My family escaped a brutal “civil war” in Guatemala, one of several across Central America that unjustly targeted Indigenous peoples. Many people refer to this “civil war” as the Second Genocide, for the horrifyingly high number of Indigenous peoples killed.
Celebrando a mi primita's cumpleaños.
With their lives at stake, my family had to move quickly and didn’t even have time to say goodbye to their home, for fear that the military would soon arrive to their village. They left everything they knew behind to stay alive, to be together.
To the comunidad latina, family means everything. And we’d do anything for our family.
The Trump administration’s inhumane immigration policies, from denying asylum claims to Central American migrants to kids in cages to separating families, has unfairly targeted Latinx people. These policies not only psychologically and physically damage individuals, but they aim to dismantle the idea of unity and family. Something that is so central to our Latinx identity.
Mi mami con familia.
The cruel “bait and switch” practice by the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) is one of many illegal tactics tied to destroying families. At ICE offices across the country, non-citizen spouses of U.S. citizens have been detained and deported after they show up for appointments, such as marriage interviews, that are required as part of the process to get a Green Card. Federal District Court Judge George Hazel has ruled this practice, “a trap for unsuspecting applicants.”
Currently, six Maryland families are challenging ICE’s bait and switch tactic, including the Sanchez family. Elmer Sanchez has two children with his spouse, Alyse Sanchez. After the couple’s successful marriage interview at the Baltimore ICE office, Elmer was taken into a separate room, put in handcuffs, and detained without being allowed to say goodbye to his family.
“Many homes are being destroyed because of a government policy,” said Elmer. “Nobody wants to leave their children. That is the trauma that stays with a person—being separated from your family. That is the trauma that will always stay with me.”
These policies have caused great suffering in our community. This pain is putting our children in cages. This agony is ripping our families apart. This torment is ICE agents physically, emotionally, and sexually abusing our people.
Elmer suffered inhumane conditions while in immigration detention, that included “rotten food, lights constantly on, freezing AC, and mistreatment from the guards.” However, even after all of that, Elmer still refused to sign his own deportation order. “The reason I didn’t sign was because I couldn’t abandon my kids or wife,” said Elmer. “All that I have is her and them. Here is where my family is.”
The ACLU of Maryland and Venable LLP were able to prevent Elmer’s deportation, and on June 19 he was reunited with his family. With the Sanchez family and other families facing hateful rhetoric and these discriminatory policies, I see my own family in them. And for a moment, I feel a surge of despair until I remember who we are.
The comunidad latina is a beautiful, racially and ethnically diverse community that doesn’t just make savory food and celebrate festive reunions with intoxicating music and lively dancing. We are so much more. We have strong ancestral ties and relentless strength. Our hugs are warm and our hearts are generous. Family is not just connected by blood. To us, family is each other. So ultimately, what my latinidad means to me is family, and family is synonymous with love.
While the Trump administration, his supporters, and ICE, have shown who they are through hate filled acts and policies, Elmer, mi mami, mi abuelita, and millions of us will continue to fight to be together because that is who we are.