Saturday, August 24, 2019 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Featured image: Cornel West, right, embraces Diego Amite on Saturday during a gathering at Unity Temple in Oak Park. | Shanel Romain
Diego Amite, 19, migrated to the United States from Colombia nearly two years ago to find a better life. Equipped with a temporary visa, Amite secured two jobs to pay for school and living expenses, and to send some money back home to his family in Colombia.
“I can say that I made the right decision to stay in this country,” he said, before adding that his optimism is tinged with fear that he might be deported at any moment.
Amite, who lives in Melrose Park, shared his story on Aug. 24 to roughly 150 people gathered in Oak Park’s historic Unity Temple, the Unitarian Universalist church that worships in the century-old World Heritage Site designed by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
The crowd gathered to commemorate a historic milestone. It was 400 years ago, “about the latter end of August,” according to the early English settler John Rolfe, that a Dutch ship carrying “20 and odd Negroes” arrived in the colony of Jamestown — the first documentation of the arrival of Africans to what would become the state of Virginia.
For many who spoke on Saturday, that moment was part of an arc of injustice that bends toward the Mexican border today.
Diego Amite and Mony Ruiz-Velasco on Saturday at Unity Temple in Oak Park. Rev. Marshall Hatch, of the Leaders Network, looks on. | Shanel Romain
“Immigrants and communities of color are historically made the scapegoats of our problems,” said Mony Ruiz-Velasco, the executive director of PASO West Suburban Action Project, an immigrants’ rights organization based in Melrose Park.
“White Supremacy is at the core of this country’s founding,” she said. “The Constitution was not written for someone like me — a queer, Mexican woman. It was written by and for white men who came to this country to seize the land from those who were here and commit genocide on our first nations.”
Amite said he joined PASO to help fight for other immigrants who live in perpetual fear, some in literal cages at the U.S.-Mexico border, because of President Donald J. Trump’s policies.
Ruiz-Velasco said that those policies were created by the cadre of “smart, calculated racists all around” the president, such as Stephen Miller, Trump’s senior adviser who was known to be hostile to Hispanic and other minority students while in high school and has argued that the Statue of Liberty “should not be seen as a symbol of welcome to immigrants,” according to the New York Times.
Those who attended Saturday’s gathering at Unity Temple sing a song at the end of the event. | Shanel Romain
Ruiz-Velasco said that the Trump administration’s effort to end chain migration will disproportionately impact the most vulnerable immigrants in the country.
Chain migration is a visa program that allows documented immigrants living in the United States to bring their spouses and children. Ruiz-Velasco said that the program allows families to reunite. Trump has called the program “terrible”.
Cornel West, the Harvard philosophy professor and public intellectual, spoke moments before Amite and railed against the government’s treatment of immigrants, including many women and children who are being detained in overcrowded and dangerous facilities at the border.
“The condition of truth is always to allow suffering to speak,” West said during a roughly 6-minute soliloquy, adding that his analysis doesn’t begin and end with Trump.
“There’s a Fascism in all of us,” West said. VFP
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