America has this thing where it likes to change the slogans of social movements to better represent the white middle-class community. For instance, Black Lives Matter has been altered to All Lives Matter. What more could you do to slap a community right in the face? Well, Trump was able to give a backhand to the Latino community in his 2018 State of the Union by asserting, “Americans are Dreamers too!”
Trump’s relationship with the Hispanic community can be described in no another word but ambiguous. One month he says that Mexico is sending drugs and rapist, but, the next month he says that they are amazing and hard working people. The same ambiguity could be said about Trump’s opinions on Puerto Rico. So, by saying that American are Dreamers too is quite strange.
Without a doubt, the termination of DACA; which affects about 800,000 recipients, and the termination of the Temporary Protected Status; which affects about 200,000 participates, makes the prospect of roughly the one-million Hispanics living America completely ambiguous.
These Hispanics who participate in programs such as DACA and TPS have had to face the decision of what to do after their documentation has expired. After being permitted to live in America for almost over a decade, it’s no easy task to pack your bags, leave the country and restart your life. They are not getting any younger, nor do they have time on their hands to arrange a lucrative fallback plan.
They’re in a precarious predicament of “what now” and face the decision to either stay and hope for the best or be forcefully relocated to a strange land that has little to offer them. Nevertheless, hope still shines throughout the Hispanic community with protests showing America that the community won’t back down without a fight.
As for the thousands of Dreamers, immigrant, and first-generationers out there, they hold their own opinions about the whole ordeal of things. Below are the thoughts of two first-generation Americans and their own opinions on the current status of Hispanics in today’s America.
Evelyn Lopez, a freshman at Stony Brook, is a first-generation Mexican-American who has seen her family build a life here and support her so that she can have the opportunity to pursue higher education. She is secretary of the Stony Brook chapter of Long Island Immigration Student Advocates (LIISA) and is an advocate for minority rights. These are her thoughts:
Do you think there are any misleading connotations about Hispanics in America?
“The biggest one I’ve been hearing lately revolves around speaking Spanish. People think that Spanish is not welcome here, but we are welcome to speak whatever we want. I feel like Hispanics are seen as below. Hispanic have lower jobs and people expect you to be like that. My parents, unfortunately, weren’t able to get a good job here, but they have something. I have the privilege and opportunity to go to school and do something better. The stereotypes people hold against you can really put you down because that’s what they think you’re gonna be.”
Do you feel welcome here? Why or why not?
“It’s half and half. Half of the people are welcoming. But the other half are the racist people and I have seen that a lot since Trump became president. The minute that you defend immigrants, the minute you define that you’re Mexican, suddenly they put a stereotype that you’re not worth anything. Would it be different if I were white? It puts you on the edge. I feel like I live a limbo. I don’t belong in the states and I don’t belong in Mexico. I feel I like I don’t fit into both. Mexicans would say I’m too American but Americans would say I’m too Mexican. So what the hell am I?”
Cristiano Chavez is a first-generation Salvadoran-American who has lived in Long Island for his entire life. He graduated from SUNY Old Westbury with a BA in psychology and is currently enrolled in a master program for social work at Adelphi University. Like Evelyn, he is apart of LISSA and has his own opinions about the current attitudes toward Hispanics.
How do you feel about the current administration and its relationship with the Hispanic community? How do you feel about what’s happening with DACA and TPS?
“It makes me feel livid. I’m always upset on updates about DACA and TPS. TSP is what a lot of Salvadorans rely on. I have loved ones that I spoke to and they were like, ‘I don’t know what do. I have to go back and I can’t go back.’ I view it like this, the recent administrations are ones that opened the gates to the inner racial prejudice and discriminatory ideas that people have had for decades. People didn’t want to talk about it because they knew it was something that shouldn’t be talked about. But with recent changes on how the country views these communities, the president is talking about it so that means others could talk about it too. It triggers headaches because people don’t understand that the government is so powerful. What the president says could change the minds of millions.”
“First generations is more of a privilege. It a privilege because my parents had to go through the most to get here and to be born in a hospital, to have my social security, and to have my birth certificate. It is something that not everyone in the Latino community has. Being first-generation is also a struggle to understand. For you to ask your mom why do we have to do this instead of that. You start to see what you are able to do and not able to do. It’s very confusing for a lot of children while growing up.”
These thoughts are only a few that represent the thoughts of thousands of Dreamers, immigrant, and first-generationers. In such mystery times, the Hispanic community has come together to fight back such repression. They have shown the determination of what can be defined as The American Dream. So, what does it mean to be Hispanic in an America which seems to trifle them?
“So as a Latino, I define it as an understanding of what makes me, me. I embrace being Latino by talking to people. As important as it is to educate others, it’s important to educate yourself. I embrace it just by being myself or learning something I didn’t know about the Salvadoran culture. In my community, I support the local Central American businesses. Instead of going to Applebees, your local pupuseria esta ahi (local Spanish restaurant is there). You got to support them because you help your community. You have to see where your money goes.”
“To be Hispanic is to be proud of your roots. Proud to be brown. Proud of being from an immigrant background. Represent it whenever you can, but not only represent it but defend it. You’re allowed to stand up for immigrants despite the backlash. Also, loving yourself and loving your community. I feel like Hispanics are family-based, so I feel like we should embrace that to continue helping our community, because if it’s not us, then who will?”
To answer my own question I like to put in these words:
Being a first-generation Salvadoran-American has a lot to do with how I see myself. Yes, I do think that Hispanics are portrayed in misleading ways but then again which ethnic group is not? I know that this whole immigration issue is no simple task and if I had no connection to this community of immigrants maybe my ideology would be different, but, it’s not. Nevertheless, I do feel welcomed by parts of the country; some more than others but not by everyone.
I have seen my parents struggle to give me what I need, and at times, what I want. Knowing that my parents have gone far and beyond to make my life easier provides me with this burden of doing life right by getting a stable job and having attainable, but realistic, goals. I am the lucky few for having been born with the proper documentation, for having parents who were TSP recipients but later obtained citizenship, and not having to worry about what’s going to happen in the following months. However, I can’t say the same for my cousins, aunts, uncles, and anybody else who is affected.
I just know one thing for certain, now more than ever is the time to represent my culture. Now more than ever is the time to represents all of our cultures. Not only if you are Hispanic, but if you’re African, Asian, Middle Eastern, or Latino don’t ever stop representing want makes you, you. Because if it’s not you, then, who will it be?