People keep asking me how I’m doing, as though I’ve suffered a death in the family or been struck by a terminal illness. I understand why, and I’m grateful for the concern: President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant proposals are materializing one after another — and he’s been in the White House for less than a month.
Lately, families of Latino immigrants in the United States are feeling a lot of fear. It’s understandable. On a recent Univision newscast, we featured a story about undocumented parents who are making emergency plans in case they’re deported. The worst-case scenario is already playing out: In Phoenix this month, a married mother of two children, Guadalupe García de Rayos, was deported after living in this country for more than 20 years without papers. Others will follow.
The cause of the dread within the Hispanic community is the recent flurry of executive orders signed by Trump — namely the absurd directive to build a wall along the southern border with Mexico, along with the temporary ban on refugees, as well as people from seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
These policies have changed deportation priorities. The Los Angeles Times recently reported that as many as 8 million undocumented immigrants could now be at risk of being deported, not just those whom Trump has called “bad hombres” — unless he believes that all 8 million of these people qualify for that term.
Nevertheless, I feel optimistic for several reasons.
After Trump was inaugurated, we saw hundreds of thousands of people gather in Washington, D.C., to protest a man who has called women pigs, and who characterized Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists during his campaign. The absence of dozens of members of Congress from Trump’s inauguration ceremony was symbolic and important. There are times when you simply must say no. And for the first time, I’ve heard parents tell their children, “I don’t want you to be like the president.”
The media has also embraced its duty as a counterbalance to power. Journalists have refuted Trump’s lies — for example, his insistence that millions of undocumented immigrants voted against him, or that the nation’s murder rate is at its worst level in 47 years. Trump now knows that he can’t lie with impunity.
Also, dozens of high-profile companies have supported the state of Washington’s legal move against Trump’s ban on refugees and immigrants. In a recent statement, Howard Schultz, the Starbucks CEO, said, “We will neither stand by, nor stand silent … There are more than 65 million citizens of the world recognized as refugees by the United Nations, and we are developing plans to hire 10,000 of them over five years in the 75 countries around the world where Starbucks does business.”
The opposition to Trump extends beyond the United States, too. Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, maintains his policy of appeasement in dealing with Trump and doesn’t seem to understand that bullies feed on other people’s weaknesses. But thousands of Mexicans are choosing an alternate path and resisting Trump’s policies on social media and in the streets — action that’s more dignified, intelligent and practical.
A first step toward resistance is exactly what happened recently in the U.K. John Bercow, the speaker of the House of Commons, doesn’t want Trump to address Parliament this year. Why? Because of “our opposition to racism and to sexism,” according to Bercow. While a final decision has not yet been made, Bercow has stood his ground.
These examples are reasons for hope. Resistance is how change begins.
Trump isn’t a king or a dictator. Unlike Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, Trump can’t commandeer Congress, the Supreme Court, the Army and the media, nor can he change the Constitution in order to stay in power forever. More than two centuries of American democracy should count for something.
The resistance to Trump is rising, and millions of people in the U.S. and around the world are stating quite clearly that they oppose him and his policies. Trump might be the president, but millions don’t respect him. That’s Trump’s main weakness — and that’s where my optimism begins.
(February 15, 2017)