I'm An Undocumented Woman — Here's My Take On The Debate

Photo: Courtesy of Bazta Arpaio.
Norma Jimenez, 24, is an organizer with the Bazta Arpaio campaign, and an undocumented immigrant.
Norma Jimenez is a 24-year-old undocumented organizer with the Bazta Arpaio campaign in Phoenix. The views expressed here are her own.

Last night was the first time I tuned into the national presidential race. Up until now, I’ve been more focused on what is happening locally in Phoenix, because that’s my world and where I think we have real power. I don't think I have been missing out on much, since most of the conversations I hear are about racism, hate, and promises for the future without actions in the now.

But watching the first presidential debate, I felt three things: terror, inspiration, and skepticism.

Republican candidate Donald Trump is a racist. He acts like he’s for African-Americans and other communities of color, but then promotes stop-and-frisk as an effective policy. He announced that he was proud to be endorsed by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents’ union.

Frankly, I don’t understand how he’s an actual candidate. But then again, I’ve lived under Sheriff Joe Arpaio (who introduces Trump when he comes to town) in Arizona’s Maricopa County for the past 23 years, so I know something about white men who cover up their shortcomings by attacking our families.

Ever since I can remember paying attention to politics, Republicans have attacked us, and Democrats have ignored and failed to support and defend us.

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Men like Arpaio paved the way for Trump’s racism. And if you want to see what Trump’s America would look like, look at Maricopa County.

The sheriff has consistently used migrants as scapegoats during his electoral races, and he displayed an unrelenting cruel streak during his time in office. As a formula for being elected and for remaining in power, it has worked so far. He has called himself “America’s toughest sheriff” since 1993, but he’s actually the worst.

Women in his jail get only a few sanitary pads each month. He has forced pregnant women to give birth while in shackles. And he has allowed more than 400 complaints of sexual violence to go uninvestigated, having spent his time surrounding our neighborhoods with volunteer posses and raiding the places we work instead.
Photo: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is joined by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio at a campaign event on January 26, 2016.
Watching Trump steal from our sheriff’s playbook of stereotyping immigrants and harsh rhetoric on law and order on the national stage was nothing short of scary.

On the other hand, as a woman, I was also surprised by the feelings his opponent stirred in me. I was inspired to see Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton breaking glass ceilings. I recognize moments that advance women's power and influence, and to see her on stage, no matter what I think of her as an individual, meant something to me.

Still, I can’t help but feel an overwhelming skepticism that I think is shared by many in our generation. As an undocumented woman of color, I don’t connect with Clinton’s politics, simply because they do not represent the issues that affect my family and community. As a woman, she says she has my back, but what about the rest of the people I care about? She landed a blow in the debate when she stood up for Alicia Machado, now a famous Latina actress who Trump called "Miss Piggy" in 1996 when she won the Miss Universe pageant.

It is having each other’s back that will allow us to stop bigotry. In many ways, this election isn’t about the people on stage; it’s about us and what we can do.

But what Clinton didn’t counter with was a plan to stop deportations and the separation of families. After 90 minutes of watching two older, wealthy white people debate our fate, I was struck by the difference between who was on stage and who watched the event with me: dozens of young, brown volunteers, documented and undocumented, who have been knocking on doors to kick out our sheriff this year, raise the minimum wage, and do their part to improve our state.

Ever since I can remember paying attention to politics, Republicans have attacked us, and Democrats have ignored and failed to support and defend us. We have been promised immigration reform, relief from deportation, and more. But these words have rarely become concrete action.

Trump cannot be allowed to win, that is clear. But if Clinton really wants to motivate people to get out and vote, she has to do more to demonstrate real commitment to our issues, not just point out that Trump is an unqualified jerk.

And if we want change, voting is a pivotal step — but it isn’t the only one.

Our culture is stronger than their hate! #baztaarpaio #dumptrumpaio #trumpaz

A photo posted by Bazta Arpaio (@baztaarpaio) on

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Last night, when I went home, I was only sure of one thing — that the faith I have in political change is rooted in my community. It is having each other’s back that will allow us to stop bigotry. In many ways, this election isn’t about the people on stage; it’s about us and what we can do.

That’s why I joined the Bazta Arpaio campaign against Sheriff Arpaio — to register my friends, family, and community to vote, and to organize them to rally against hate this fall.

Although I am skeptical about the choices we have nationally, I know that what we’re doing is bigger than any candidate. I am sure that if we put an end to the reign of the lawman here in Maricopa County who paved the way for Trump’s rise, we will set an example for the rest of the nation, too.

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