The main sponsor of this infamous “Show Us Your Papers” bill, then Senate President Russell Pearce, the self-described head of the Tea Party Republicans in Arizona, had made it clear that no matter how many immigrant families were terrorized and segregated, or how much it was Costing the state’s economy, which relied heavily on the cheap labor of undocumented immigrants, he was determined to deport as many of my immigrant brothers and sisters as possible and as quickly as possible. My wife and I are US citizens, but the insidious nature of the legislation was felt when my 7-year-old daughter tearfully asked me one evening if we were going to be arrested. I held her and assured her that this would not happen, knowing that tens of thousands of immigrant parents across the state couldn’t say the same thing.
A lot has changed in 10 years. The SB 1070 in Arizona and the Trump administration’s persecution of immigrants and refugees have sparked a wave of grassroots resistance here and across the country that has helped vote more progressives for Congress, and the Arizona likely in the November will turn blue. But for now, at least, my people are still being hunted by federal immigration and complicit local police – and now a deadly coronavirus.
At the time of this writing more than 42,000 Latinos died of Covid-19 and died at one and a half times the rate of whites, according to the COVID Tracking Project. More than 39,000 blacks have died from the coronavirus – worse, almost two and a half times as likely as whites. Latinos and blacks are hospitalized with the virus more than four and a half times more than whites, and both communities have been depressed by the economic fallout from the pandemic. When asked at press conferences in early April about the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on people of color, Trump called it “terrible,” insisted that his administration “do everything in our power to meet this challenge,” and left how low it is. Unemployment rates were for blacks and Latinos before the pandemic. For the past five months, the president has been pushing for low-income Latinos to work in agriculture, restaurants, hotels, and meat-packing plants across the country.
In Maricopa County, which also includes Phoenix, around 50 percent of the 141,000+ Covid cases were among Latinos. (We make up 31 percent of the county’s population.) In Phoenix, almost every city block in our Latino neighborhoods could be littered with shrines to the sick and dead.
All of this comes from an increase in biased crimes against Latinos in recent years, even in a national context, according to FBI data. The most hideous example of anti-Latino hatred was in August 2019 when a white supremacist shot and killed 46 people at an El Paso Walmart. The shooter killed 22 people, almost all of them Latinos. (A 23rd victim died in April.) The killer, who confessed, told police he drove 10 hours from his Dallas suburb to the border to “kill Mexicans” and “stop the Hispanic invasion” – words that President Trump had repeated more than 20 times in the eight months before filming. El Paso made me feel like Latinos had moved from hunting to massacre. Little did we know that a Scourge was showing up just around the corner.
Given Trump’s punitive attacks on immigrants, including policies that separated thousands of migrant children from their parents, the suspension of all asylum applications by refugees on the U.S.-Mexico border, and the likelihood of the president being negligent in responding to the pandemic after the death of another 80,000 to 90,000 colored people by January, I wonder whether Trump’s real goal is to ethnically cleanse Latinos and other colored people from this country. After his repeated refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, should he lose the election, I believe Trump is capable of almost anything.
Still, I believe Trump will lose re-election. His main supporters will stay with him, but most Americans are fed up with the chaos, bullying, and harassment of the president. He won’t go quietly, and he certainly won’t shut up if he’s not there, but this presidency will end. And despite everything that has happened, the cage of our children, the denigration of our culture, the terrible death toll caused by the virus, I believe that the Latino community will emerge from these devastating times stronger than ever.
The spirit, resilience, and recent community dynamics in US society are too strong and ingrained. There are now more than 60 million Latinos in the United StatesNearly 80 percent of these are US citizens with an estimated economic impact greater than $ 2.6 trillion, a number equal to the GDP of Brazil or Australia. This year, more than 32 million Latinos will be eligible to vote, an increase of about 4 million since the last election, and grassroots groups have worked feverishly to register hundreds of thousands of them by November. More importantly, Latinos today are better educated, more politically engaged, and more influential than ever. No matter what Trump and many of his supporters think, we are here to stay. In Arizona, our growing clout helped remind Senator Pearce to oust the vile Sheriff Joe Arpaio and elect Senator Kirsten Sinema in 2016. The state’s blue wave, driven in large part by a rising brown tide, will almost certainly help usher in November victories for US Senate Democratic candidate Mark Kelly, former Vice President Joe Biden and a wave of young Democratic Latino people – and non-Latino candidates in the state parliament. I’m not a democrat, but such trends give me hope that we all so desperately need mi genteMy people could soon move from hunting in support of this state and, yes, this country from one of its darkest periods in modern times to better days.
Scenes from a pandemic is a collaboration between The nation and Head child, a living memorial to radical journalist Andrew Kopkind, who was the magazine’s foremost political writer and analyst from 1982 to 1994. This series of programs from Kopkind’s distant network of participants, advisors, guests and friends is edited by nation Contributor and Kopkind program director JoAnn Wypijewski and appears weekly on thenation.com and kopkind.org.