Ingrid Matteini (’21) shares what she learned after hearing a story over dinner with a DREAMer.
Last night we had the honor of eating dinner with DREAMer, Eric, and his wife. We listened with gaping mouths as he told us his experience of being a Mexican immigrant living in a border state. Eric’s story has been long and frustrating with many years of harassment and discrimination. The xenophobia of law enforcement and other people in his community has pushed him so close to the edge that he has considered moving back to Mexico many times.
One of the stories that stood out to me the most was when Eric was driving and was pulled over by a racist police officer because of the color of his skin. Eric was driving without his license because it had expired with the expiration of his DACA. The officer proceeded to handcuff him, sit him on the side of the road, and call border control and backup police officers. Eric was interrogated while the officers stood above him. His legality to be in the country was questioned by the officers who strongly believed this in their self-proclaimed superiority. Eric’s car was towed from him and he was left stranded on the side of the road. His family had to pay a large fee to the towing company to get his car back.
Eric is no stranger to the racism of law enforcement. When he was fourteen years old, his two older brothers, his two cousins, and him were pulled over for the same xenophobic reasons. However, this time they were brought to jail. When he tried to explain that he was a minor, the officers refused to believe him. Their reasoning was that he was “too big to be a minor.” He was harassed through the bars of his jail cell as the guards called him “fat,” “dinosaur,” and racial slurs. The officers also threw frozen burritos at him and his brothers, who had been separated from the rest of their family. Eric explained that if they weren’t paying enough attention, the guards would throw the burritos at their heads. At night, speakers would blast coyote noises into the cells so loudly that he couldn’t talk to his brothers. It wasn’t until Eric’s lawyer told law enforcement that he was a minor that they started to treat him better. He also mentioned that the guards relaxed their grip on him and his brothers as soon as the guards heard them speaking English.
With the tension building on the topic of immigration because of the current administration, we had lots of questions regarding how this closed-border view on immigration has affected the mindsets of American citizens. Eric explained that since the
beginning of Trump’s presidency, people have been emboldened to use racial slurs. Law enforcement and border control have spent more time in LatinX neighborhoods patrolling and essentially hunting for migrants to harass and even deport. Most migrants are aware of how poorly they are treated in America, and still make the dangerous journey to this nation, which speaks volumes to how desperate and urgent their situations truly are.