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Gustavo Gac-Artigas

President Trump’s New Immigration Plan, an Affront to the Memory of Humanity

Not so long ago, when Pinochet banned me from my country, I traveled the roads of Latin America in search of a place to live, raise my children, dream. More than once, I was overwhelmed with the anguish of not having a roof to sleep under, a place where my wife could rest and my three-month-old daughter could sleep, eat, and have dreams of her own.

These days, thousands travel the roads of Latin America. As I did in the past, they too look for a place to rest; they too look for a place where closing your eyes does not carry danger. And when dusk arrives, they desperately look for a place to dream about a better future.

“It’s not the same,” some of my readers will utter. True, I was returning from exile to settle down in my continent, Latin America, to live in my country — the country I had been expelled from–  where, in the long nights of the dictatorship, violence still reigned in the prisons, schoolyards, and streets.

True, it was not the same, but violence against human beings had remained and is still the same in many parts of the world. But I had returned to Latin America with the credentials that performing in seventeen international theater festivals in Europe bestows. Instead, my other self, the migrant workers who walk today the roads of Central America and Mexico, bear on their backs seventeen furrows. Seventeen furrows that show their determination to make the land bear its fruits. Seventeen scars that denote their pain and their fate.

Things are not the same for an intellectual than for a man who plows the fields. It is not the same to dig a ditch in the arid ground as to participate in a festival of light and shadow. True, it is not the same. In theater festivals, I sought to nourish the soul. My other self seeks to alleviate bodily hunger and to nourish the souls of the small beings that depend on him to survive.

True, the pain of those walking the roads nowadays with their children on their backs and hope as their only luggage far exceeds the pain that I endured. But the search for a roof and food is the same, and the fear and anguish felt when the night approaches are the same.

Today, under a roof of my own on the other side of a border, my heart flies away to join my other self, the migrant workers in their journey. I know that we will be looked upon with distrust, that people will look away because acknowledging misery makes you feel uncomfortable. Maybe some will be moved by a picture of another sad girl who clutching to the skirt of her mother will stare at us and say without words, “I lost my chance to dream.” And for a second people will be touched, and feel pity, a new scar on the back of my other self, he who marches on the roads of the Earth in search of a place to live.

Today, President Trump proposes an inhuman immigration plan. He seeks to sterilize immigration procedures, decide who is contaminated and who is not, who is useful and who is not, who will and who will not survive misery and violence. He aims to put a price on the souls in the market of human beings in the Twenty-first century. In his deranged mind, he seeks to separate what he thinks is good from the bad, which brings to mind the selection made not so long ago, not too far away. Because a child rejected at the border, a young mother rejected at the border, illiterate hands rejected at the border means condemning them to violence and death. In his divisive politics, President Trump wants once again to separate us to feed the insatiable jaws of discrimination.

Written between the frontier of memory and oblivion while an uncontrollable sob connects the migrant workers’ wounded backs to the theatre of the horror of the playwright.

Translated by Priscilla Gac-Artigas, PhD, Fulbright Scholar, Professor of Latin American literature at Monmouth University, NJ, corresponding member of the North American Academy of the Spanish Language (Academia Norteamericana de la Lengua Española).

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