In February of 2016, José Alvarez, a husband and a father of six in Long Beach, California, was pulled over for a broken headlamp. More than two decades before, Alvarez, who is an undocumented immigrant, had been convicted on a nonviolent drug charge. He served out his sentence and was deported to Mexico. Then he crossed back into the United States again, to reunite with his family. He had had no further arrests in the years since. “All he does is work,” his son Victor told me.
Within hours of being pulled over, Alvarez found himself in Tijuana, Mexico. It’s hard to imagine how this middle-aged dad, three of whose kids had gone to college and one into the Marines, posed a threat to public safety. But under the immigration policies of the Obama administration, he was considered a priority case for deportation. Alvarez’s case points to the inherent contradictions of the former administration’s policy of separating “good immigrants” from “bad immigrants.” Under Trump, those injustices have become even more pronounced.
José Alvarez once provided for his family; now they send him money, and deliver old clothes for him to sell at a swap meet to make ends meet. The Alvarez family has been torn apart by the border fence that cuts through California’s desert and chaparral landscape, dividing the fortunes of humanity. Now Trump wants to make that wall even higher.