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Migrants’ treatment is deplorable

My mother’s side of the family is Mexican, and my dad’s side of the family is Honduran/Palestinian. My grandmother on my mom’s side came to this country from Mexico about 50 years ago with no money in her pockets, her children and a heart filled with hope, which coincidentally is her name. My father’s family migrated from Palestine to Honduras, and my father migrated from Honduras to Chicago. I grew up in the southwest side neighborhood of Chicago called Gage Park, where there is a large population of Mexican-Americans, many of whom are undocumented. 

When Donald Trump ran for president, he employed racist rhetoric that appealed to xenophobes: “They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” My family did not come here from Mexico to sell drugs, rape people or cause problems. They came here to work hard and put their heads down in order to provide for the family. I also heard a large outcry from the Mexican community, denouncing Trump’s hateful rhetoric. Mexicans felt devalued by our country once again, but we were united in defending our community. We understand that our families came here for similar reasons. However, many Mexicans in the U.S. and Mexico have employed similar rhetoric, stating “Mexico has to put itself first”, calling Central-American asylum-seekers violent. We see the same type of xenophobia that’s employed by America, employed by Mexicans. 

It is important to know, for Latinos and non-Latinos, that these Hondurans and other Central Americans are fleeing because their lives depend on it. They are fleeing domestic violence, gang violence, poverty and U.S. and Mexico sponsored terrorism. People leave because their family members or loved ones have been killed by gangs, and they know they are next if they stay. They know there is no way to provide a decent life to their children. 

I am writing this because after seeing the photographs of children having tear gas unleashed on them by U.S. troops, I can’t stay silent anymore. I can’t sit here and watch the United States treat people from where I’m from like animals and call myself American. I can’t hear my Mexican brothers and sisters demonize Central American migrants. I cannot watch my country unleash tear gas on migrants for seeking asylum. It cannot be that one population of immigrants is willing to deny the rights of another group of immigrants due to hegemony. 

In this country, we must begin to expand our conversations on who makes their way in, realizing that it is not just people from Mexico coming here. We also must stop repeating catchy phrases such as “This is not America,” when indeed, this is America. 

When looking at history and today’s immigration policy, it is impossible to deny that our country does not have a history of letting people into this country who are a certain skin color or who speak a certain language. The U.S. has locked our children in cages, tear gassed them and called people “fake refugees.” Donald Trump has said that the tear gas unleashed on asylum seekers was very safe, when we saw people coughing and choking on the ground, screaming in pain. From the San Ysidro border to Ferguson, the U.S. has never been afraid to deny the livelihood of people who simply wish to live. If you feel ashamed of our country by these events, I encourage you to be an ally: call your legislators, donate to Pueblos Sin Fronteras to help the asylum seekers complete their journeys and stop blaming migrants for violence and corruption that they could not control. 

Annays Yacaman, a Contributing Writer for the Voice, can be reached for comment at

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