It’s a strange time to be a Latino Democrat. As a requisite for attending Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address, many Democrats brought staffers or constituents as guests who were Latinos or who represented marginalized identities.
We are told that, as Republicans want to blame us for lost jobs and chain migration, Democrats see the good in us. They see value that others don’t see. They see we’re beautiful and successful and kind. We are contributing to the economy and deserving of consideration because of that.
So they bring a few of us out in an effort to represent all of us. And we should be grateful that they want to be seen next to us, as if that is all they are required to do to fight for our humanity. They love us, they just don’t always show it.
Scroll through photos of Democrats from the State of the Union address, and you’ll see a litany of posts where Democrats are “defiantly” standing with Dreamers and DACA recipients. While this places a powerful image in the mind of voters and constituents, during an era when symbols absolutely matter, it smacks of symbolic politics.
When you’re talking about someone’s life, freedom, happiness, and a broad range of cultural identities, symbolic politics aren’t enough. In fact, those symbolic gestures lay the groundwork for lumping us all together.
Do I think that any alt-right, cryptofascist idiots who my dad accidentally bumps into on the bus are going to realize he’s Puerto Rican, an American citizen, just like they are? Or will that nudge fuel a rage they’ve kept just under the surface, the same rage that oozed out of people like them when they’ve told him to “go back home” while literally on his way home from work?
What if in their love for power and order, those same people become police?
Bigoted ICE agents aren’t inquiring whether someone is from El Salvador or Chile when they arrest them on suspicion of being a member of MS-13. They’ll see brown skin, they’ll hear men talking in Spanish, and they’ll react.
No matter how warm the embrace is from Democrats, March 5th, the deadline to extend DACA, continues to approach. They tell us they’re going to do something, but here we are trying to explain to our friends and family why we’re sitting by the phone, anxious and upset yet again.
Why are things so desperate in so many Latin American countries? Why are things so tough that we can’t all just “go back home”? These islands and countries are so rich in natural resources that their economies should thrive, no?
Think about who holds the purse strings. The same countries that would refuse our humanity are the ones who hold our resources hostage through a direct pipeline lining their pockets. They’re bulldozing rainforests to make grazing land for cattle. Anglo-American corporations own huge stakes in Chilean copper mines. These companies aren’t giving back to the local economy. American, European, and Japanese conglomerates are making the money.
The idea of countries pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, playing their hand, when other countries run the table—nay the whole damn casino—is akin to gaslighting. “They want to come here”, “They want all the benefits”, perhaps they want to get back some of the wealth that’s been plucked from their homes.
It’s akin to saying “why didn’t you just leave?” or “why didn’t you come forward sooner?” as if that thought never crosses the mind of the abused. Should we leave though? Or should they leave? We do so much on our own as it is.
Barefoot and Penniless
When Chuck Schumer and Senate Democrats handed over the only leverage they had, with the promise that they’d try to run a separate sprint against Republicans to help Dreamers, can only shrug our shoulders and let out a sigh. The Senate’s Republican wing has no reason whatsoever to reach a compromise.
Dreamers, DACA recipients, and Latinos of all types now merely hope that they don’t run across ICE raiding their office or workplace. Racism and bigotry given unlimited power and the scope of the federal justice system will run unbounded through the streets, picking up a lot of collateral, making life insecure, and creating trauma for millions of families.
When we’re not around, do Democrats tell you it takes a significant number of immigrants up to 25 years to get citizenship?
What do we say to the people who are in their 30s, who have been here for 25 years, who have a family, a life, a career? We send them to a place they don’t know for no reason other than principle—we who, without hyperbole, sit on stolen land ourselves. It’s nothing if not deeply and sadly ironic.
Only The Best
Often, the worth of a Dreamer or a Latino is measured on a scale that takes into account social and economic merits. When our intelligence or our talent is in question, members of the #resistance will rattle off figures stating how many of us are graduating from college or honored for our achievements.
Our patriotism is touted as a top achievement and quoted by Nancy Pelosi recently when she said “Why are we here, if not to protect the patriotic young people who are determined to contribute and to strengthen America?”
What about average working class Dreamers and DACA recipients? What about the ones cooking your food, managing the café you go to every morning who get your latte started as you walk in the door because you’re always in a rush, or the one who watches your kids. The US Latino GDP is the seventh largest GDP in the world and would be second only to California if Latinos comprised our own state.
We put food on the table. We take care of the kids. We clean up. And yet our worth is still up for arbitrary measure, even when we meet the demands set out by White Americans. We produce growth and value beyond any other demographic and we’re still told we’re not good enough.
If this isn’t an abusive relationship, I don’t know what kind of relationship it’s supposed to be. What do you want from us, Democrats?
Even if they do come through for us on March 4th, should we stick around? We’ve already invested so much and this is our home. We shouldn’t have to show up with abusive Democrats and pretend this is a fair relationship. We should no longer be afraid to have arguments in public. We have a right to be heard. We have a right to be happy. We’ve invested so much.
Let’s see how great you can make America again. We’ll wait. We’re used to waiting.