cancer research, job training, agencies that help keep our air and water clean, state and local law enforcement and funds used for road, tunnel and bridge repairs.
These proposals are bad for our economy and our country. Members of Congress have a responsibility to do what is in the best interest of our country and a duty to responsibly spend taxpayer dollars. Congress should exert its power of the purse and stand with most Americans who do not support this indiscriminate chaos and terrorizing of immigrant communities. Members would be wise to heed the words of Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), the chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus: “We are sending a clear message that we will not be complicit in paying for policies that threaten public safety, tear families apart, undermine national security, and devastate our economy.”
We urge members in both chambers to exercise their moral judgement and fulfill their duty by refusing to peddle the president’s politics of division and hate against 58 million Latinos. We are not alone in this fight. This fight extends beyond one community. Our neighbors, teachers, students, and parishioners stand ready to be heard during the congressional April recess to ensure members know this is an issue that tests our moral aptitude as a country. Vote no on funding Trump’s deportation force, detention camps and border wall.
Hector Sanchez Barba is the chair of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda and executive director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.
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