By Sayra Ilyas
The following feature piece appeared in the September 2019 edition of The Campus.
“Go back to where you came from” is a harrowing offense that has been heard by many immigrants who grew up in The United States of America. The xenophobic rhetoric that plagues this country has been exacerbated by its very own President. On Sunday, July 14th, President Donald Trump stirred up yet another Twitterstorm, tweeting about four minority Congresswomen who should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came”. These four women, otherwise known as “The Squad”, are representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Presley of Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. All four women are lawful citizens of the United States, three of whom were born in the U.S. while Representative Omar has been a naturalized citizen for nearly two decades.
The tweets emerged at the time of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids, which targeted 2,000 undocumented immigrants ordered by the courts to be arrested and deported from the country. As a result, families were torn apart and thrown into detention centers along the border where migrants are forced to sleep on the concrete floor. In response to the President, Congresswomen Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “Mr. President, the country I ‘come from,’ & the country we all swear to, is the United States. But given how you’ve destroyed our border with inhumane camps, all at a benefit to you & the corps who profit off them, you are absolutely right about the corruption laid at your feet”. Despite the negative criticism against the government’s mishandling of the situation, The Trump Administration continues to support the rapid deportation of working-class immigrants.
By 2060, it is projected that non-Hispanic whites will lose their majority status to the growing minority population. Could this be the reason behind all the xenophobia and anti-immigration policies? Nonetheless, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi responded to Trump’s tweets, firing back that his famous campaign slogan “Make America Great Again,” “had always been about making America white again.” Where does this rhetoric fit in with The City College of New York, one of the most diverse colleges in the nation, representing over 150 countries in its student body?
Shilpa Shaju is a South Asian undergraduate student at the Collin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership. She is currently on a pre-law track with a double major in Political Science and International Studies. Shilpa said her main reason for wanting to go into law and politics stems from the rapid decline in effective leadership in this country. In an interview she said, “When I started college, I never had the intention of pursuing politics nor law. However, I’ve watched our country take a turn. Suddenly, we were no longer a country which welcomed immigrant families, like mine, but one that closed its doors on them.” When asked about Trump’s comments, she responded with, “I would be lying if I said I have not encountered his words before. Never would I have thought that I would hear these words from a President. But, times have changed. It goes to show that now, more than ever before, diversity needs to increase in politics. Minority women need to show the President that we will not be afraid and we will not go back to our country, because this is our country”.
Eva Friedberg, an undergraduate double majoring in International Studies and Anthropology who is of Syrian ancestry, commented saying, “Trumps comments towards the four women of color in Congress employ a white nationalistic rhetoric that both allows and encourages hateful speech and violent actions in this county. When the most, unfortunately, important figurehead of the United States avows a ‘send her back chant’ I am not only deeply saddened but scared of what the future holds. It is our job as students to use our knowledge and privilege to fight through the ignorance and hate.”
general sentiment felt by the CCNY community demonstrates that all the blatant
racism and xenophobia intended to divide this country further, are rather being
used to fuel the fight against injustice.