The Slatest

The Most Gutting Part of the DNC’s Third Night

Stories from immigrants who risked their lives to come here, and of immigrants whose lives the Trump administration ripped apart.

Jessica, Silvia, and Lucy Sanchez, sitting in a living room and speaking
Jessica, Silvia, and Lucy Sanchez address the Democratic National Convention. DNCC via Getty Images

Emotional, human-centered issue montages dominated the opening 30 minutes of the Democratic National Convention’s third night. A segment on gun control concluded with an address from former Rep. Gabby Giffords, while a climate change segment included scientists who resigned from the administration. But the issue where it was apparent Democrats have come the furthest in four years was immigration—the policy area that might be least hospitable to abstractions after four years of Donald Trump.

The immigration portion of the evening featured two families recounting how their lives had fallen to pieces as a result of the Trump administration’s hard-line immigration policies. The first segment featured a prerecorded speech from 11-year-old Estela Juarez, whose father, Temo, is a Marine and National Guard veteran, and whose mother, Alejandra, came to the U.S. without documents in 1998. In 2018, the Florida family gained national attention after Immigration and Customs Enforcement confiscated Alejandra’s passport and pressured her to self-deport to Mexico. Estela described how her mother was able to live in the country during the Obama administration. “My dad thought you would protect military families, so he voted for you in 2016, Mr. President,” she said, addressing Trump. “He says he won’t vote for you again after what you did to our family. Instead of protecting us, you tore our world apart.” The segment used clips of children in cages from the family separation crisis to illustrate the speech and also juxtaposed it with clips of Trump saying “These aren’t people” and “I don’t want them in our country” and “They’re animals!”

The second segment featured Silvia Sanchez and her daughters, Jessica and Lucy. Silvia spoke about how she crossed the border without documents after doctors in her hometown said that they would not be able to care for Jessica, who has spina bifida, a birth defect that affects the spine. “Took my baby in my arms and traveled for days to the border,” said Silvia, in Spanish. “When we got to the river, I raised her above the water and we crossed.” While Lucy is a citizen and Jessica is a Dreamer, Silvia is still undocumented. The three explained how Trump’s policies have brought back fears the family will be separated and that Jessica will unable to get health care because she does not have the right ID to get insurance through an exchange. “We work hard. We make ends meet. We pay taxes,” said Silvia.

This was not the first time an undocumented immigrant has spoken at the DNC. The first undocumented person to address the convention spoke in 2012: Benita Veliz, who came to the U.S. when she was 8 years old. The 2016 DNC also featured undocumented immigrants, notably 28-year-old keynote speaker Astrid Silva, who arrived here at the age of 4. But as Dreamers, these speakers represented an ostensibly less controversial group than residents who came to the U.S. as adults. On Wednesday, Silvia presented a survival story to millions of viewers: “I did what any mother would do,” she said, “to save her daughter’s life.”

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