CHICAGO — The massive immigration-reform marches of 2006 started as a response to, among many other things, pending legislation that would have made unlawfully present immigrants into felons.
The marches helped squash the legislation, which was known as the Border Protection, Anti-terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005. But the rallies also had a lasting impact on our country by marking the beginning of a move toward bringing unlawfully present immigrants out of the shadows and into the spotlight to take a well-deserved bow. These are your neighbors, the people who cheaply cut your lawn, help you take care of your elderly, prepare your food from farm to table and clean your homes and offices.
After the 2006 marches, unlawfully present immigrants began to "come out," echoing the phrase that LGBTQ people use when disclosing their sexual identity to others.
Most people will remember a period of time when young, unlawfully present immigrants were making headlines by being publicly "undocumented and unafraid." And then some of their parents started being open about their illegal status.
That really stuck in the craw of people like President Trump and his immigration advisers — official ones like Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon and unofficial ones like Kris Kobach — who have made demonizing immigrants the cornerstone of Trump's election and reelection campaigns.
Trump popularized making America "great again" — an idea that seemed to rest on the belief that immigrants, regardless of whether they are legally or unlawfully present, are what made America not great.
Cue the rash of white Americans getting caught on tape attempting to shame non-whites for speaking languages other than English out in public, or physically harming non-whites seemingly for just being themselves. The shooter who killed 22 people at an El Paso Walmart in early August freely admitted he was targeting Mexicans.
Trump's hard-charging campaign to keep immigrants away from the U.S. and make those strident "undocumented and unafraid" people scared is no secret.
This week, the White House announced new standards for obtaining a green card, and thus U.S. citizenship, increasing the scrutiny of applicants' finances to ensure they are not likely to someday use taxpayer-funded benefits like Medicaid, housing assistance or food stamps.
Starting last fall, when the idea of tightening the standards for which immigrants might eventually become a "public charge" was floated by the administration, the effects have been chilling. There are reports that immigrants are forgoing their U.S.-born children's food assistance and medical benefits for fear that if they used them, it could threaten their ability to eventually obtain a green card.
It's all a part of a master plan to make immigrants, even those who are documented, afraid.
But there are a lot of U.S.-born Latinos who aren't buying into this noise.
Many of us recognize there is a target on our backs. But some of us are happy to say — to Trump and to anyone who feels they need to rid the country of Hispanics — come at us.
Everything that happens to vilify and frighten Latinos in this country only serves to make us more willing to call our legislators, to register voters and canvas neighborhoods to get out the vote.
In other words, their hatred makes us stronger.
Esther Cepeda's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter: @estherjcepeda.