For too many of our neighbors, September 5 brought an abrupt awakening from the American Dream. In a move that surprised no one but shocked many, President Trump and his administration turned the dream into a nightmare for those protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) by announcing that they will be rescinding the program.
Those protected under DACA, people aptly nicknamed Dreamers, carried the hopes and dreams of their parents when they came to America. Their parents brought them to this country to provide a better life for their children in the land of the free. Almost 800,000 people have enrolled in the program since President Barack Obama instituted it in 2012, their parents brimming with hope that their kids would enjoy more opportunities than they did.
These children did not enter the United States of their own accord. The decision was made for them when they were young, but now a horrible new decision is being made for them — actually AT them — by a country that has cruelly turned against them. This, despite the deep affinity Dreamers have for the nation in which they grew up, a nation they consider their own.
To be a minority of any kind in Trump’s America is to be a second-class citizen.
This country has long had a pervasive culture of discrimination, and black Americans have lived under its heavy yoke for the entirety of our American experience. But to be a minority of any kind in Trump’s America is to be a second-class citizen — and to be a Dreamer in Trump’s world is to be a victim of this same kind of ugly and senseless discrimination ― rendering them undervalued, invisible, unwelcome.
In a statement Tuesday, Trump showed his hand when he said, “any immigration reform we adopt provides enduring benefits for the American citizens we were elected to serve.” The fact that many families with different colored skin will be separated and lives destroyed means nothing to him.
The sacrifices these parents have made for their children are unimaginable. For many, it has required cutting ties with the countries, and the families, they left behind. Trump insists that these “aliens” go back where they came from, but for a large number of them that is simply not feasible, or safe. Those protected under DACA have lived in limbo for the majority of their lives, not recognized by the country they embraced as their own but unable to return to a native country that is foreign to them.
Immigrants are an essential part of what has made America great for so long, yet Trump is now telling them they do not matter — just like blacks in Trump’s America. Many Dreamers are productive members of American society, integral parts of our economy, workforce and community. It’s unclear how our country could carry on without them, especially with 76 million baby boomers starting to reach retirement age and leaving the workforce.
These immigrant families have given their all in this country, knowing they must work twice as hard to even come close to matching their American-born counterparts. This is not an unfamiliar concept to the black and brown people in my world. Dreamers are keenly aware of what their parents gave up to improve their lives, and they have grown up to become well-rounded members of society, taking whatever opportunities they can because they’re not sure when the next one might come.
Being a kid is hard enough without the fear that the ICE will show up at your door to tear your family apart.
Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio and John McCain were among many who tweeted out sympathetic words to the Dreamers, demonstrating their disapproval for the president’s decision. But words are not enough — we need action. The lives of tens of thousands of individuals who have put their trust in our country are at risk.
In February, the president said, “We love the Dreamers. We’re going to deal with DACA with heart.” Getting rid of DACA and making these families live in constant fear of deportation is devoid of the heart and compassion that existed five years ago when President Barack Obama created the program.
Being a kid is hard enough without the ever-present fear that one day the ICE will show up at your doorstep to tear your family apart. The six-month window for Congress to legalize DACA or find an alternative has ramped up the pressure, but it means nothing if our nation’s leaders are unwilling to support these family’s dreams.
For a country that holds equality, liberty and fairness as core values, the rhetoric just does not match up.
Benjamin Crump is a nationally known civil rights attorney and advocate, and is the founder and principal of Ben Crump Law, www.bencrump.com.