"It’s almost like living under this — maybe not fear — but a worry about what’s next and what will happen. This feeling of being unwelcome in the country. I hadn’t really felt that before."
So spoke Shub Jain, a 26-year-old software engineer from India who graduated from the University of California San Diego and works in Silicon Valley for a startup named Gusto, which provides human resources to small businesses.
But Jain’s concern is nothing compared to the outright fear gripping undocumented immigrants with brown skin. Jain has been working on an extended student visa and has lost three times in the lottery for the H-1B visa, a visa for 85,000 high-skilled tech workers, most of them from India and China, who work in the United States.
This is the last year he will be able to apply. If it does not work out, he said: "I will just have to leave the country."
Millions of undocumented immigrants have no visa other than God’s command in the Scriptures that we should welcome the immigrant. Most often, they have been driven here by real hunger, not merely ambition, and by fear for their lives from crime and the violence of regimes historically supported by our own hegemonic policies.
For these, their crucifixion is just beginning. The PBS Newshour carried a report recently about some of these deportees.
One haunting image was of a Mexican who seemed to be in his 50s and had worked in the United States for decades. Now he was homeless in Mexico, sleeping in a cemetery with a thin blanket. His offense had been a misdemeanor, but a new policy makes any undocumented immigrant subject to deportation.
One grieves for people like these, but their fear also extends to citizens. A Mexican-American who is a U.S. citizen recently said he now carries his passport at all times. Immigration agents have been empowered to detain anyone they suspect of being undocumented.
If brown skin constitutes adequate grounds, we are all suspects, even a person like me whose ancestors came to lands now in the U.S. over 300 years ago. The thought that I ought to carry my passport when I travel to other parts of the U.S. has also crossed my mind.
Fear is more widespread. We see it among the 20 million citizens who, after getting access to health insurance for the first time under the Affordable Care Act, will lose it if the act is repealed.
The fear of nuclear war has increased exponentially. The other weekend, when we were celebrating the resurrection of Christ, I received a text message from my sister in Colorado, alarmed that such a conflict might soon break out in the Korean peninsula. North Korea’s leader had threatened to use nuclear weapons if attacked.
The president had announced that an "armada" of warships was on the way to North Korean waters, led by the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. Visiting South Korea, our vice president had declared that all U.S. options were on the table.
I turned on the TV and the image of the flotilla filled the whole screen, the aircraft carrier surrounded by warships capable of launching missiles, ostensibly steaming to Korean waters. I worried then that instead of tax day demonstrations in 150 cities, Americans should be marching to head off a nuclear catastrophe.
The ships turned out to be en route to Australia, but that just spawned another worry. Truth itself has become a casualty. We live at a time of alternate facts, different realities deployed for political convenience. Soon we may not know who and what to believe.
Prayer may be our only option.
Sandoval is a columnist for Catholic News Service.