Sunday, June 23, 2019

ICE Threat Chilling

Today, I was reminded of how the political has the potential to become personal in a matter of moments. This morning, the cleaning contractor, a gentleman from Peru, came in and remarked that his neighborhood was in turmoil due to rumors of Trump's proposed mass deportation push. Trump indicated that he would postpone the mass raids, but people in my friend's neighborhood are laborers who don't have much time to keep up with the news... and they have no reason to believe that the White House Occupant is telling the truth. Suffice it to say, people were scared, and in this era of cruelty, that was probably the reason for the proposal in the first place. The people who wash dishes in restaurants and mop bathroom floors in office buildings were terrorized: Mission Accomplished!

This afternoon, I returned to work, albeit at a different site. Typically, the first two people I see are both South American women. One is a gift shop clerk about my own age from Buenos Aires. She's a sophisticated lady of European descent, who would look at home in Madrid, or Milan, visiting museums or working in a boutique. She was appalled when I told her about my conversation of the morning, and we had a dolorous conversation about the cruelty and capriciousness on display- she asked my why there weren't mass demonstrations on the streets, and I didn't have a good answer for her. We Americans tend to be more passive than Europeans when it comes to making our displeasure known en masse. Her husband is a US citizen, and her daughters are fine, upstanding young Americans who are just now approaching the age at which they will become politically involved... and involved they will be.

The other South American woman, a cleaning contractor who works for the same company as my Peruvian friend, is a Chilean teenager who has only been in the 'States for three years- she's a perfect example of what José Vasconcelos termed 'la raza cósmica', a walnut-complected girl with a sweet, expressive face. Her mother emigrated to the US specifically so that she could receive an education, and she has plans to study nursing, and then pathology, so she could become a medical examiner. She seemed to be unaware of the planned ICE raids, and I wasn't about to bring the topic up because she already has to deal with her remaining NY State Regents Exams. She's a hardworking girl, and she quickly became an indispensable help to the staff of the site, even going out of her way to help organize supplies for school groups. She is exactly the sort of person you would want to move to your city or town, a National Honor Society member who is working hard and pulling good grades in school.

It bothers me that good people, good friends of mine, feel like they have targets on their backs. These people contribute to our society, their potential should not be scorned. It bothers me even more to have to work out ways in which I could protect them if things take a turn for the worse. A gauntlet has been thrown down, and I have to figure out the best way I have to pick the damn thing up.

POSTSCRIPT: The ACLU has a good primer on what to do if the raids go through.

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