Voting to protect our families is not a privilege; it's a necessity.

by Kica Matos | February 22, 2018 2:42 pm

There is a line in the opening scene of Goethe’s play Faust that reads, “A man sees in the world what he carries in his heart.”

It is a sentiment that explains much of the vitriol the White House aims toward people who look like me. It explains why Donald Trump has acted like a wrecking ball, crushing the futures of young immigrants and turning their lives upside down by ending DACA without a permanent legislative solution in place. It explains why he meddled in the negotiations between members of Congress, destroying delicate conversations that could have protected the future of millions of immigrants.

Trump sees in the world what he carries in his heart, open animosity toward black and brown people motivated by a deeply seated belief in white supremacy. He has shown it more times than we need to recount here, from calling Mexicans criminals to defending violent white nationalists to calling countries made up of predominantly black people “shitholes.”

And now with the latest failed round of debate over DACA and the DREAM Act behind us, we see that many Senators carry much of the same racist agenda in their hearts.

In exchange for a pathway to citizenship for the 800,000 Dreamers, Senators sided with Trump’s immoral and dangerous immigration provisions. They would have allowed Dreamers to stay, but in exchange we would have had to swallow policies that included severely restricting family reunification, ramping up immigration enforcement and funding a ridiculous wall that would further militarize border communities.

Theirs was not a DACA fix but an effort to advance a brutal and deeply racist agenda. It was an approval of a mass deportation effort that would rip families apart and destroy entire communities. It would have provided Trump with billions of dollars to enforce the racist predilection of his heart. It would have change our country from one of laws, decency and progress into a militarized police state. It would have allowed federal officers to keep people of color in line by asking us to prove we belong here with ID checks – or be locked up.

This is the world that Donald Trump wants to see. And while he didn’t get it for now – the immigration bills the Senate considered failed – more than three dozen Senators voted to support Trump’s plan.

This fight in Washington, D.C.  — for young immigrants to  fulfill their potential and for the right of immigrants to live in dignity  taught us as immigration activists and organizers a set of valuable lessons.

First, we just can’t work with the current Congress or the White House.

House and Senate Majority Leaders Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have proven that they are nothing more than mouthpieces for the White House’s racist agenda. They showed a willingness, not just to negotiate with, but to accommodate policies that would have realized vicious attacks on the human and civil rights of immigrants and people of color.

Even those we call our allies in Congress fell short of our aspirations. It is critical for every member of Congress to recognize the value and contributions of immigrant families and fight for them.

We learned that being reasonable on policy will get you nowhere. So is believing that any agreement will stand. Or that conceding ground will win a deal. There is no such thing as negotiating with white nationalists.

Most importantly, we learned we need new lawmakers. We live in a country where indictments are flying for Russian interference, children are regularly shot with high powered guns at school and the press is under attack. Every day, hundreds of immigrants families are broken up as an out of control enforcement machinery is invading neighborhoods and courthouses to deport immigrants.  All of these challenges require Congressional action, yet no help seems on the way with this Congress.

Our solution is simple: We must  focus on building power. And specifically we must build power with and for people of color. There is no short game right now. And as we do so, we must start by winning back the House.

We must organize on the streets of America’s big cities and small rural communities to win big in November. Every day, we must dedicate ourselves to building a mosaic of individuals and communities dedicated to protecting our democracy and protecting our rights. It is a sure fire way to ensure that the world Trump wants to remake to match the hate in his heart won’t ever come to pass.

Our lives are at stake if we don’t succeed.

Voting in November will shape the type of world we want to see during a time of deep crisis. Right now it is not only a privilege in our democracy — it is a necessity.

I see a world where America lives up to its ideals of freedom and opportunity. I see a world where America values families by keeping them together and honors the contributions immigrants make to our country. I see a world where the immigrant youth I have fought with can lead fulfilling lives. And I carry that deep in my heart.

 

 

 

Kica Matos

Kica Matos

Kica Matos is the Director of Immigrant Rights and Racial Justice at the Center for Community Change.

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