Imagine how you’d feel if your family’s future lay in the hands of our racist president, and of those who share and enable his bigotry.
Yes, racist. What else do you call a man who has spent a lifetime saying awful things about black and brown people, and continues to do so? Who says that Mexicans are rapists, that blacks are lazy, that Jews should be counting his money, that a judge of Mexican descent cannot be trusted, that Haitians “all have AIDS”? Who brings white nationalists’ allies into the White House, and encourages them on Twitter and the streets of Charlottesville? Who — as he did on Thursday — dismisses entire nations, which just happen to be home to black and brown citizens, as “shithole countries,” to use his own deplorable and now-printable term?
This is the man who is determining the fates of Reina Guevara, her mother, and her two younger sisters. And what Guevara feels right now is something pretty close to despair.
“Our future is a blur,” she said. “He makes it OK to marginalize and discriminate against us even more.”
Guevara, 27, is from El Salvador. She crossed the border 15 years ago to join her mother, who had fled the civil war-ravaged country when Guevara was a baby, in the hopes of making a life for them here.
In 2001, after a devastating earthquake led the US to offer Temporary Protected Status to 260,000 Salvadorans already here, Guevara’s mother won the right to live and work here. Guevara received legal status under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, the Obama administration policy that allowed some undocumented immigrants who arrived as minors to study and work here as long as they renew their status every two years.
President Trump is ending DACA, and asked Congress to do something for recipients. But he and others are demanding that mercy for Guevara come at the expense of other immigrants — like her mother, for whom the administration announced the end of TPS on Monday.
“They’re throwing our parents under the bus,” Guevara said. “But they constantly play politics with our lives. They will do whatever they want with them.”
Before DACA, Guevara, who grew up in Lynn and Everett, worked cleaning and restaurant jobs that sometimes paid as little as $5 an hour. Since she got her work permit, she has had better jobs, including cleaning work at Harvard Business School, which offers tuition reimbursement. She is now a junior at UMass Boston, studying public policy, and works for a statewide group organizing young immigrants.
Guevara and her mother will both lose their legal status in 2019. And the family, including Guevara’s sisters, 17 and 15, both born here, will have to decide what to do. Separate? Go back together? Remain, despite the threat of deportation? The civil war may be over, but, in the years since her mother left, El Salvador has become one of the world’s most violent countries.
“We’re stuck,” she said. “It’s too dangerous to go back, and here they don’t want us.”
A lot of the folks who say Guevara and her family should be expelled from this country, despite their deep roots and productive lives, will tell you they’ve got nothing against them personally, or against Salvadorans in particular — they just want everybody who wants to live here to follow the rules.
But the withdrawal of TPS, like the end of DACA, and the spike in immigration arrests, isn’t just about respecting rules. Trump and his allies want to change the rules, to slash legal immigration, and favor immigrants from affluent countries, who are more likely to speak English, and more likely to be white.
This has always been about whiteness. The president’s racist outbursts aren’t just gaffes, or real talk. They are a governing philosophy. Racism animates this president, many in his administration, and a distressingly large share of his voters.
It’s time we reckoned with that. Or Reina Guevara and her family won’t be the only ones whose future is a blur.Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeAbraham.