High School of Commerce (MA):
The 2016 election and people of color
In explaining why they were establishing a new country, the Founding Fathers wrote it was because Great Britain was making it impossible for them to exercise their God-given rights, “that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” For people of color in the United States now, the current administration is similarly making it difficult for them to exercise their rights. This is evident in the reversal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, the lack of response to the Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, and the rise of white nationalists.
In 2012, President Barack Obama signed the DACA executive order, to provide work permits and protection from deportation for undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. when they were younger than 16. This group of people are often referred to as Dreamers. As of September 4, 2017, there were 689,800 active DACA recipients, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Around 198,500 of these recipients were age 20 or younger.
High School of Commerce students who are DACA recipients interviewed for this article feel they are valuable members of society and should be allowed to stay in the U.S.
A DACA recipient who is a student at Commerce I’m calling Ethan, to maintain his anonymity, believes that the program has given Dreamers the chance to live life “in a peaceful way.” But now that President Donald Trump has moved to end the program, Ethan fears that he and other Dreamers “are going to be deported.” In 2016, when he was elected president, Trump promised to build a wall to keep out immigrants and deport all immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.
High School of Commerce student Litzy Fermin, who was born in the Dominican Republic, feels “threatened” even though she is an American citizen. She says, “ [Trump is] trying to build an America the way he believed it used to be,” that is a country in which holding actively racist attitudes was acceptable.
Response to Hurricane Maria
The Gulf Coast of the United States, Puerto Rico, and Caribbean island nations have been devastated by hurricanes Irma and Maria. Many in Puerto Rico still have no power, and Fermin worries for the inhabitants of the islands who “won’t have electricity and very minimal food for the next few months.”
Students interviewed for this article who are from these islands say it brings them great pain to know what their families back home are going through. Ethan commented that he doesn’t think that many people care what is happening on the islands now that the hurricanes have died down. He also noted that President Trump “has not shown any kind of signal of help to them the way he did when Hurricane Harvey hit [Texas].”
A rise in white nationalist sentiment
Recently, some cities have taken down Confederate statues, saying they represent a painful reminder of slavery and oppression. These decisions have caused a backlash from white nationalists, who have protested the removal of Confederate icons. At theses rallies, white nationalists have chanted racist slogans.
Fermin fears that “the [white nationalist] rallies have gotten very aggressive and nothing is being done to stop them.”
Students interviewed for this article acknowledge Trump’s leniency when it comes to white nationalist ideologies, and they say that is the scariest part. White nationalist groups target not only black people, but other minorities, including Jewish people and immigrants.
Immigrants and non-whites in the U.S. have become more vulnerable since the Trump administration came into power. But as a nation, we must respect their experiences and protect them. They have a lot to offer.