- Lo Que Duele Es Que La Gente Lo Cree:What Hurts Is That People Believe It
From the start of his campaign, Trump targeted Mexican immigrants, framing them as the worst of Mexico: criminals, rapist, and drug dealers. During his campaign, Trump promised to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants and to build a wall along the 2,000-mile US-Mexico border (Yee He Lee 2015). Within the first week of his presidency, Trump signed a series of executive orders designed to begin planning for the wall and to increase deportations, claiming that he was fulfilling his campaign promises (Gamboa 2017). Furthermore, Trump is trying to sanction Sanctuary Cities (Somin 2017), has broadened the category of undocumented immigrants who qualify for "priority" removal (Pierce 2017), and is actively deporting not only those who are framed as criminals, but also those protected by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA): an executive order signed by Obama in June 2012 shielding some undocumented immigrants—who entered the country as minors—from deportation and granting them working permits (Rivas 2017). Despite the severity of the situation, it is important to highlight that Trump [End Page 183] is continuing—and intensifying—previously established anti-immigrant policies. The creation of the physical barrier and militarized zone we call the US-Mexico border began in 1924 when the border patrol was first created under president Calvin Coolidge (Nevins 2002).
Additionally, as others have noted in this forum, President Barack Obama—hailed as the first US president of color—also supported increased militarization of the border. During his presidency the U.S. Department of Homeland Security proudly announced, "The Border Patrol is better staffed today than at any time in its 87-year history, having doubled the number of agents from approximately 10,000 in 2004 to more than 21,000 today" (2014). After deporting over 2.5 million people between 2009 and 2015, Obama became the president who deported more undocumented immigrants than any other president in US history (Marshall 2016).
Allegedly, these actions represented Obama's strategy to achieve bipartisan support for comprehensive immigration reform in favor of millions of undocumented immigrants. While these actions might have come out of good intentions, broader immigration reform was never accomplished. The material consequences of a more deadly border region and massive deportations have had detrimental effects on millions of immigrants' lives. Some argue that Obama helped undocumented immigrants by signing executive orders such as DACA and DAPA: Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (signed in November 2014) to protect certain parents of children citizens of the US from deportation. These orders, which indeed benefit those who qualify, are limited and exclusionary, creating a "deserving" and "undeserving" immigrant, and dividing families. They effectively serve as bandages, at once disguising structural racism and validating massive exclusion. Thus, while in practice Trump's politics are not much different from Obama's actions, what is different is Trump's openly racist rhetoric legitimizing anti-Mexican immigrant sentiment and violent actions at a local scale, including against children in schools and sports, and against families in their own homes.
In order to illustrate this, I present three brief cases based on semi-structured interviews/conversations conducted early this year. This research took place in Eastern Washington State where I have a large Mexican immigrant network. As a Mexican immigrant myself, I am an insider to this community. The purpose of my research is, in part, to understand how Mexican immigrants build and maintain community bonds in the context of anti-immigrant politics.
When I asked an undocumented middle-aged woman what she thought about the new administration she said, "Este señor echa muchas mentiras acerca de nosotros los Mexicanos, pero lo que duele es que la gente lo cree" [This man lies a lot about us Mexicans, but what hurts is that people believe it]. This woman has a ten-year-old boy who plays soccer in a team formed mostly of children of Mexican descent. Her son has played soccer for four years and she explained that soon after Trump's election, she was sad to hear white boys from opposing teams make racist comments such as "What are...