Hailing from an acting family, Demián Bichir became a top star in Mexico and established himself in Hollywood with a milestone performance in A Better Life that led him to be the first Mexican since Anthony Quinn to be Oscar nominated for Best Actor. His work ranges from The Hateful Eight to Alien: Covenant to the TV series The Bridge and Weeds. He has achieved the immigrant’s dream and is appalled by the recent images of the forced separation of children from their illegal immigrant parents because of an edict by the Trump Administration. Bichir previously wrote a guest column for Deadline on Oscars and inclusion, and has a worthy view on why the value of immigrants is being lost in the argument and how forced separation has cruelly turned children into pawns in a political tug of war.
In this life we all have the unique opportunity to choose if we want to be heroes or villains.
The Trump administration has reached its lowest level of humanity in the past few weeks, using children to teach the world a lesson.
These children have been physically and psychologically abused by the U.S. government. The emotional scars will remain in their lives forever as an irreparable trauma. Make no mistake, these actions are comparable to those countries using children as human shields in times of war. Trump’s presidency has appalled the world since his presidential campaign, but now the world agrees that they have crossed the line and this administration has now stepped into the villain category, showing their darkest face.
There are important misconceptions about immigrants that need to be considered. The most valuable one is that immigrants are a burden to the countries who shelter them. Immigration is a universal phenomenon and immigrants make countries better. They represent a new force of work and therefore a new strong push to their economy.
The vast majority of immigrants arrive in a new country to have a better life, not to ruin it. In doing so, they have to overcome different obstacles such as getting integrated into a new culture and many times into a new language. This is extremely difficult to understand for most Americans, since most people will never have the need to leave their hometowns. Immigrants live with the permanent sensation that they are not first-class citizens. That they don’t have the same rights as other human beings. That alone is wrong.
Another misconception is that they take people’s jobs and milk the system. The truth of the matter is that immigrants in the United States pay billions in taxes every year without getting full rights in return. Here’s why: when you don’t have the proper documentation to work, you have to find a way of doing it without it. Therefore, technically you are a ghost, you don’t exist to the government. However, every time you receive a check from your employers, state and federal taxes are deducted. That means you are paying taxes. But since you don’t technically exist in any state or federal records, you can’t receive any benefits in return.
I know that, because that was me many years ago. I am the result of the last amnesty back in 1985 implemented by President Reagan.
I arrived in New York as part of a personal adventure to learn English and get different experiences as an actor. I was already a professional actor back in México. I grew up in the theatre and I wanted to give myself the opportunity to live in New York for a little while to make my actor grow.
Every time a politician wants to raise their popularity they invent a new enemy to make Americans believe they care for them and their future. The magnificent force of undocumented immigrants has always been the perfect target because of their vulnerability. They can’t raise their voices to openly defend themselves because they live in the shadows.
Both México and the U.S. benefit from their work force and neither of them care much about their rights because they both need them where they are. México’s biggest income, just below oil, comes from immigrants living in the U.S.
The biggest lie that Trump sold to a segment of the population of the United States is that immigrants are criminals, rapists and drug traffickers. He put all his money on ignorance, and he won. Millions of Americans still believe that a wall is the solution to their problems. And that a wall will stop immigration and crime.
The only reality is that the work force created by undocumented workers represents an enormous injection into the U.S. economy. This would collapse if, as Trump has suggested, 12 million people were to be deported. A wall won’t stop immigration. Why? Because we need immigrants.
The past administrations have failed to create a comprehensive immigration reform that can bring millions of people out of the shadows to create an even stronger economy, but this administration has blown past the limits of basic human decency by targeting the most valuable and vulnerable part of any society, kids.
These families are refugees, not criminals. None of the children that we have seen caged in the last weeks look like criminals, drug traffickers or rapists. We all know what Trump is made of, but it is absolutely disgraceful that people around him are shamelessly participating in his inhumane agenda.
They have the power to stop it and make it right. They all have the opportunity to become heroes rather than remain villains.
Separating families is something you would find in dictatorships, not in the land of the free and the home of the brave. If this is the home of the brave, then those immigrants belong here because you won’t find braver human beings anywhere. That bravery will be the future blood of a strong America.