Your Words Have Consequences: A Response to the Spectator

Refugees and Immigrants Always Welcome. Photograph taken by Lourie Shaull

It takes a lot to make me mad. Growing up as a Latina immigrant in an overwhelmingly white town, I was always taught to keep my head down, to bite my tongue and take it when my people were called rapists, criminals, drug dealers. I would sit in class and listen to my classmates crone about how Donald Trump is “going to deport all the illegals,” hear them laugh and make jokes about ICE coming to the school and taking the few Latino students there away. On one memorable occasion, they even said it to my face, laughing as if they were expecting me to laugh with them. I would watch as my teacher scrolled down Drudge Report, reading articles about how immigrants were tearing apart America and how they would lead to the doom of this nation without reacting to what her students were saying. Every time I complained to my family, they would remind me without fail: “You’re not a US citizen. Don’t do anything. If things get bad, they’ll blame it all on you.” My place in this country was not secure and my family’s worst fear was that I would endanger it by fighting back against people spewing hatred at me. Hasan Minhaj put it best in his comedy special, Homecoming King: “That’s the price we pay for being here.” In the United States, the cost of admission for immigrants is accepting that your place in society will be questioned at every point along the way. It doesn’t matter how far “removed” you are from Latin America, how many generations it has been since your family has emigrated to America. As long as your last name is Spanish and your skin brown, you’re an “other” and you're a foreigner.

But "Border Security is National Security,” published in the Spectator in February, did what no one back home could ever quite manage – drive me into a blind rage. You see, Will Tanner, you don’t get to say “many illegal immigrants are great people” while spending the rest of your article trying to drive fear into your readers. You don’t get to use the tragedy that is Mollie Tibbets’s murder to further your disgusting, xenophobic rhetoric, not when her own father has come out against the use of her death in an attempt to further one’s position in a political debate. You don’t get to try and claim that immigrants increase crime when most studies find that either crime rates stay stagnant as immigrants move into an area or they drop. You don’t get to cite that “over 6,000 members of violent gangs such as MS-13 have been apprehended,” not when the Washington Post found that claim to be wildly inaccurate. To say all of the numbers and statistics you’re flinging at your readers is, at best, a gross misrepresentation of the reality of the matter. Immigrants are not to blame for all of this nation’s problems.

Hate crimes against Latinos have increased in the past few years. People now feel free to spew their racism and xenophobia on television with impunity. There seem to be videos that come out on a near monthly basis of a white American screaming in the face of a Latino, demanding they speak English in a country with no official language. On a personal level, I have seen the impact this toxic vitriol being spread on a national level has had. I have been a victim of it. I have seen my family and friends suffer from it. There is a reasonable discussion to be had about border security and America’s broken immigration system. People much smarter than me with greater knowledge of the legal system have made wise proposals that keep America’s security at heart while also keeping the tenets engraved at the feet of the Statue of Liberty in mind. This article, however, is far from this. Words have consequences, Will Tanner. Articles like yours have lasting impacts in the real world, including on this campus

#immigration #spectator #washingtonandlee #racism #studentstory #bordersecurityisnationalsecurity #hatecrimes


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