As the White House’s senior advisor for policy, Stephen Miller seems to have one goal: to take a wrecking ball to the Statue of Liberty and shove the remains into the Upper New York Bay.
It’s no secret that Miller, along with Gen. John “Adult In The Room” Kelly, has been penning some of the most heinous immigration policies coming out of the White House. One might even wonder if Miller and Kelly, not President Donald Trump, are running the government from the sidelines ― exploiting Trump’s short attention span.
Which brings us to this moment, when the White House is preparing to erode America’s reputation as a nation of immigrants and replace it with toxic immigration policy, which it has disguised as a way to save young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children, known as “Dreamers.” The Trump administration has said it supports extending a pathway to citizenship for the roughly 800,000 Dreamers that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy currently protects from deportation and for other young immigrants who are eligible but don’t currently hold the protections ― an estimated 1.8 million people in total.
On Monday, you will hear White House officials present their outline as nothing short of a heroic attempt to reform our nation’s broken immigration system. Do not be fooled. What the White House is selling the American people is nothing but a nativist wish list that would reduce the number immigrants, especially people of color born in countries that Trump considers “shitholes.”
Remember, this is supposed to be a plan to deal with the Dreamer crisis that Trump himself created by ending DACA, a crisis that affects my family and me directly.
In addition to a Dreamer fix, the White House plan will likely include an extreme reduction of legal immigration and a complete end to the diversity visa program. It also would empower more agents to immediately deport people like my parents or children fleeing violence. The result of enacting all of these policies? Slowing down the browning of America ― or at least Miller can hope.
And then there’s the wall. The “big, beautiful wall,” Trump’s signature policy goal and maybe the only one he fully understands. What else can a $25 billion wall be than a big middle finger to Mexico and countries south of the border? Keep out and stay out, the wall says.
America loves the Dreamers, so this administration is using our lives as leverage to get everything else it wants.
Of course, this comes as no surprise to anyone who watched Trump’s presidential campaign. He’s following through on a commitment to a white nationalist immigration agenda.
The White House thinks its strategy is clever. America loves the Dreamers ― a recent survey found an overwhelming majority supported legal protections for us ― so this administration is cynically using our lives and futures as leverage to get everything else it wants from Congress.
What Trump, Miller and Kelly don’t seem to understand is that Dreamers are also American, and we’re not going to let them trample all over our families and our values to be recognized as such.
We have all lived through too much pain and fear to merely sell our families out in this way. As people, not “illegal immigrants” or bargaining chips, we recognize that the values and promises that this country has to offer are rooted in the idea that hard work will eventually give us the opportunity to fully live the American dream. The same goes for our parents, the original Dreamers who left everything behind. They took a chance and even risked their lives to provide us, their kids, with a better life and better opportunities. As Dreamers, we will demand that their sacrifices not be made in vain.
The media, and anyone else watching this debate unfold, must resist any urge to label Trump and Miller’s immigration outline as a “deal.” It’s little more than a racist ransom note from a group of nativists who are willing to dangle 800,000 young teenagers and adults over a cliff while simultaneously replacing core American values with poison. This is as far as Republicans could ever be from a reasonable and fair negotiation.
Dreamers have been part of the immigration debate since 2001. We have helped to define the discussion on immigration over the past few years. There is no way that Dreamers would turn their backs on the people who raised them, helped them and encouraged them to be their best. And America shouldn’t betray Dreamers by paying the ransom that a handful of xenophobes are demanding in exchange for their protection.
Juan Escalante is an immigrant advocate and online strategist who has been fighting for the Dream Act and pro-immigration policies at all levels of government for the past 10 years.