As a first-generation American, I’ve witnessed what some might call the “classic immigrant story” first hand. My parents, both from Trinidad and Tobago, came to America as young adults in search of the coveted “American dream," which to them included a collegiate education and economic mobility. They wanted the opportunity to grant their future children a life far better than what Trinidad might be able to. While life in Trinidad might not be as economically fruitful as a life in America—if you are blessed with a best-case socio-economic scenario—it is still not the worst place to be. Trinidad has significant challenges of crime and poverty, but my parents would joke that at least the warm beaches, carnival season, and wonderful spicy and curried foods could temporarily distract from the everyday hardships. In many other countries, however, people are not as lucky.
Imagine living on $1.90 a day. Less than the cost of a popcorn chicken salad at Eagle’s Nest Dining Hall for lunch. Less than the cost of a FairLife chocolate milk. Not even enough to cover the total cost for one load of laundry at Boston College. Over 60% of the population of Honduras does not need to imagine this: It is their daunting reality. Between a relentless water crisis, extreme poverty, and crime running rampant through the streets, Honduras has earned its title of the most dangerous country in the world to live. Similar issues have plagued Venezuela, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Mexico—all nations that have seen a rise in people fleeing impossible lives in search of a future in the United States, making the deadly trek from Central and South America to do so.
Knowing their desperation, it is truly no surprise why the 3,000-person caravan has grown as it makes its way from Honduras, through Guatemala and Mexico, en route to the U.S.-Mexico border to seek asylum. It’s subsequently no shock that the Trump administration is feverishly trying to stop the caravan’s attempts to seek refuge in the United States right in the thick of the midterm elections. Recently, the administration has even threatened to use military force against the refugees. After all, these are the same leaders that chose to separate young children from their parents, holding them virtually hostage in what has been compared to concentration camps, unable to reunite them with their guardians.
To critics at home and abroad, the Trump administration has often seemed to go out of its way to enforce its “America first” policies that pay little homage to long-standing allies of the United States. Cracking down on immigration policy, forging wedges between longtime American allies, and entirely ignoring any consideration for universal human rights, the Trump Administration has successfully made America xenophobic again. An individual who is xenophobic has an intense dislike or fear of people from other countries. By setting this tone in his administration and policies, Trump is setting up the entire country to adopt this tone as well. It has forced each of us to answer the question: Should we bear any responsibility to protect the rights of those who are not here legally within our borders? In short, in the interest of humanity, we ought to.
It ought to be the duty of a government to protect its citizens first. That said, as global citizens, when another government fails to protect its citizens, don’t we have a moral obligation to protect them—not necessarily for the sake of a binding law, but for the sake of holding each other to a higher moral standard?
President Trump’s administration and campaign team seem to proudly use fear mongering—the act of deliberately arousing public fear or alarm about a particular issue—as a strategy to keep its voting base engaged. Somehow, it works every single time. From his campaign promise to build a multibillion dollar wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to placing a travel ban on countries with high Muslim populations to referring to the news media as the “enemy of the people,” Trump has made enough fundamentally racist promises to give Democrats stress-induced stomach ulcers.
To many President Trump’s rhetoric is severely detrimental to society as a whole, not just within America’s borders but to the global community, as well. This week we saw the Nigerian army advocate for the shooting of dissenters following President Trump’s suggestion to use military force at the U.S.-Mexico border, granting the “okay” to shoot those penetrating our borders without permission.
Listening to his rhetoric at campaign rallies, one cannot help but feel that President Trump wants his constituents to be afraid of minority groups—whether it be Mexicans, Muslims, Blacks, undocumented immigrants, or those in the LGBTQ+ community. However, diversity of thought and opinion, culture, religion, and political beliefs is what made this country great in the first place. It is this cornucopia of cultures, religions, nationalities, foods, and sensibilities that has truly made our nation a beacon to the world. One should not advocate for the “good old days” if that means immigrant quotas and Jim Crow laws that marginalized large swaths of the United States.
Our nation continues to experience growing pains—not unlike what the BC community has experienced, whether it be the 2017 Black Lives Matter rallies or confrontations of microaggressions on campus. Yet we continue to move forward as a student body and undertake every attempt to make this campus feel safe for minority students, including myself. These conversations have largely come through the efforts of our student body and, for better or worse, have not always included the administration. I have seen first-hand the light and love that can come out of darkness and hatred. America has the potential to be so much more than racist rhetoric.
This election and the metamorphosis we are witnessing in this country is a call to action. In spite of what many view to be the toxic rhetoric and actions of the current administration, it is so important that we move away from making America xenophobic again. We have to first allow America to heal from the scars of her already dark past. Writer and philosopher George Santayana might have been prophetic when he said, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” As a nation with such a troubled past, we may still be working on making America as great as it could be. That said, we definitely cannot let history repeat itself.