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Latino Fear from Trump's Bluster

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From Consortium News

California State Sen. Ben Hueso, whose district borders Mexico, says the panic among Latino immigrants -- both documented and undocumented -- in reaction to President Trump's deportation threats requires counter-measures, such as an emergency legal fund for people grabbed by immigration authorities and facing deportation.

The Democratic senator cites a surge of fear that goes beyond people who are undocumented, to anyone who may have brown skin or an accent, even if they are citizens or legal residents. I spoke with Hueso in his capital office in Sacramento.

Dennis Bernstein: I ... would like to start by asking you to come in the personal door. I imagine this is hitting you at home, where you live. This is the community you represent. Could you, sort of, put a human face on the response to what's coming out of Washington?

Ben Hueso: Well, first of all, people are afraid. People don't know what's going to come out of Washington. Most people don't know what their rights are under the law. Some people that are of immigrant descent that were even born in this country feel afraid that they are going to be removed. So, it's creating a lot of uncertainty among people in our community, and it's a growing fear.

And I don't think that's the appropriate way to lead a country, lead a community. I was hoping that this administration could come in and unite people around a common goal to improve our country, to create an opportunity for all, to expand our economy. But that doesn't appear to be what's happening.

DB: Is it your experience... is there an upsurge in the kinds of attacks, hate crimes, disrespect for the community? Are there more reports? Is this something you are monitoring?

BH: That definitely happened. There was a huge spike in my community, right after the election. And, mostly in the schools. There were increases in incidences of bullying. There were racially motivated incidents with kids, graffiti, just all these things that we've never seen before ... that appear to be racially motivated.

DB: Racially motivated. Could you say a little bit more about that? ... You represent a community in San Diego.

BH: I represent San Diego and Imperial counties. And we got lots of reports, and we also saw news about people praising the policies of Trump in graffiti. People attacking other people, telling them to go back to Mexico, or go back to China. We heard lots of bad comments around the Muslim community.

And these kids are afraid. We've heard of teams that can no longer... that have kids from within international communities that are afraid to leave the United States to compete. So, there's lots of stories of people not doing the regular things that they would otherwise do: pursuing their dreams, living their lives. Because they're afraid of what might happen as a result of the announcements made by the presidential administration.

DB: Are you concerned that people will be even more hesitant, for instance, if they need emergency support, if they need protection of one sort or another, that they will be less inclined to seek the help they need? Will this create more of, sort of, a "go into hiding" atmosphere?

BH: Generally, if there's ever an incident, we always encourage people to call public safety, to get public safety involved. But if people fear public safety, they're not going to call them. And justice will not ever be seen in instances of rape and crime, beatings, I mean whatever.

Anybody that's out there who happens to be an immigrant or if an immigrant is involved in an altercation and they're afraid that the law now is... instead of seek justice for them, is gonna deport them from the country, they're just not gonna engage the law.

And that's just bad for all of society. That's bad for all of us to live in an unjust society, to have portions of the people of our community, that are contributing productively to our economy and to our society to live in fear, and to live in a condition of hopelessness.

DB: Let's talk about what you're trying to do in the California legislature. This is sort of setting the example for the rest of the country, in a way. But there's a lot of activity taking place. We've been speaking with different legislators and we know that Senator Hueso, you want to create a program, a state program, for legal representation for people who are facing deportation under all kinds of new or expanded programs coming out under Trump... do you want to talk about that?

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Dennis J Bernstein is the host and executive producer of Flashpoints, a daily news magazine broadcast on Pacifica Radio. He is an award-winning investigative reporter, essayist and poet. His articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Nation, and (more...)

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