Commentary: Over the past year I have written dozens of articles, blogs, op-eds, and even poems directed at Donald J. Trump. I am exhausted. I really do not have anything else to say about the man. I am actually quite bored with him.
But I cannot put my pen down when he keeps doing things that are so monumentally stupid, fundamentally unjust, and simply bad for the country. To remain silent because he annoys and bores me is no reason to abandon resisting his agenda with all of my creative energy. I actually believe that to express one's resistance to Trump, in ways that do not make us more like Trump, constitutes the greatest challenge before the American citizenry.
The president's latest move to deport 200,000 Salvadorans really pissed me off. Not only are Salvadorans an instrumental part of the U.S. cultural, political, and economic schema, they are a nation who should be owed a certain degree of special treatment. Due to the United States' catastrophic involvement in El Salvador's economy and the civil wars it spawned, our nation owes Salvadorans opportunities to thrive across the border.
A little background is helpful. In El Salvador, cyclical poverty, overcrowding and other social pressures have led to patterns of intra-Central American immigration. During the 1960s, for example, many Salvadorans crossed over to Honduras, a less densely inhabited neighbor. Animosity over this influx of Salvadorans precipitated a vicious war in 1969, making Salvadorans return to an already poor and depleted homeland. El Salvador's civil war from 1979 to 1992 led to further demise of infrastructure. Constant exposure to violence and poverty made it one of the most dangerous places in the world. Many Salvadorans chose to escape their country as a matter of survival.
At no time during these political and economic conflicts did the United States remain neutral as an omniscient superpower to the north. Weapons were brought in. Soldiers were trained. Tactics of torture were borrowed. Governments were propped up. Currencies were invented. Drugs were harvested, packaged, and distributed. Entire campaigns of mass execution were purchased and organized.
During the 1980s, death squads—secretly connected with pro-American government "security" forces—murdered many suspected leftists, including women, Jesuit priests, and even children. Hunting at night, these bands tortured and slaughtered tens of thousands of people. At the apex of the death squads, 800 human corpses were found each month. Those who were never found are known as the "desaparicinos" (disappeared).
It was Alexis de Tocqueville who once said, "The happy and powerful do not go into exile, and there are no surer guarantees of equality among men than poverty and misfortune."
With that quote in mind, I can say that today, despite the traumatic history outlined, Salvadorans are a people of tremendous strength and virtue. In America, their migrant populations have become a supporting backbone of the U.S. agricultural system. Their work in the fields, farms, and factories keeps America running every single day. Salvadorans are also instrumental to the building and construction industries. In fact, it would come as no surprise if hundreds of Salvadorans have helped build Trump real estate over the past four decades.
According to the New York Times, The United States Chamber of Commerce and immigrant advocacy organizations also had urged the administration to extend protections, noting the Salvadorans' deep connections to America. The Center for Migration Studies has reported that Salvadoran beneficiaries have 192,700 American-born children; 88 percent participate in the labor force, compared with 63 percent for the overall United States population; and nearly one-quarter have a mortgage.
Trump Administration Says That Nearly 200,000 Salvadorans Must Leave
In entertainment, athletics, medicine, finance, culinary arts, teaching, business, and many other fields, Salvadorans are one of the most hard working, loyal, resourceful, warmhearted, generous, and courageous immigrant groups in America. To lose their talent, experience, and vitality would strike a major blow to our cultural identity as a nation. To wage a war of suspicion and fear against a people who have sacrificed so much and given back so much, is not only impractical and unproductive, it is absolutely without ethical merit. What have the vast majority of Salvadorans done to America except help build and defend it?
I admit that I may be biased. In 2005 I had the opportunity to travel to El Salvador for a 14 day seminary delegation. The people I met there will never leave my memory. It was one of the most beautiful, hospitable and dignified places I had ever encountered. When Trump made his announcement, all I could think about were the families I dined with, the hills and valleys I traversed, the moments of perfect grace that I witnessed, and my overwhelming good fortune to know, on some level, the genuine people of this war inflicted but awe inspiring country.
I could not step back and merely accept the president's order as being rooted in reality. Trump's decision is both reckless and racist; it is also deeply troubled and blatantly anti-American. Trump is kicking out hundreds of thousands of people who have helped make him rich before he became president- people who have helped the American economy rise to unprecedented success since the Second World War. This will destroy lives, shatter vital foreign partnerships, disgrace what it means to live in a free and open democracy, and continue to invite the worst elements of division and ignorance to have a microphone inside the White House.
We all deserve better.
George Cassidy Payne, M.A., M.T.S.
State of New York Adjunct Professor of Humanities
Founder, Gandhi Earth Keepers International