The Dream Deferred: The Assault on DACA

Larry Lancit —


When I was in High School in the mid 1960s, I was a tenor in the A Cappella Choir. One of the most inspiring pieces of music we did was a rendition of “Give Me Your Tired Your Poor,” originally composed by Irving Berlin and, of course, written by Emma Lazarus.

Lazarus’s words are inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. How many millions of immigrants saw those words as they arrived on our shores, fear and uncertainty in the faces, but hope and freedom in their hearts! As I sang those words over and over I always visualized the black and white pictures we all remember of the bedraggled masses gazing upon that Statue with those words writ large on the base as they sailed into the harbor.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send me the homeless tempest tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Take a moment and listen to Lazarus’s poem with Berlin’s music sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Close your eyes and imagine, if you can, finally arriving on a boat with hundreds of other people, all fearing the unknowable future, seasick from weeks of a difficult ocean crossing, but gambling their lives on a dream, seeing those words, feeling the presence of that gleaming statue with it’s outstretched arm and torch.

Was that feeling any different from the thousands of refugees crossing the borders of Mexico over the past four decades, fleeing drug cartels, war, poverty, looking for a better life for their children? I think not.

And yet, think of how our country’s emotional condition has morphed over those same four decades. We have changed from a nation of immigrants welcoming those seeking a better life to a nation of tribal selfishness that seeks to ostracize and separate all those “tired and poor.” We accuse them of crime, we accuse them of greedy indolence, we seek to deport them. Who cares if they are human? They are “other,” and therefore should not be here with us pure citizens. Where is our humanity?

And now comes a special class of immigrant…those who had no choice in their journey—the children of immigrants whose parents only sought to protect them from the horrors they were trying to escape.

Brought into the United States by their parents as babes, they grew up only knowing this place as their home. As children they worked in the fields with their parents, growing up with literally nothing, they went to school and learned how to be American. Their parents came to seek political asylum, or were so poor in their native countries that they came to the US looking for a better life. These are the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) children, the Dreamers. They are going to be engineers, doctors, teachers, physician’s assistants, food service professionals, musicians, accountants, lawyers, social workers, politicians, health care professionals, and on and on.

As the government writhed, pretzel-like, to avoid dealing with the mounting immigration challenge, the Dream Act of 2010, which would have offered bi-partisan support for a path to citizenship for these children, already approved by the House, failed to win a cloture vote in the Senate in 2010 by five votes. That essentially killed the effort. President Obama saw the need to provide these innocent victims of dislocation with the security they needed to pursue the only lives they knew in the only place they had ever been. So, he enacted the DACA executive order protecting these youth. Since that time, support has only grown for permanent relief for this group of immigrants—ultimate citizenship; the right to vote.

And then, along comes Donald Trump. In September of 2017, in his infinite wisdom he decided to reverse Obama’s executive order. Why? Well, probably because anything Obama did while he was in office, in Trump’s mind, needs to be negated!

Ending the DACA protection is perhaps one of Trump’s most cruel actions of all, but what could we expect from a man who is more concerned with keeping his warped promises to satisfy his base than looking out for 800,000 kids who did nothing more than breathe while their parents aspired to a life of freedom in the US?

Young immigrants protesting for DACA

Protestors for DACA

The President ordered that Congress provide a solution to the DACA issue by March 5th of 2018 or all the protections and further registration for the Dreamers would end, leaving them subject to deportation to countries that are foreign to them. Trump’s action was really so predictable in its absence of compassion, and we understand the cynical strategy behind his offloading this responsibility to Congress. He wants to play on all our emotions for these youngsters to force through his ridiculous compulsion to spend our money on his border wall.

As might be expected, the outrage that marked Trump’s cavalier ending of the DACA protection resulted in several lawsuits being filed by immigrant activists. One of those suits reached the San Francisco-based US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and US District Judge William Alsup, who ordered an injunction that orders that new applications for renewal by DACA program enrollees must be accepted indefinitely. The judge ruled that the challengers of Trump’s efforts to pull the plug on DACA, were likely to succeed in arguing that the administration’s decision to end DACA was arbitrary. Effectively this continues the DACA program going forward and ensures legal protection for the Dreamers, at least for the foreseeable future.

The decision from the 9th Circuit Court, however, did not stop the administration from trying an “end run” around the Court of Appeals to the US Supreme Court. Trump requested that the Supreme Court intervene on the lower court ruling before the court could decide the case. The Supreme Court dealt Trump a solid blow when it declined to hear his appeal of the lower court order.

