By Chris, a DACA recipient and an activist with Refuse Fascism
I was five years old when we crossed the border with my parents and my sisters. There were five of us. I remember riding piggyback on my dad’s shoulders. He kept telling me we’d be fine, that everything would be OK if we could make it. He we kept praying with my mom, because we were worried about my sisters being raped.
When I heard about DACA being ended, it didn’t really make an impact on my life, I kind of accepted that. But when I saw those children locked up in cages – they don’t say it’s cages but it really does look like jail – that’s when I decided I had to do something about it. That could have been me. I was thinking what it would have meant for me, at five years old, to be separated from my sisters and my family. Especially when you have medical problems. It would have just traumatized me.
When I heard there was going to be a protest, I decided to go. And to see everyone there, it was so amazing. People say Trump has separated the country but I see people getting together to fight this racism. At the protest, a member of Refuse Fascism gave me a flyer. And that’s when I learned about it. I realized what they were saying is true. I have a customer who is a state legislator, and said to me people are so into social media that they have no idea where Trump is taking this country – he said “Chris, he’s a mean man. And if people knew what he’s doing they would do something about it.”
We can’t allow a president to take things to a whole other level when that’s not what America was about. It wasn’t about being the greatest. It was about having open arms to people in struggle. They said it can happen anywhere but not in America. People around the world think America is a great country, but right now, what’s going on, with racism arising, people feel more comfortable to be racist than in other times. And what they’re doing to Muslims. It’s just crazy right now.
I had never experienced racism here. My business card has the words “Hablamos Espanol,” on the back – “We speak Spanish.” Last year, I was driving and this older white guy behind me started honking and yelling at me, honking and honking and yelling, “Get the fuck out of my country, Mexicans! Nobody wants you here!” I couldn’t believe that was happening to me. It’s one thing to see it on YouTube happening to other people. But when you have that racist experience, it really shakes you. That’s not OK. Since when has that been allowed for people to feel comfortable being racist?
So that’s when I decided to join Refuse Fascism. I was talking to a friend, who said, “Do you really think you can make a difference standing outside a building protesting? I’m a U.S. citizen and my vote means more than all your marching and protesting.” And I said, “I’m so glad Dr. King and everyone in the civil rights movement didn’t think the way you think. I wouldn’t be here talking to you. It’d be illegal for me to be here, for me to be talking to you.” I believe that because of the civil rights movement we can each follow our dreams and even if its hard we can be what we want to be.
My parents were janitors. People don’t realize, immigrants do jobs that nobody wants to do. Growing up, I’d help out with janitorial work, and I’d ask, why are we the ones who clean these offices and others work here. And my dad said it’s because we don’t have a social security number. So we are landscapers, do housekeeping, work in hospitals, in restaurants. I told my dad I want to be in tech. And I kept thinking, what’s the point of being in the United States if you can’t work. So DACA gave me a social security card; that was like having a birthday. Now I can have a job anywhere, buy a house. DACA recipients don’t qualify for first home-buyer programs, but they make it possible to buy a house.
When I joined Refuse Fascism and started protesting, my parents told me I need to stop protesting. You should be glad just to be in this country. Be quiet. Don’t draw attention. People get deported for that. People get stopped. You can get arrested.
I said OK, that’s a problem. That’s the reason why a lot of Hispanics are not out there protesting even though it’s affecting us more than any other group, along with Muslims. I think Hispanics are not protesting because they’re scared.
But Dr. King really influenced me. When I was in elementary school and learned about the civil rights movement, I thought I was watching a scary movie — how they attacked people with dogs, and how they would hang black people. I thought, seriously? That’s the country I live in today? Those were tough moments. And I think about the courage it would have taken to live in those days. I said to my parents, “What’s the point of being here if you’re not able to speak your mind?”
The Refuse Fascism slogan: This nightmare must end, the Trump/Pence Regime must go, and in the name of Humanity, We Refuse to Accept a Fascist America – this is why I joined Refuse Fascism. They don’t focus on just one thing. When I talk to my friends, even if you’re not doing it for the Muslims – a lot of people don’t seem to care unless something affects them directly –do it for the kids, for the Muslims, even for the planet! We’ve got to do something about this. The saddest thing is that people think they don’t make a difference protesting. There’s a saying that says if you think you’re too small to make a difference, try to sleep with mosquitoes.
We are going to be talking about these moments five, ten years from now: “Yeah, I was alive when Trump took power.” I don’t want to tell my kids I did nothing when there were children being taken away from their parents. I want to tell them what I did about it. This is why I’m passionate about Refuse Fascism.