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What being Mexican has become By Camila Villarreal

When I was in elementary school, every third grader was asked to dress up according to their ethnicities and sing a few songs as a choir. I wore a traditional Mexican dress with red, white and green ribbons. My classmates circled around me that entire night, screaming, “Give us a twirl!” until I could twirl no more.

That day, I felt so proud to be unabashedly Mexican, because Mexico is beautiful and the people are so candid and good-natured. I felt empowered to be part of a culture that makes people smile.

When 2015 and ‘16 rolled around, I heard Donald Trump’s thoughts on Mexico for the first time.

“They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best.”

Since, I have heard rumors about Mexican adolescents being told to “go back to your country,” I have seen videos of Hispanic families being told to “speak English, you’re in America,” and I have felt the stinging pain of people telling me I must be illegal because of the way I look. I feel blinded by too many families being torn apart, too many neglected people in Mexico waiting for a Visa approval that may never arrive and too many little children choking on their own tears, begging for anyone to bring their parents back.

As an American-born citizen, I understand the importance of keeping our borders safe and protected. Trump’s strategy to increase support for stronger national security, however, relies on explicit and subtle hostility towards Mexico, which is where I begin to protest.

Several studies have found that a higher illegal immigration population does not increase violent crimes rates. In Texas, crime along the Texan border is much lower than the rest of the country. There are approximately 4.7 million Mexican immigrants living in Texas, and the Texas Department of Public Safety calculated that out of all crimes committed by criminal aliens, only 4.4% were undocumented aliens.

“Immigration has been made out to be a bad thing and Trump’s wall serves as a symbol of that,” Coppell High School sophomore Andrea Guerrero said. “It’s terrible that when people think of Mexicans, they’re reminded of [the word] undocumented.”

This is not meant to say crime of any sort is excusable. It is a tragedy that the victims of crimes by illegal aliens could have been prevented because they were not meant to be there in the first place, but Trump is weaponizing a hyperbole causing people to be outwardly prejudiced.

“My parents run a warehouse where most of the clients they recieve are Hispanic or Mexican,” CHS senior Fran Jaubert said. “Almost all of them up and left their communities because of the sudden hostility they were getting for being who they are even though they were legal residents or citizens.

Not all illegal immigrants are Mexicans, and not all Mexicans are illegal immigrants. Mexico may not send saints over every time, but a few bad apples do not speak for the 12 million Mexican immigrants in the United States.

The reality is, Mexico is recovering from many years of corrupt politicians and shady government operations that have led to severely low standards of living. About half of all Mexicans live below the poverty line. A lot of my family lives in very poor areas of northern Mexico where the walls of the homes are cracked, the gates are rusted and the roofs leak during storms. Mexico is strongly divided between the poor and the rich, who, like many Americans, fail to have perspective.

Despite all this, Mexico is still beautiful to me. The beaches invite you, the mountains reach for the sky and the morning air smells like gorditas and hard, honest work. Mexicans do not wait for Lady Luck to kiss them on the forehead. They roll up their sleeves and do what needs to be done to provide for their families. They give although they may not have.

My Mexican brothers and sisters are not animals. They come to America hoping for an opportunity to have something better than what they got across the border. They do not ask for much, just for a little humanity. For the last four years or so, I’ve hardly seen any. Instead, I see cold cages where our Mexican spirit has been imprisoned.

“I had personally never been attacked until Trump became president,” Jaubert said. “I was walking home from school and this man yelled [a racial slur]. Even at school, I get these little comments once in a while about my ethnicity. That’s just what life in America has turned into for some of us.”

It seems, as of late, to achieve the American dream, you should have already been born with it.

My mother, the strongest person alive, tells me to keep my head down. “Don’t put us at risk, Camila. You never know who might want to hurt us.” When my father became an American citizen a few months ago, my family exhaled a sigh of relief. But even so, we cannot rest easy. President Trump could say or do anything and my parents could be taken away.

I hate that, if I should ever get to wear a dress like the one from elementary school again, I have to be afraid the beautiful red, white and green of my country will be met with hate.

Viva Mexico and all Mexicans who live in fear of this American country whose kindness has apparently run dry.

Follow Camila Villarreal (@fliipthewriter) and @CHSCampusNews on Twitter.