By Julie Santiago
To an uneducated American, with little to no knowledge of Día de Los Muertos celebrations, President Donald Trump’s proclamation recognizing Nov. 1st as “National Day of Remembrance for Americans Killed by Illegal Aliens” appeared empathetic and a just move. To Mexican Americans, and some Central Americans, this was disrespectful and equivalent to a slap in the face. All Saints’ Day, celebrated on Nov. 1 and continued on Nov. 2nd with Día de Los Muertos, are very important holidays predominately celebrated by Mexicans. On these deeply spiritual days, families will spend the whole day at a loved ones grave, decorating, listening to live music, celebrating, remembering their dead family members and ancestors. It’s a celebration that dates back to Pre Columbian times.
Trump purposely chose this already occupied holiday as a flex of his authority and an opportunity to wage more war against immigration. By overwriting this day with his proclamation released on Halloween, the message, heard just days before the 2020 election, echoed the same racist and xenophobic tones from Trump’s first campaign run in 2016 when he called Mexicans rapists and bad people. This proclamation was a last plea before the election to reassure his supporters that he is the best candidate for law and order.
“On this National Day of Remembrance, we pause to honor the memory of every American life so egregiously taken from us by criminal illegal aliens,” Trump said in his proclamation.
Not only is Trump’s proclamation laced with insensitive ulterior motives, it also contains the phrase “Illegal Aliens” which is an overtly offensive and incorrect term. No person can be illegal. The accepted and correct term used today is Undocumented Immigrants.
As to be expected, outrage poured out on social media as Trump’s proclamation was seen as blatant xenophobia by the Hispanic community.
East Los Angeles College student, Luis A. Beade, said via ELAC Campus News Instagram, he believed Trump was “Pandering to a specific crowd before an election in order to secure the most votes in a short amount of time at the expense of Mexican/Hispanic culture.”
“He needs to change Thanksgiving to the remembrance of Native Americans murdered by the illegal white people,” wrote another Instagram user on a popular Mexican page. In the past Trump has stood firmly by traditional Thanksgiving, even calling the renaming of the holiday a war on Thanksgiving. Honoring Native Americans killed by European immigrants is really not a part of his plan.
Two and a Half Men actor, Jon Cryer, also joined in via Twitter. “Immigrants both documented and undocumented commit crime at a LOWER rate than citizens. Are we gonna have a national day of remembrance for the vastly larger group of Americans killed by Americans” said Cryer.
There are studies that support the claim Cryer made. A study conducted by the libertarian Cato Institute, a public policy research organization, analyzed Texas data taken in 2015 to compare crimes committed by undocumented, legal immigrants and native-born residents in the country. The statistics revealed 815,689 native-born Americans, 37,776 undocumented immigrants and 20,323 legal immigrants were arrested. With these figures in mind, they wrote, “The arrest rate for illegal immigrants was 40 percent below that of native-born Americans.”
The threat of American lives taken by undocumented immigrants suggested in Trump’s proclamation is overblown. A better idea for a holiday would be a day of remembrance for those who died due COVID-19.