In the meantime, as Trump’s arbitrary deadline of March 5 approached we saw the President’s hypocrisy unfold. He told us that he “loves the Dreamers” and urged Congress to vote him a “bill of love” to sign, all the while signaling that no deal was possible unless Congress would agree to spend an obscene amount of taxpayer’s money on a useless campaign promise to build the wall (which Mexico is supposed to pay for, by the way). All proposed bills, and there were at least three of them, failed in the Senate. So where are we now?

March 5th has come and gone, and no solution exists. The President instigated this entire crisis by his own actions. He could have left the DACA executive order alone, but that would not meet his compulsive need to reject everything Obama. The tragedy is that his actions have put the lives of over a million people in limbo! He clearly does not care, and that is no surprise.

There is a possible solution, but the odds on that are next to nil. Those in Congress who are passionate about this issue could mobilize as many of the supposed supporters to get behind a basic piece of legislation, and draft a simple instrument that deals only with the DACA Dreamers. Pass it in both houses—fast—and then when Trump vetoes it because it doesn’t provide for his wall or anything else he wants, send it back to him in an override vote. It will then become law without his signature.

If there were any Republicans who have the backbone to do the right thing, then this could happen. With all the people who support these Dreamers, it should be a slam dunk to protect the Dreamer’s status permanently…we are led to believe….Don’t count on it! First of all, Republicans have sold themselves to the Trump devil. Certainly Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan will not be the change agents that would make something like this possible. They would never bring it to a vote in either chamber. Their only motive for anything is to secure their jobs for another term and make their lobbyists want to continue the money flow. Supporting a real solution is antithetical to their desire to maintain their power and control. The only way to get representative government back is for the citizens of America to take back their government using the vote.

With the Supreme Court essentially taking a hands-off approach to the debate, at least at this juncture, and letting stand the ruling by US District Judge William Alsup, it appears that things are in limbo. Although Trump had originally set March 5 as the end date for the DACA program, Judge Alsup’s injunction orders that new applications must be accepted indefinitely.

So what does the Supreme Court decision really mean? The decision all but ensures that the DACA program will continue, and it takes some pressure off Congress to act immediately, which it is clearly unable to do—-about anything, much less protecting these undocumented immigrants.

What is so revolting about this whole episode is that these are human beings whose lives are being toyed with—and for what? The White House responded to the Supreme Court’s decision by saying, “The administration fully expects to prevail to end this clearly unlawful program” Now, that’s empathy if I ever heard it!

What will be the final outcome of this standoff? It will probably take outrage from the Dreamers themselves to make some solution possible. If the administration succeeds in somehow reversing the 9th Circuit Court’s action, it won’t be long until we start to see heartrending scenes at airports where these young people will be ripped from their families, opening raw wounds in our social fabric that will not be healed. And most importantly, the potential promise of these highly motivated immigrants will be lost to all of us.

About Larry Lancit (1 Article)
Emmy Award winning Television Producer/Director. Breathing clean air in Naples, Florida and telling stories the best way he knows how. Moved from New York 15 years ago after a 25 year career producing Children's and Family Television for PBS.

2 Comments on The Dream Deferred: The Assault on DACA

  1. Jeff Berger // March 9, 2018 at 4:56 pm // Reply

    Excellent article.

    This issue isn’t just about compassion or economics. Public safety is an important aspect of DACA and whatever people label as criminal. Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf is a hero. When she warned city residents of a pending ICE raid, she was concerned about public safety. Some of the people whom ICE wanted to deport may have indeed been violent criminals. But, Trump’s Justice Department has already proven that they don’t distinguish violent criminals from anybody else whom they want to depart. Libby Schaaf has the full support of her constituents while others from outside the state threaten her with violence. The people who are threatening Schaaf have been frightened by Donald Trump into thinking that all Hispanics are dangerous criminals.

    All Americans are placed at risk when city residents are afraid of police officers, because they are unwilling to report crimes to which they are witnesses or victims. This is the primary reason that the state of California passed its sanctuary law last year–a law over which Jeff Session is suing the state. To be eligible for the DACA program, recipients may not have felonies or serious misdemeanors on their records. By definition, they are not criminals. Nor are they undocumented. Some of them have even served in the military. They allowed themselves to be documented, because they trusted the American government. Now Donald Trump and Jeff Session are violating that trust.

    The Statue of Liberty should be moved to San Francisco.

    Like

  2. A narcissist is incapable of either feeling empathy or exercising judgments which involve the welfare of the whole. Let us hope that those who have been enabling Trumpism by selfishly rationalizing his actions are gradually no longer being tolerated by an incrementally increasing majority of voters. If Judge Alsup’s rulng holds for another eight months, maybe corrective changes can emerge from Congress. Tragically, in the meantime, many families will be hurt.

    Like

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