I am here today as a Rhode Islander and an immigrant. But I am not only an immigrant, I am undocumented, I am what some people choose to label as beneath worthy of the same dignity as my neighbors. All due to the fact that, in 1998, I was brought to the United States from Portugal at the age of 10 months. In fact, I grew up mostly oblivious to this, to the fact that I was undocumented, that I didn’t have the papers necessary to live a normal life.
I grew up in fear, I suffered from anxiety, worrying whether or not I would see my parents when I got home from school. I worried about whether I would be allowed to drive, or work. And yet, what is not talked about is the psychological toll of the rhetoric that we hear today. The rhetoric that is present within these very chambers.
The demagoguery. The dehumanization of immigrants. The calls for mass deportation and the splitting apart of our families.
And today, we are here to reject demagoguery. We are here to reject dehumanization. And we are here to reject the calls for mass deportation.
But it goes beyond that. House Bill 5093, introduced by Representatives Corvese, Ucci, Philliips, Coughlin, and Nardolillo is an attempt to divide and conquer and pull the wool over the eyes of voters.
The sponsors of the bill will spread the narrative that immigrants are stealing our jobs, that immigrants are costing us hundreds of millions of dollars. The sponsors will canvass their districts come re-election time, and have the audacity to tell their constituents that they are fighting for them. Something that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The sponsors will claim that their constituents are poor because of immigration. They will blame immigrants for their economic plight. They construct a false narrative to distract the voters from who is truly at fault for the wealth divide.
The sponsors neglect their actions after the financial crash of 2008, which only exacerbated the massive transfer of wealth to those at the top. And today, that divide is clearer than ever in Rhode Island. As of 2015, 1 in 5 children live in poverty. Many more are food insecure. Rhode Islanders struggle to make ends meet, and yet our legislators respond by voting against measures to ensure a living wage, they respond by cutting the top tax rate on the rich, while advocating for the deportations of those who work and actually contribute back to our state.
They ignore that mass poverty is caused by the billions of dollars monopolized by the rich, instead preferring to blame me. An immigrant.
And once and for all, we must reject this false narrative. We must call out it out for what it is. It is dire attempt to distract voters from the inaction of their own Representative. It is a dire attempt to blame the poor and middle class workers, instead of themselves and the ultra-rich.
Once and for all, we must reject this narrative that appeals to nativism and xenophobia, and instead speak to the real causes of economic plight in our state.