by Arlin Karina Tellez Martinez
This summer, I had the opportunity to intern at a nonprofit in Austin, Texas. My internship focused on the new fusion of the criminal justice system and immigration, that is now widely known as crimmigration, and during this time, I had the opportunity to join community meetings. Following the racist and taunting comments of ICE raids made by Donald Trump, the Austin immigrant community gathered to ask questions of what was happening. Separation of families is not new, it is not isolated to border towns, but Donald Trump’s announcement only created panic and fear in our communities.
When community members were asked about their first thought at the word ICE, fear and anger were two of the most repeated answers. Our immigrant community has known racism our entire lives, but the blatant racism that Donald Trump exhibits creates infuriating frustration within our community. Who will protect us, if the head of this country has labeled us as a plague to this nation? Who can we trust, if he represents every institution?
Police is not an answer to my community. How will you protect us, if you are the one enforcing and practicing anti-immigrant legislation? How can the police protect us, if they separate and incarcerate our parents, spouses, and children in cages? Part of my internship involved observing federal court and under section 1326, illegal reentry is deemed a felony. Throughout the weeks, I sat down and listened to various people apologize in front of judges for entering the United States illegally. Many times, family members would appear to show support and their children would wave goodbye, naïve to the fact that their parent had just been sentenced to time in prison.
A lot of these people had previous deportations for being arrested for driving without a license. Petty violations led to years in cages away from their families. How can Donald Trump and supporters of these policies that separate families, call themselves a God-fearing person? Who deemed them holy enough to create laws and cage people on God’s land? Furthermore, Trump’s grotesque threats towards our immigrant community reinforces white supremacy in this nation. As a result, on August 3rd, 2019 a white supremacist and supporter of Trump’s racist policies entered a Walmart in El Paso hunting down illegal immigrants. His idea of an immigrant is shaped by the xenophobic comments made by Donald Trump. He was targeting Brown people; he was targeting people that look like me.
After the shooting, the conversation of gun control spurred as it does every time that there’s a shooting. What people don’t seem to grasp, is that this isn’t just a case of gun control but about white supremacy. We can not discuss gun control without discussing and addressing the systemic racism in the nation. It’s more complicated than just creating or eliminating laws around gun control. When the Black Panther movement began arming communities, the National Rifle Association (NRA) was advocating for gun restrictions. For the NRA, it had nothing to do with gun rights and had everything to do with perpetuating laws fundamentally rooted in white supremacy. To build a real community, it has to be without cops and we have to protect ourselves.
Black folks, specifically Black men are being murdered by police because of the racist and harmful narratives created around Black men that have labeled them as violent and angry. Police murders are a form of gun violence. Who can we rely on for protection if police – the people designated to provide security – are murdering and caging Black and Brown bodies? Adding more bureaucratic processes to obtain a firearm will only continue criminalizing and endangering our communities of color, because we protect each other without the police.
My time in Texas learning about crimmigration only further showed me the harm being done by this administration to families, and the xenophobia being cultivated and perpetuated. This hatred not only separates families and locks people up; it is deadly and destroys lives. We can’t let this hatred towards brown and black immigrant communities continue. As Catholics, it is our duty to uplift the voices of the most marginalized, speak against hatred, and most importantly advocate for our communities. We must address white supremacy, challenge and destroy it.
Arlin is a student at Trinity Washington University, where she is majoring in International Relations and Political Science. She has lived in the United States for the past 16 years as an undocumented immigrant, she is a devout Catholic, and community organizer.