On Nov. 9, 2016, I went out onto the street with a sense of discomfort that until now I have not been able to describe.
Usually, walking to work had not represented any kind of threat to my personal security. But that morning, my state of alert and precaution switched on, just as it did in Guatemala City when I drove to work or returned from a night out with friends.
That night in November 2016 was different, and I still remember how it felt: a mixture of uncertainty, fear and mistrust in an atmosphere of apparent calm and tranquility on a pleasing autumn day. The night before I had gone to bed early, with an upset face and a sorrowful soul. A friend and I had gone to a bar after dinner to watch the presidential election returns as they came in. We arrived a little late, knowing that it would be a long night. We expected a festive atmosphere since a band was on the program, but when we arrived, it was a scene of long faces amid the silence of a wake.
We left before we really took in and understood the magnitude of what we had witnessed: Then-candidate Donald Trump had gathered more than the number of electoral votes needed, which would crown him as the 45th president of this country. In addition, the fact that he was so close to winning the state in which I live, Minnesota, where only one Republican (Richard Nixon) had won since 1932, was even more crushing. How was it possible that a vulgar, corrupt and ignorant charlatan, along the lines of Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales a year before, would prevail despite having lost the popular vote by 3 million votes?
At that point I was already a United States citizen, but would that matter under the new administration where Trump, from the first day of his campaign, had insulted Mexicans and immigrants, and had based his entire campaign on anti-immigrant and xenophobic rhetoric? Because in the long run, the color of my skin and my accent do little to justify not just my presence but also my existence in this country. The massacre in El Paso, Texas, confirms and validates the fear I felt on that morning. We are the target of violence from a hate based on the color of our skin and our place of origin. And that type of violence does not distinguish, nor does it ask for citizenship or papers.
The massacre aimed at Mexicans and immigrants, according to the manifesto and the confession of the criminal (who is not in the least a person with mental illness), is the result of the constant attacks, finger-pointing and policies that terrorize and try to marginalize (and even annihilate, apparently) Latino communities. And not just those in the diaspora, but also indirectly those who were born here or those whose origins go back generations before the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo accomplished the usurpation of almost half of Mexico’s territory, which constitutes a third of what is now the United States.
The white nationalist policies of this administration point dramatically in that direction. It is a matter of measures that, like the old anti-subversive ones (anti-invasion, in Trump slang) that seek to deprive the fish that is the immigrant communities of water, in this case to eliminate the benefits they have acquired and deprive them of the social support necessary for their stabilization, with traumatic effects on families with people of different migratory status.
Some of those measures are the elimination of temporary protected status for Hondurans and Salvadorans (among others) and the suspension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, both still in limbo; the redefinition of public charge, which authorizes more discretion for immigration officials to deny permanent residency or family reunification because they might become a financial burden on the country; the failed attempt to introduce a question into the 2020 census to discourage immigrants from responding to the census; and, cruelest of all, the announcement of roundups of workers without documentation, the latest of them, the one in Mississippi, a complete surprise, which affected many of our compatriots.
The banality of evil is alive and wagging its tail. Will we notice?