Immigration Ban? One Borderlander Reflects on Ongoing Restrictions
President Trump announced on Twitter last night he’ll suspend immigration through an executive order.
In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2020
What that means and how it will impact immigrants in the future applying to live and work in the U.S. is hard to tell until the order is released and implemented. With the U.S.-Mexico border mostly closed because of the coronavirus, young adults living there are already facing life under intensified restrictions, and have had to deal with living in limbo for a long time.
YR Media’s Antonio Villaseñor-Baca spoke with his friend Grecia Sánchez Blanco, who lives in Juárez, Mexico and used to drive to El Paso, Texas daily for school and work, about adjusting to the new normal of a mostly closed US-Mexico border.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Antonio Villaseñor-Baca: There have been threats previously from this current U.S. administration to shut down the border. Like had you worried about this prior to [the pandemic]? What did those experiences mean to you? Like the fact that you had to pack your bags and just be ready in case the border did get shut down? Like, that’s not a normal thing that students have to worry about.
Grecia Sánchez Blanco: I think it makes you prepared for the unexpected in the best possible way, because you cannot prepare for a random day where you will no longer have a home or when you no longer can study. It has made me embrace uncertainty, in some sense whether I want it or not. And it has made me worry about everything. I try to manage. I have a lot of, you know me, llevo un chingo de garabatos. But that’s because things are always changing when you’re crossing the border. And if my experience of the border has made me more aware of the temporal state of things, that’s fine with me. It has made me more aware of how everything can suddenly change.
AVB: How do the U.S. elections impact you? Why does it matter to you? How does the rhetoric impact you?
GSB: Um, I have had harder times to cross [the border] whenever President Trump gives a speech that resonates a lot with his constituents. It gets harder for me to cross to study. I get asked more questions. I get inspected more often. I get harassed more often too, and harassment in the way of comments that tend to be hurtful.
AVB: What do you say to people who would say that that’s justified? That this isn’t your country? That it’s in the name of national security? What do you say to those people?
GSB: I would invite them to think about their life right now, and how the virus has impacted their life personally. Because chances are, their experience is going to be very similar to the immigrant experience in the sense that, something that is outside of your control happens, and you react the best way that you can for you, for your family, for your loved ones. I would ask them to question themselves about what they would do if their whole life would be like they’re living now.
Antonio Villaseñor-Baca is part of the national reporting project 18-to-29 Now, a collaboration between YR Media and WNYC’s Radio Rookies that explores issues relevant to the lives of young voters during the 2020 Election. His conversation with Grecia Sánchez Blanco and other borderlanders will be published as part of a larger reporting project this summer.