Opinion

The Divide: Danke and DACA

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The Divide: Danke and DACA

DANKE. I want to first thank the readers of The Alt for voting for me as “Best Advocate” in the recent Readers’ Poll. I was surprised and honored to receive this recognition. I want to share it with the many others out there who advocate for those facing racism, ICE attacks, lack of affordable housing, environmental INjustices, attacks on their civil and human rights, lack of funding for their children’s schools, climate change, etc. In other words, RESIST! Also, I wish to thank The Alt’s David King for the nice write-up—you made my mother’s day, especially after she received her school tax bill.

DACA. The rhetoric surrounding Trump’s decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), coming from all sides of the political spectrum, continues to show the racial divide in our country. Those arguing in favor of rescinding DACA used terms or phrases like “illegal,” ”Americans [are] victimized by this unfair system,” and, of course, “those in the country illegally are lawbreakers.” The facts on DACA children refute these subliminal attempts to paint them as gang members and criminals. Approximately 900 DACA recipients are either already serving in our military or have signed contracts to serve in the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MANVI) program. And, according to USA Today, 97 percent of the 800,000 DACA youth are employed or in school; 91 percent have a job; 45 percent are either in high school or college; and only a miniscule few—0.05 percent—have violated DACA. Show me another population of 800,000 people where only .05 percent have been found in violation of our laws, and I will eat my hat.

In his announcement that he was going to give Congress six months to fix DACA, one of Trump’s arguments for passing the buck to Congress was that President Obama instituted DACA in an Executive Order. Trump stated that Obama was bypassing Congress. Yes, that’s true, but let’s look at Trump’s record. In just eight months in office, and because he has failed numerous times to get Congress to pass any of his platform proposals, Trump has issued 45 executive orders. Thus, Trump has “bypassed” Congress 45 times. This is more than any other president has done in so short a time. The odor of hypocrisy here is choking me.

Trump used the word “criminals” numerous times in his DACA rescinding announcement. He called on the Department of Homeland Security to make DACA recipients who are “criminals” or “are gang members” enforcement priorities. Trump either didn’t know or didn’t care that all DACA recipients had to undergo background checks. Or, most likely, he just wanted to keep the racist underpinnings going in this directive by referring to gang members and criminal activity. For, what better way to get the support of white America than to play on the latent fear many have of black and brown men.

DACA came about because the Senate filibustered the DREAM Act, and Obama felt that the only way to protect the children brought to this country by their undocumented parents was to establish DACA through an executive order. DACA is all about the children who grew up in this country and know no other home. Many of these children, now young adults, were infants and toddlers when they were brought across the border. Many came with parents who were fleeing political and/or religious persecution, or living in abject poverty so bad that starvation was the reality, not just a possibility. Yet, many elected officials who call themselves “Christians” and quote Bible verse after Bible verse to make their case to oppose laws such as the legalization of marriage equality, favor rescinding DACA and deporting children to countries they never knew. I think Trump and these “Christian” congressional members need to re-read the “Prayer of St. Francis” (also known as “The Peace Prayer”) because they seem to have mixed up the verse, “Where there is despair, let me bring hope” to read, “Where there is hope, let me bring despair.”

Congressman Paul Tonko (winner of The Alt’s “Best Elected Official”), on the House floor, called the rescission of DACA “inhumane and un-American.” While his argument for keeping DACA—because it is the humane thing to do—is reasonable, it seems that being humane is not what Trump or many members of Congress wish to be. So, because this tactic has yet to work during Trump’s reign, some supporters of DACA are relying on the economics of DACA to carry the day. They cite numbers showing the positive effect DACA recipients have on the economy (many of which were supplied by the conservative, Libertarian think tank the Cato Institute) to make their case. Ending the program, they say, will cost the U.S. economy over $200 billion in the next ten years. New York state alone is projected to lose $10.8 billion in budget cuts while California’s cost will be around $84 billion. However, even the economic argument will not get some in Congress to keep DACA. Implicit biases against people of color, people who are not of white European descent and people who may be members of a religion that they are ignorant of, trump the humane treatment of these DACA children.

Reforming our immigration laws has been a problem for Congress over the past two decades. Trump is correct when he says that Congress must act on this issue. Congress must act to correct an immigration system that has historically been used for labor exploitation—from forced immigration, also called slavery, to today’s use of undocumented immigrants to be underpaid farm workers and domestic staff. Our immigration laws need to be made more humane and expanded to allow more people who are facing political or religious persecution, or living under a constant threat of war to be able to enter our country. However, Trump is wrong to threaten the future of 800,000 Americans with detention and deportation in order to get Congress to act to fund his ‘wall’ and to further restrict entry into the United States.  

The NYS Labor-Religion Coalition’s statement on the Trump/Sessions decision to rescind the DACA program says in no uncertain terms that it “represents a new low in the xenophobic and white supremacist assault on immigrants in our country.” They go on to state, “the human cost of separated families, devastated communities, and lives lived in fear has no dollar value.”

In the end, there’s one simple thing to keep in mind, children just want to be with their parents. Is that too much to ask our federal elected officials to understand? Shamefully, it seems for some of them, it is.  

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