Traumatizing Latino Communities

Monday, August 12th, 2019 @ 8:50AM

Social workers know about trauma. Much of our work is informed by our understanding of the long-term deleterious effects of trauma on individuals, families, and communities. This is especially true of trauma experienced by children and youth. Either the Trump Administration is oblivious of the terror they are perpetrating on Latino communities or they have become psychopathic in their desire to put the brakes on the browning of the United States by making the lives of Latinos so unbearable that they will not want to come here.

The deliberate and concerted efforts to break the will of Latinos fleeing bleak futures in their native countries reached new lows last week. The carnage at the El Paso, Texas Walmart combined with raids and threatened deportations in Mississippi was enough to unnerve the spirit of even the most resolute among Latino immigrants—legal and illegal. The shooter in Texas did not check for green cards or citizenship papers in his demonic assault on shoppers. That his manifesto echoed some of the same verbiage as President Trump’s vitriol is particularly chilling. One reporter covering the massacre said she has become reluctant to speak Spanish in public. She cannot change the color of her skin.

While representatives of the Trump regime went out of their way to stress that the raids in Mississippi were directed at people who have illegally entered the United States, one may rightly assume that many legal immigrants have been caught up in the madness. Families that were ripped apart included legal and undocumented members. Many if not most of the children separated from their parents are American citizens born in this country. The incessant warnings that these raids are coming is enough to cause serious trauma among the Latino community regardless if they were directly affected. Heartless policymakers—one can see the handprint of Steven Miller all over this campaign of fear—quickly blame the victims for bringing the trauma upon themselves.

One can only feel compassion for our Latino brothers and sisters. Are there criminals among undocumented immigrants? For certain, but their numbers are miniscule compared to the overwhelming number of emigrants seeking asylum who are being treated like criminals. They are caught between a rock and a hard place—danger and often death awaits them in their home country. They are not able to feed or care for their children. The only thing they know to do is run south. The vast majority remain here because their labor is needed as the chicken plant raids revealed.

The economic reality is we will need millions of immigrants in the coming decades as the native population continues to stagnate. They won’t be coming from Norway and other parts European as many countries birth rates are failing to meet the replenishment level. A recent report by the Peterson Institute for International Economics forecasts a larger role for Latinos in the U.S. economy over the next several decades as educational attainment increases, and they exhibit higher levels of opportunity-driven entrepreneurship than the rest of the U.S. population. The land mass of the United States at 3.79 million square miles is slightly greater than China (3.7 million square miles) which is home to 1.3 billion people compared to the 327 million who live here. We have room to grow. Some white Americans are concerned about who will be in charge. People with the right values should be in charge, not the right skin color.

Our country and our world have become more frightful because a handful of corrupt leaders are sowing seeds of hatred and fear to divide and conquer. We must be careful to not let our anger at them and their evil deeds cloud our judgement. As disappointing as it is that so many Americans have decided to stand with Donald Trump, we must be careful not to see them as irredeemable. Some may be, but I still believe many would choose a different vision of America if offered. Social workers need to add our values and voices to the conversation about the future of this nation. Yes, be angry, and think critically.

During the next several weeks, I will be working with Social Workers United for Immigration and Social Workers Unraveling Racism to organize a congressional briefing about these issues. Please take a minute to sign their petition. Let me know if you are interested in working on this.

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