Yesterday, the Trump administration cancelled Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 200,000 Salvadoran nationals who had been working lawfully and productively in the United States. They are the parents of 192,000 American-born children who will now have to decide between following their parents to a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world, or being permanently separated from their parents. This is what compassion looks like in the current Republican Party.
This assault on Salvadoran tepesianos (TPS beneficiaries) is the latest example of the extreme right’s vise-like grip on the levers of power in this country. An extreme right that is not just nationalistic in fervor, but anti-immigrant, anti-inclusive, and most worrisome of all: anti-American.
This is not the America we fell in love with as immigrants. This is not the America that was the shining city on a hill from years past. This is a post-apocalyptic America led by a President with no understanding of what makes this country great despite his hollow MAGA campaign slogan. But how many more examples do we — people of color — need to finally realize what this means for us?
President Trump — far from being a champion for Haitians, far from being a champion for Salvadorans, for Hondurans, for Nicaraguans, and for all communities of color — continues his direct assault on diversity. He continues his quest to divide this great country into two camps, us and them. This, is the biggest injustice.
Dividing us into camps is a dangerous reminder that the best way to establish dominance over groups of people is by stripping them of their role in society to become a pariah. Distinguished poet Roque Dalton called out this power of classification in his short poem Poema de Amor written many years ago for his Salvadoran compatriots. The silver and gold rolls of years past, as evidenced in the opening lines:
The ones who built the Panama Canal (and were put on the “silver roll” not the “gold roll”), the ones who repaired the Pacific fleet in the bases of California, the ones who rotted in prisons in Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua for being thieves, smugglers, swindlers, for being hungry the ever-suspicious ones (‘I bring forth this individual arrested for being a suspicious bystander with the aggravation of being Salvadoran’)… the ones who never know where they are from, the best craftsmen in the world, the ones who mowed down with bullets while crossing the border, the ones who died of malaria, or scorpions or snake bites in banana plantation hell, the ones who will cry drunk for the national anthem under the Pacific cyclone or the northern snow, the hustlers, the beggars, the potheads, Salvadoran sons of bitches, the ones who barely made it back, the ones who had a little more luck, the eternal undocumented, the ‘do-all’, the ‘sell-all’, the ‘eat-all’’, the first to take out the knife, the saddest sad people in the world, my compatriots, my brothers.
As Dalton wrote, the do-all, sell-all, eat-all entrepreneurial spirit of the Salvadoran people must now be focused on one thing: organizing and canvassing for candidates that will have the community’s best interests at heart and in mind.
We must — as painful as it is for many of us — dust ourselves off and get back up. This is only the beginning of the battle. Yes, this hurt. This hurts for many friends, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters. People who have created a productive life in a country that initially opened their arms to them only to say ‘you’re no longer wanted’ on the basis of institutionalized racism.
This is not the America we know. This is not what makes America great. This is not the America that has changed the world in so many positive ways since the Greatest Generation stormed the beaches of Normandy. This is not the America that sent men to the Moon and brought them back safely to Earth.
The beauty of living in a democracy, however, is that in November we can change the course of our nation by shifting the balance of power in Congress, and demanding they pass a permanent solution for these communities who are American in every way but their place of birth. My compatriots, my brothers.