The last three years in this country have been very difficult for me and many millions who, like me, are immigrants. The speeches, the politics, the rallies, the ICE actions, the harassment, the constant aggressions, either micro or big, are not new. What is new is how belligerent everything is now.

I thought that my own privileges, raised in an upper middle class family, being the majority in my own European country of Spain, and my continued privileges in the USA as an educated person in Northfield, would shelter me from the continued direct attacks at the national and local levels.

Mar Valdecantos


I was mistaken. It has been hard, even for me, a privileged immigrant. I own a nice home and I don´t have to suffer a cockroach infested or sewage stained apartment like other immigrants in Northfield. I speak English well enough to defend myself and can navigate the “system” well enough to help others.

It was so painful to hear some politicians’ depiction of immigrants at the Minnesota State hearings on the driver´s licenses campaign last legislative session. I was with my Mexican friends from Northfield, and we would leave the sessions exhausted, upset, sad, revolted, disgusted, betrayed, belittled, humiliated, enraged. We chose to forgive them.

The last three years are taking a toll on many of us. The constant attack on democratic principles and well-established values, the constant vitriol coming from politicians who feel empowered to be mean, just because they can and not because they should, the constant heartache of family separation at the border and in our neighborhoods. All of it is taking a toll, a huge toll. We are tired.

And, despite everything, I love being an immigrant. Despite the fact that no matter the circumstances, being a foreigner is hard. If, on top of it, the language and culture are vastly different, it is even harder. And if the distance is great, the longing for one’s family and people is very painful, especially with aging parents. The trips to visit them — I can go back to my country, many others cannot — are too short, expensive and far between.

What I love about being an immigrant is what I´ve learned. It has given me a very powerful tool to understand so many people around the globe, from the Syrian refugees to the undocumented immigrants in the US, no matter how different my experience might be. I understand them, I empathize, I see them, and I see myself in them.

All that said, I turn my attention to all my fellow immigrants that don´t have the way to defend themselves that I enjoy. The many I know who cannot speak up because their English is not great or because of their immigration status, and yet many of them fight for their rights, unite. The last three years are not a surprise, but the mean tone and mean policies are a surprise. We knew it was going to be difficult, but not this difficult.

Mar Valdecantos, chair of the Northfield Human Rights Commission, can be reached at

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