By Enrique Careaga
El Paso is too close to home. As a native San Diegan and longtime human rights activist, I say NEVER AGAIN.
As a border city with a large Latino population, neighbors from south of the border are regular visitors to San Diego. We’re one region, one family.
My own family history goes back many generations in this region. We were not immigrants, and we did not cross the border. Instead, the border crossed us.
The people reading this opinion column come from varied backgrounds, mostly of European heritage, with many ancestors having come through fabled Ellis Island. Those immigrants were escaping hunger, persecution, violence and discrimination — just like today’s migrants — but only 2% were turned away.
A century ago, the United States had no hand in the reasons why people fled Europe. Today’s migrants, however, are forced to flee due to misguided U.S. policies, intervention in their local politics, demand for natural resources and trafficking in illegal drugs.
“Sent them back!” was the chant heard at one of President Trump’s recent political rallies. Supposedly the latest migrants are bringing disease and crime, and unlike all previous migrants, won’t learn English.
Trump was not originator of this anti-immigrant rage. In fact, it was founding father Benjamin Franklin, who feared waves of Trump’s German ancestors. “Stop the invasion, stop the Germanization of this country,” said Franklin.
How do I feel about El Paso massacre? I am reminded of the McDonalds massacre in San Ysidro and the long history of racism towards Mexicans here in my home town.
Operation Gatekeeper, Proposition 187, KKK leader Tom Metzger, Jim Chase and his San Diego Minutemen, former Mayor Rodger Hedgecock and his “light up the border” stunt, and most recently former San Diegan Tucker Carlson boasting that “white supremacy is a hoax.”
I have debated them all over the years. I will not be silent. As the great late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated, “our lives begin to end when we don’t speak out for justice.”
How can so many people remain silent as the Trump administration separates children from parents, puts them in cages, has them tear gassed, and allows them to die in Border Patrol custody?
“It’s the law,” some will say. Well, Nazi Germany was following its laws in murdering Jews. “Get in line,” others will scream. Well, for most migrants there is NO LINE. And though a few do qualify to get in, most are rejected. The United States has a long history of rejecting migrants.
While Mexico was welcoming our Jewish brethren escaping the Holocaust, the United States rejected them. While the United States still practiced the horrors of slavery, Mexico had its first African-Mexican President.
While no other country in the Americas has walls on its borders, the United States has built them — and Trump wants more. As many as 11,000 migrants have died because of the walls, yet there is silence.
Just two weeks ago, as Trump continued with his racist, divisive rhetoric, his ICE agents raided job sites and homes and tore away parents as children were returning home from kindergarten. The raids left empty homes and destroyed lives, yet again there is silence.
How did the El Paso shooting change me? It reminded me that a society is judged by how we treat our children. It reminded me that the United States is far down the list — per capita — when it comes to welcoming migrants. It reminded me that the only way to overcome hate is with love. But love requires action, not just words.
We must speak out against Trump and his lethal rhetoric, against those who attack humanitarian activists. They are not helping to make America great.
You have a decision to make: will you remain silent? Or will you practice love? I choose love. Amor, si se puede.
Enrique Careaga is the pseudonym of a San Diego immigration activist. He did not want to use his real name because of recent threats.