6 Weeks Left
These days, I am still living in the South Bronx with my housemates: 2 retired nuns who have been working in the Bronx for decades, my roommate who has been born and raised here in the Bronx, and my Portuguese housemate who is here for her master's program. It's kind of like Full House -- albeit a slightly more pious version of it. My gratitude for their generosity can't be fully articulated.
My roommate and I don't have a TV in our room. Last night, I noticed that the debate was streaming from someone else's room upstairs. So, I sat on the steps and listened to it. Good Lord, it was painful to listen to (I feel spared by not having to watch wild gesticulations). And I did appreciate my retired nun housemates offering their support by exclaiming "I can't stand that guy!" out loud and exhaling loud sighs whenever he would make a nonsensical claim (which, of course, was frequent).
When I woke up this morning, I had the realization that there are only 6 weeks left until the presidential election. What has seemingly felt like the longest election season ever is coming to a rapid close.
I remember driving around in Chicago when I was working there earlier this summer, and listening to an NPR commentary where someone said that America was almost paralyzed -- almost anticipating a great unraveling of our democratic experiment as we know it. What a nihilistic sentiment. But we need to prove it wrong.
I'm going to be in NYC until towards the end of October, and then I will be heading to Philly to work at Berks (another "family" detention center). Many of the Central American women and children who are seeking asylum are detained at Dilley and Karnes in South Texas. And a handful are transferred all the way to Berks. I want to be able to check out what is going on there.
Then, I plan on taking at least the week before Election Day to canvass my butt off for Hillary Clinton in Philly. My blogs usually aren't a concentration of talking politics, but this time the subject matter cannot be avoided.
And I'll tell you why.
immigration and this election
Oh, the reasons why it is so important that we as a country ensure that we elect Hillary Clinton: there are so. many. reasons. A great synopsis of this moment is captured by my friend and colleague's article here.
I bring all of this up because as an immigration rights attorney, it is incredibly important to acknowledge that a Trump presidency would be exceptionally dangerous for immigrants in this country. And it threatens the very nature of our nation's principles of life and liberty.
Yesterday, it was announced that the union representing Immigration and Customs Enforcement and staff (ICE) endorsed Trump. And the National Border Patrol union similarly endorsed Trump earlier this spring.
This is deeply troubling as Trump's unabashed statements rooted in racism and xenophobia continues to further stoke the fire of intolerance in this country that has been burning for so long. When individual actors within federal agencies have collectively endorsed Trump, that exceeds a mere political endorsement. It is condoning racial and ethnic discrimination -- it is condoning a dangerous nativism.
We have to try to continue to extinguish it. And that is why I feel that in these final weeks, it's going to be all about trying to bridge the enthusiasm gap and anti-establishment apathy and ensure that voters are getting out there to the polls to vote.
It will all come down to the field game (as it usually does) in the end.
I remember when in 2004, I postponed my last semester of college to work on the John Kerry campaign. It was a totally different time with different candidates, but there were still some similarities, namely the feeling that so many people I knew disagreed with Bush and were comfortable he wasn't going to get re-elected.
As Election Day grew nearer, it felt like sand running through one's hand; it felt like it kind of just -- escaped us. And I remember sitting in a crowded staff office in Manchester, New Hampshire that Election Day hearing about the loss. It was crushing.
I went to an "after party" with a senior campaign official. It was just the two of us in the car. She pulled over to the side of the road and uprooted a Bush/Cheney sign and broke it over her leg. (Woah.)
"I just had to get that out of the way," she remarked. "Uh, yeah, sure..." I nervously replied -- understanding her need to do it and also realizing the weight of another 4 year term.
I bring up this story from 2004 because each day grows to Election Day, there's that familiar nervous feeling -- the one of being somewhat, but not fully confident. And that same feeling of sand running through my fingers.
I remember sitting in a cold San Antonio courtroom looking at a Border Patrol Agent's form for an asylum client I had. She had crossed into the US from Central America, like so many others, seeking refuge from a broken state -- where the police and government were not able to protect her. I remember her lifting up her shirt during the court proceeding revealing a large scar from being shot in the back from a man.
The immigration judge looked at the Border Patrol Agent's comments -- which were often treated as sworn testimony/a matter-of-fact -- when it was never admitted into any formal court of law or sworn in front of a judge as such. The amount of power that individuals in these federal agencies have is enormous -- and often with no checks and balances system. There is a trend in this country where our enforcement officials have so much unbridled power -- that everything that is recorded by them is absolute truth and fact, which translates into absolute power. It's dangerous.
I remember the immigration judge questioning my asylum client's word because of an alleged discrepancy with the Border Patrol Agent statement -- which again, was a rough transcription of their alleged conversation -- in combination with the asylum officer's typed up notes (which again, aren't supposed to be used for impeachment purposes, but often are).
Of course, I started to wonder how truthful and accurate those Border Patrol recorded statements really were. And one thing is at the forefront of my mind: the aforementioned union endorsements for Trump underscore that xenophobia and nativism are often a core sentiment of many of these individual actors who possess so much power. It is highly dangerous.
Philly or bust
I know it's been a long election season. But we need to figure out ways to convert our disbelief and frustration into some type of action over this last month and a half. That familiar feeling of time running through my hands becomes increasingly apparent with every day. And I strongly feel that the immigration legal services work that I am currently doing will be enormously impacted by what happens this November.
If any of you will be in the Philly area around Election Day, please let me know! It'd be great to work together. And if you've thought of other ways to organize, I'd love to hear them. Here's to a powerful last 6 weeks.