A Poem by William Lopez

*TW: Deportation Violence*

August 1, 2017

Many community members rallied at the airport to protest the deportation of a loved and valued mujer from a county in the Midwestern U.S. Her deportation is one of the 400,000 that occur every year, with each one damaging families and communities in numerous ways. Here, the author reflects on what it’s like to witness this pain, from where we can draw inspiration, and how we can move forward in light of the continued attacks on Latino communities.

Only Words

You stand with your children at the international ticket counter in the airport. They are only deporting you. But everyone is leaving.

We huddle around you, breathe in heaving breaths in time with your children as we think of our own. Then someone opens up a trash bag and passes out colorful banners with beautifully stitched words that read “ICE out of Detroit!” and “No Más Separación de Familias!” We hold up these banners around you.

It occurs to me that this is all we have, all we have ever had. We have a strong community, who carries our burdens when the weariness has penetrated our bones.

And we have words.

Our abuelos used these words to tell us our history, to teach us about La Virgen de Guadalupe, to reminisce about their lives in Mexico. Then our parents used these words to tell us they are proud of us, to tell us that even if they have never been to college, they have no doubt we can do it. Then we use these words to tell our own brown children that the world is theirs, knowing full well we will have to use yet other words to explain to them that the world is only theirs if they can tolerate racism, xenophobia & scapegoating. We write these words, speak them, whisper them, yell them, sing them, pray them. We are never silent.

As you prepare to step on that plane, I catch myself worrying that words aren’t enough. That words cannot combat the billion dollar deportation machine bent on the destruction of our communities.

But then as you walk toward your plane, you turn around. You choke back a sob. And you say that perdimos la batalla pero no la guerra. In the middle of your own deportation, you some how find the strength to tell us that la lucha sigue.

So we pause. We catch our breath too. Then we write. We speak out. We pray. We protest. And our words — your words — continue to ring as loudly as ever.

*All photographs credited to the Author.*

About the Author:

William Lopez is a Postdoctoral Scholar at the National Center for Institutional Diversity and School of Social work at the University of Michigan. He is the son of a Mexican immigrant mother and Texan father. He grew up in San Antonio, TX, before acclimating to the Midwest in Indiana, where he received his BA in psychology at the University of Notre Dame. William returned to Texas to receive his MPH at the University of Texas Health Science Center Houston while working at a homeless services center and getting his first taste of qualitative work in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. His mixed-methods work focuses on the effects of immigration policy on local Latino communities, specifically considering the health effects of immigration home raids. William’s work has been featured in Pacific Standard, The Conversation, and Nature.