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Athens Immigrants Respond to Trump’s ‘Shithole Countries’ Comment


Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

Speaking of shitholes…

Early Thursday afternoon, it seemed as if the Senate was steamrolling into a victory bipartisan effort to end the uncertainty for DACA recipients—immigrants brought to the U.S. as children by undocumented parents who were protected from deportation under the Obama Administration. A team lead by Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Dick Durbin (D-IL) seemed to have settle on an agreement to prevent the deportation of almost 700,000 DREAMers that the bill covers.

However, later that same afternoon, when President Trump was brief on the details of the plan by senators, he was frustrated with the idea of allowing the legal immigration of residents from Africa, Haiti and El Salvador, questioning, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” adding, “We should be taking more people from Norway.”

These comment cannot simply be weighed by themselves, but follow in what seems to be a trend of attacks on ethnic and religious minorities this week. The administration terminated the Temporary Protective status of over 200,000 Salvadorans on Monday; this was followed by Tuesday’s raid of almost 100 7-Eleven stores, resulting in over 20 arrests by ICE agents.

Luis Mata, a third-year University of Georgia student from Marietta, immigrated with his family from Venezuela about 10 years ago. The process was “long and difficult,” he said, even though his father was born in the U.S.

When it comes to Trump’s comments, Mata was hurt. “It makes you feel like you don’t belong,” he said. Mata said he understands that this is a controversial issue for most, but he want others to know that families are being torn apart by recent government actions. “There are a lot of families with mixed statuses,” he said.

Even here in Athens, we have seen government attempt to work against some of these families. Clarke County Sheriff Ira Edwards changed the county’s policy on immigration detainers and began holding inmates for deportation. So far, 13 people have been deported as a result.

The Athens Immigrant Rights Coalition has been working to overturn “Juan Crow” laws here in the state of Georgia and are not giving up after Trump’s comments. The group wrote in a statement to Flagpole: “[We believe] it is when we come together from a diverse set of races and nationalities that we are truly great. We will continue our work to fight the local reach of this harmful rhetoric, starting with our continued campaign against the Sheriff’s misguided decision to collaborate with ICE officers.”

Even with the president’s comments, it seems that senators are still pursuing the compromise, which calls for the temporary legal status for those who qualify under DACA, the elimination of the diversity lottery program—which allows immigrants that do not qualify under the other categories of visa status to gain legal entry into the country—and funding for border protection.

With DACA set to end in early March, this bill would put many at ease. “There are a lot of people who need help,” said Mata. “I think people know what the right thing is, and hopefully it happens.”