Maria Hinojosa on the Latinx vote, bipartisan immigration abuses and the new brief, “Once I Was You”
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AMY GOOD MAN: Maria Hinojosa, you just released the book Once I was you: a memory of love and hate in a torn America. It’s a heartbreaking book. It is a beautiful story not only of your life – and, of course, they are memories – but, through you, the question, among other things, of immigration, starting with your own family history. You grew up on the South Side of Chicago. But you say you almost got separated from your mother when your family emigrated from Mexico in the 1960s. Can you talk about what happened and this whole issue of child separation and how it is? plays in elections, not just for the Latinx population, because you say it’s not just immigration that the Latinx electoral population cares about, but actually across this country?
MARRIED HINOJOSA: Yes. So, Amy, you know, I misunderstood my own story, because that’s what trauma looks like. You know, you think you know a story. I knew something had happened at the airport. What I didn’t know was how much it got out of hand.
So basically my father – may he rest in peace – Dr. Raul Hinojosa, was recruited by the University of Chicago. He was a brilliant man. He helped create the cochlear implant. That’s how we end up in Chicago. He leaves first, and a few months later my mother and the four of us arrive by plane. So we had the privilege. We came by plane, from Mexico City to Dallas, from Dallas to Chicago, by plane. And we had our green cards. I was a baby in my mother’s arms.
And what we thought was – what I thought was some kind of communication, you know, that actually happened when we all lived through the babies and kids that we heard screaming. , the little ones in those cages, we heard those voices in 2018. That’s when my mom called me. My mother, already in her 80s, calls me crying, as they say in Mexican Spanish, a moco suelto. Ella dijo – “Mami, ¿qué pasa? “” No, mijita, are you it was almost me. I’m like “Mom, what are you talking about?” “No, mijita, are you it was almost you. Babies that got caught, they almost did that to you. And I was like, “What?”
So there was – there are these policies, Amy – that’s what I write in Once i was you – which in the state books of Texas allowed immigration officials to search our bodies to see if we were clean enough to enter the United States. Seems familiar? Body cavity searches taking place, potentially at the airport. That’s why I almost got caught. The immigration officer says, “Your daughter has a rash, so we are going to quarantine her. You can go ahead in Chicago. And my mother has a nervous breakdown here and there, she panics, appeals to her privilege, starts yelling at the immigration officer. And that’s why I’m in this country, because she lost it.
And on that phone call, my mom said, “I wasn’t just a big mouth. She said: “I went into a state of trauma. That’s why I started yelling at him. So imagine my surprise, Amy, that I have a relationship – now I understand why I do the work I do and the way I do it, which informs the work. Once i was you. It is, yes, a brief. Thanks for saying it was beautiful, Amy Goodman, who was once my boss. I love you. Thanks for saying that. You know, what I’m trying to say here is that it’s not just my story; it’s a policy, isn’t it? It is a historic policy. The story is, we love immigrants. The policies are not so much.
So how does this apply at this time? Like I said, Chuck is absolutely right. There’s this whole generation, like, say, Arizona, where I was exactly ten years ago. These are the young people who were activists, who are now running and who are urging other young Latinos and Latinas to go to the polls. I am not surprised that the immigration issue is not number one. It’s my job. It’s my job as a journalist, it’s to push this policy forward all the time, because the immigrants who suffer from it can’t actually vote, right? Those who vote are the ones who think about these other questions. It is therefore my responsibility.
And on the issue of immigration, we don’t have a so-called immigration problem in this country. There is no net immigration. What are the refugees? Ten thousand? Fifteen thousand? It is basically zero. What this country has – and we’ll see if Joe Biden and Kamala Harris answer it or not – is an international human rights crisis. We have women whose wombs have been removed and their children have been taken away. And it’s not a one-off thing. It has happened since they took aboriginal children, since they took children of enslaved Africans, since they took children of Japanese Americans during internment. We’ve been – it’s part of our history. And only we, and maybe this politician, if he wins, can change that.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Maria, on the whole issue of tearing up families apart, the latest report that the number of children in detention, not only by the Trump administration but also by the Obama administration, was way above what had officially been recognized to this day. point. Could you tell us about how your reporting – your decision to get into journalism and the path you took to get into journalism to report these untold stories?
MARRIED HINOJOSA: You know, Juan, first of all, thank you, Juan. I screamed at you in every interview. Everyone must read Juan and Joe Torres’ book, News for everyone. Thanks, Juan. I understand why I do what I do. You helped me understand this. I’m one of Frederick Douglass, who is – you know, I’m lucky enough to be five blocks from a statue of him right here in Harlem. This is the man who helped me understand why I do what I do. You helped me understand this.
So the question of immigration, Juan. You know, why this country, on the one hand, says that it appreciates immigrants and, on the other hand, acts with total indifference towards us? And you are absolutely right. One of the toughest – not tough, because I’m a journalist. I am not a member of a party. I don’t really care about party politics. But, you know, having to actually get out the research and just be like, “Whoa, the last president – I mean, yeah, Ronald Reagan, but the last president who actually increased the numbers was George HW Bush, the former chief of the CIA. “He increased the number of immigrants, increased GST, increase in the number of refugees. So Bill Clinton created the wall. He started the wall. He ran on an anti-immigrant platform. So both – a pox on their two houses.
Now, this is where it gets tricky about this moment, regarding this election, because I think, really, for a lot of Latinos and Latinas, this immigration issue, they’re feeling it again. with propia carne because it is their parents who cannot vote. And so, it’s something that motivates them to go to the polls and speak out. I don’t see this generation, being directly affected by these human rights violations and immigration policies, sit and sit on their hands.
And you’re right Juan, I was the one who went to the detention camps in 2011 and I pointed the finger at Barack Obama. And as much as we all love Barack – you know he’s amazing – the truth is, he’s his Achilles heel. It will follow him and Joe Biden forever, until they fully apologize for what they’ve done and say, “And we’re going to do better.” It’s not that hard, Juan, when you look at the level of dehumanization we all live with. Babies and children are currently being held in cages in the United States. They are not fed. They are psychologically tortured. There are tortures happening today, right now, on the backs of women, children, men, adolescents, simply because, like me, we were not born in this country. And it has to stop.
AMY GOOD MAN: Maria Hinojosa, we would like to thank you very much for being with us, award-winning journalist, author of the new dissertation, Once I was you: a memory of love and hate in a torn America. Maria is the founder of Futuro Media, host of latino United States and podcast co-host in the thickness.
And thanks to Chuck Rocha, president of Solidarity Strategies, founder of Nuestro PAC, the biggest Latino-focused super fan PAC in the country, author of Tío Bernie: The Inside Story of How Bernie Sanders Brought Latinos Into The Political Revolution. He was a senior adviser to Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.
He will join us tonight for our three hours special election coverage. We will be broadcasting tonight starting at 9 p.m. EST. And you can go to democratienow.org, or you can see if your local TV or radio station is broadcasting Democracy now! as dozens of stations are across the country.
Ahead we will see how racial justice, reproductive rights, immigrant rights, ranked voting – some of the voting initiatives being voted across the country, in addition to presidents and vice-presidents, senators and members of Congress. Stay with us.