January 6, 2021, will be remembered as a dark day for American democracy. The United States faced an act of domestic terrorism as insurrectionists violently forced their way into the Capitol in hopes of stopping the ongoing certification of Joe Biden as President-elect. While to many Americans, this scene was unfamiliar, to many others, it was all too familiar.
During the violent attack, many immigrants and refugees currently living in the United States were reminded of political instability and violence within their home countries. The New York Times spoke to Jessika Giron, a mother of two children from Honduras who currently lives in New Jersey. She stated: “We witnessed a rupture of democracy that we thought we could only experience in banana republics like my own.” She also remarked that the attacks on the Capitol had terrifying similarities with the attacks and coup she witnessed in Honduras in 2009. Wisam Asal, a refugee from Iraq who currently lives in Kentucky, shared a similar sentiment. He shared with USA Today: “We usually see these things happen in other countries. I think it was no safer what happened here or in my country.”
These attacks on the Capitol can partly be traced back to harsh rhetoric from politicians who challenged the legitimacy of the 2020 Presidential Election (despite no evidence of widespread voter fraud) and encouraged a “strong” response. The violence at the Capitol highlighted the tangible consequences of harsh rhetoric. It was similar harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric that many attribute to President Trump’s 2016 victory. While many dismiss the President’s words as inconsequential, the attempted insurrection at the Capitol and an increase in violence towards Latinos in the last few years shows that there are, in fact, tangible consequences.
These events also call into question the response from law enforcement officials and the inconsistencies between the use of force for people of color and those who are white. While the predominantly white crowd of violent rioters were met with unprepared and outnumbered police, the usually diverse group of Black Lives Matter protesters were met with the National Guard and officers dressed in riot gear. Just this past summer, merely a few blocks away from the Capitol, a group of peaceful protesters marching in support of the Black Lives Matter protest were gassed, beaten, and shot at with rubber billers by both local and federal forces so that President Trump could walk across the street to take a photo in front of a Church. The different responses to these two events, despite one being violent and one being peaceful, highlights how people of color are treated differently in the United States.
The attempted insurrection at the Capitol will undeniably leave a stain on the fabric of American democracy. Many immigrants and refugees who experienced political instability and violence in their home countries have been left shaken by the all too familiar events. Vesna Jaksic Lowe, who left her home of Yugoslavia at a young age right before civil war broke out, said to USA Today: “As immigrants, we know that fascism and nationalism and racism and the culmination of violence that it often leads to can happen everywhere… It’s sad to see history repeating itself all over again.”