By Yenny Delgado-
Yazmin Juárez, a Guatemalan asylum seeker, traveled to the United States to provide a better life for herself and her daughter. After crossing into the country, she was detained by Customs and Border Enforcement.
While in custody her daughter got sick from the inhumane conditions and lack of medical attention. In her testimony in front of a Congressional Panel, she provides first-hand accounts of the culture of cruelty and dehumanization that is occurring at the Southern Border. Additionally, she mentioned how ICE agents told her that “Trump is my President and my country is only for Americans”. Ms. Juarez’s statement should give us pause. What is the meaning behind the idea that this country is only for Americans?
For the last years, I have struggled with this issue. Who are Americans? More specifically, are only individuals of European descent Americans? This is not just an etymological question but reflects upon the stories and ideology upon which this country has been built and continues to operate.
Have you taken time out to consider all the terms and names used to describe the diversity of individuals in this country?
We can find primarily four:
But what group is missing?
Currently, the largest ethnic group in the United States that actually came from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean is the only group commonly referred to as “Americans”. For some reason, individuals that are “white” and whose origins are from Europe are the only ethnic group that is not a “dash” citizen. This group does follow any of the pre-set logic that applies to every other group. If the same logic was used, they would be considered “Euro-Americans”.
In light of this reflection, what the ICE agent was actually telling Ms. Juárez is that the United States is only for Europeans and their white descendants; she and her daughter would never be part of it. Her baby would eventually die slowly of a lung infection and in pain during her detention in the custody of ICE.
Pay attention to the words, we should not fall naively when ICE agent use the term “only for Americans” because it is part of an ideology that has its basis in Manifest Destiny, the Monroe Doctrine (America for Americans) and the White Supremacy.
What the ICE Agent at the border said is similar to President Trump’s tweet from the White House last Sunday attacking four US citizens and Congresswomen, saying “go back to their country.” In the tweet, Trump is suggesting that these women of color do not belong to this country, because they are not of European descent and because they oppose his bigotry and policies. The ideology behind this rhetoric is clear.
We need to begin to redefine the narrative of this nation that is inclusive to all individuals, if we fail in doing this, we will continue to fall victims to bigotry and infighting. What the President and the ICE agent are doing and saying is wrong and we must continue to denounce it. This country needs to recognize its diversity and if one group uses a dash everyone should.
Yenny Delgado is a psychologist, theologian, development specialist, and political analyst.