Vox Populi: A Public Sphere for Politics and Poetry
Last Wednesday, 31-year-old Alonso Guillén, a Lufkin, Texas Dreamer, construction worker and weekend disc jockey known as DJ Ocho, left work with two friends and a small borrowed boat, driving south for two hours to join rescue efforts for stranded survivors of Hurricane Harvey. Alonso and Tomas Carreon, one of his fellow volunteers, were both born in a Mexican border town along the Rio Grande, came to the U.S. as children with their parents, and grew up as undocumented immigrants. Tomas, who worked as a mechanic, had married, had kids, and become a permanent resident.
Alonso didn’t. He graduated from high school, attended Catholic church, registered for selective service and got a work permit; as neither a U.S. resident nor citizen, he was protected from deportation through DACA. His mother, facing visa problems, had been forced to return to Mexico, but his father Jesus had become was legally living in Texas; before the trip to Houston, worried about the dangerous flooding, he urged his son not to go. But Alonso wanted to help. Evidently late Wednesday night, his boat hit a bridge and capsized in the turbulent waters of Cyprus Creek. Searchers found only one of the three young men, clinging to a tree; Tomas and Alonso – both, said a relative, with “a servant’s heart” – went missing.
Tomas was found dead on Friday. On Sunday, Alonso’s family members, who had been frantically searching the river for days, saw his body floating by and pulled him out. Hours later, news emerged that Trump, his “tone-deaf cruelty (set) on auto pilot,” would end the #DACA program that had protected Alonso, thus once again going with “the darkest possible vision of the country he’s supposed to lead.” The decision was swiftly, furiously savaged – as senseless, heartless, inhumane, “an indefensible and unjust act of cruelty” that makes no moral or economic sense, final ugly proof “Donald Trump is saying in every way possible that power in America is white, straight and male, and all else are targets.” Protests erupted, students walked out of schools, and immigration advocates vowed they were here to stay.
Even as a spineless Trump sent out Sessions to smirkingly (WTF?) denounce almost 800,000 hard-working, tax-paying, dream-relishing “illegal aliens,” the grieving family of one, Alonso Guillén, prepared to bury him. A fundraising campaign to help with expenses moved many contributors to give poignant thanks for his final act: “Ordinary people have the ability to become extraordinary in the face of adversity. Thank you Alonso for your strength, courage and just being a decent human being….People like you keep my hope alive.” Alonso’s mother Rita, meanwhile, was “broken.” Seeking to attend her son’s funeral, she was denied entry by U.S. border officials. “I’ve lost a great son,” she said in a tearful interview. “I’m asking God to give me strength. When we are with God, there are no borders. Man made borders on this earth.” On Tuesday, officials reversed themselves and issued her a 30-day “humanitarian” visa. We assume they had to look up the meaning of the word.
First published in Common Dreams.