I am extremely proud to say that I am Mexican. I love my culture. I love the diversity of people, the food, the marvelous celebrations and the language. It is highly disappointing that the person running this country is our biggest critic.
I have never once felt afraid in my hometown in a small region near the border of Texas, also known as the Rio Grande Valley. The wrongful depictions of my people and the border bring me an immense amount of disappointment. If anything, I have encountered more threats in New York City than at home. When I moved to the city, I encountered many new obstacles that affected me both physically and mentally. It was the first time that I got cat-called, the first time I had to worry if my dress was too short and the first time I had to fear being touched inappropriately in public. I do not feel as safe here as I do at home; how am I more terrified of being in New York City than living near the border?
Growing up so close to Mexico, I was intimately connected with my culture. I am extremely privileged to have constantly received glimpses of the beauty that radiates from it every day. I recall memories of singing Selena Quintanilla’s “Como la Flor” at the top of my lungs, or eating more than a dozen of my grandmother’s tamales, never mind the extreme messiness from the masa. The short drive to the Mexican border allowed me to see how exactly I should proudly embody my culture. It was much more than what I could see at home — it represented how I identified myself in this world.
As I was visiting home during winter break, my region received a visit from the president, during which he inspected border security in the city of McAllen, Texas. The RGV has a significant Hispanic population in part due to its close proximity to Mexico. Thus, I ironically applaud him for daring to travel to a region full of Mexicans but also scoff at his negative output from his time spent there. Trump claimed that the border was in deplorable conditions. Yet, it is clear that he did not educate himself prior to those comments. He did not take into account that McAllen, an area by the border and consisting of immigrants, was named as the 20th safest city in the United States — the nation’s capital didn’t even make the list. The border was never as appalling as he claimed. In fact, the majority of illegal immigration in the U.S. is a result of visa overstay and not a border crossing. It’s a disgrace that we are being lied to by a television-star-turned-politician, who hides his narcissistic, egotistical persona behind a desk made for a true leader.
Trump calling for a national emergency is a bogus declaration when the only wrongdoings were being made by government officials who separated multiple innocent families. We are not all rapists. We are not all criminals. We are not all gang members. The actions of a small number of people do not define those of an entire group of individuals. There is no need to label us all as something we are not. Why worry about a group of people who cause you no harm? The truth is being concealed by his xenophobia.
Apart from my frustration with our nation’s leader, let’s remind ourselves of true crises that our country is facing: Flint, Michigan still does not have clean water, we are experiencing the drastic consequences of immense climate change, teachers are still underpaid, homelessness is ever-present on our city streets, the opioid epidemic is growing, student debt is increasing, Puerto Rico is still reeling from disaster and gun violence has permeated our national culture. Instead of the president fabricating the truth with his bias, he should seek to solve these issues as he learns to show solidarity to both immigrants and their communities.
So tell me, is there really a national emergency, or is this the president’s method of feeding his own ego? There is no need for a wall. There is no need for more division. A concrete wall will only be a symbol of hatred and ignorance, not a step towards immigration reform. This fear that Trump has created only developed a contagion of hate. History will only be repeated if we allow hostility to be the new foundation on which our country builds itself.
As a student in New York City, being so far from home makes me feel powerless, despite the fact that I am looking for ways to stay involved and in touch with my culture. I am still learning how to use my voice in such an egocentric world, even though I am knowledgeable of the power we all have to make a change. My identification with my culture has only grown stronger, as Trump has proven his lack of knowledge about the American people. We are a nation of immigrants, not a nation of supremacy. Thus, in order to receive a resolution, we must stand together and begin a revolution.
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A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, print edition. Email Madison San Miguel at [email protected]