Let Our Dreamers Stay

It remains to be seen whether the hurricanes that ravaged the Texas and Florida Gulf coasts will cause Donald Trump to reconsider his dismissal of the effects of climate change. But it might give Trump a pretext to rethink his campaign promises to expand the wall along the length of the US border with Mexico and his determination to expel the children of undocumented immigrants who have remained in the United States under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Trump is capable of mental gymnastics to justify whatever he really wants to do. On Sunday, Sept. 10, Trump cited Hurricane Irma, which had just made landfall in Florida, as his rationale to ask Congress “for a speed up” on his proposed tax cuts for the wealthy.

“We will discussing our plan for dramatic tax cuts and tax reform. And I think now with what’s happened with the hurricane, I’m going to ask for a speed-up,” Trump told his cabinet at Camp David. “I wanted a speed-up anyway but now we need it even more so.”

There was no need for a tax cut before the hurricanes hit the Texas and Florida Gulf coasts. If anything, the federal government needs more revenue to pay for infrastructure improvements, including seawalls and other protections against flooding and higher winds as a result of climate change. And Republicans who voted against $15 billion in emergency appropriations to address needs in Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast because they objected to further driving up the national debt now have no excuse for supporting tax cuts that will increase the debt even further.

The grassroots resistance to Trump has bolstered Democrats’ determination to oppose Republican plans to repeal Obamacare, build a border wall and “reform” the tax code, which would give more advantages to corporations and the rich at the expense of the working poor. Republicans have yet to offer anything but broad concepts on tax reform and many oppose the border wall. And that was before Trump threw Republican leaders for a loop Sept. 6, when he agreed with Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to accept a three-month fix on spending and the debt ceiling and a six-month stay of execution on the order to deport as many as 800,000 young “Dreamer” immigrants.

The tax “reform” bill would require a 60-vote supermajority, as long as Senate Republicans keep the filibuster rule on legislation — and many Republican senators want to keep the filibuster because they prefer to let Democrats save them from casting record votes on some of the crazy ideas House Republicans send them.

Trump has given the Republican Congress an ultimatum: Pass a bill within six months that replaces DACA, or Trump will decide whether to scrap the program and start deporting those young would-be Americans. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reportedly pressed Trump to end DACA. House Speaker Paul Ryan has promised a fix, but nativist Republicans such as Steve King (R-Iowa) are vowing to stop anything that looks like amnesty.

In the meantime, US immigration agents continue to round up and deport undocumented immigrants, as well as women and children who have fled murderous gangs and narco-terrorism in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

The presence of millions of undocumented immigrants in the US continues to enrage Americans who have seen high-paying industrial jobs moved to Mexico or overseas. As they see it, they have to compete with immigrants who are willing to work for lower wages. But middle-aged white men who don’t want to compete with young Dreamers for minimum-wage jobs at $7.25 an hour should support an increase in the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour and focus their complaints on the corporate executives who look to Mexico or overseas for lower-wage workers to increase their corporate profits. And despite the statement by Sessions, in announcing Trump’s decision to rescind DACA, that the program “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens” stretches the truth, as the Department of Labor reported a 4.4% unemployment rate in August, which is considered full employment, particularly since a record six million jobs remain unfilled in the US. We need immigrants to work on farms and nursing homes, mow lawns, clean hotels and bus tables at restaurants, and do other jobs that Americans won’t do, at least not for the minimum wage.

It is ironic, of course, that many farmers who voted for Trump now find it hard to hire field hands, as ICE agents go after undocumented immigrants. We’ll need all hands available, including undocumented immigrants, to help rebuild cities on the Gulf Coast in Texas and Southern Florida.

Sessions also argued that ending DACA “protects taxpayers,” which is inaccurate since undocumented workers pay taxes but don’t get access to most social welfare programs. DACA recipients and other undocumented immigrants are not eligible for federal means-tested welfare, such as cash assistance, food stamps, Medicaid or most other federally funded programs, but the Social Security Administration estimated in 2014 that unauthorized immigrant workers paid $13 billion in payroll taxes in 2010, its most recent estimate. If the immigrants aren’t paying federal taxes, it’s because their employers are not withholding those taxes. Go after them.

Nichole Chavez reported at CNN Sept. 6 that DACA recipients have paid $2 billion in state and local taxes, but they are not eligible for Medicaid. In seven states they do not qualify for lower tuition as state residents, but they must have at least a high-school degree to enter the program and 36% of DACA recipients older than 25 have a bachelor’s degree while another 32% are pursuing a bachelor’s degree, according to the National Academy of Sciences.

“The NAS finds that among recent immigrants who entered as children, those with a high school degree are positive to the government, to the tune of $60,000 to $153,000 in net present value, meaning it’s like each immigrant cutting a check for that amount at the door. For those with a bachelor’s degree, it’s a net positive of $160,000 to $316,000. Each DACA permit canceled is like burning tens of thousands of dollars in Washington,” David Bier of the Cato Institute wrote in the Washington Post Sept. 7.

Sessions also claimed that DACA repeal “saves lives” and “protects communities,” and he implied that DACA “put our nation at risk of crime.” But DACA participants are not criminals, Bier noted. “Unauthorized immigrants — the applicant pool for DACA — are much less likely to end up in prison ... More important, to participate in DACA, applicants must pass a background check. They have to live here without committing a serious offense. If they are arrested, DACA can be taken away even without a conviction.”

The Senate in June 2013 passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill 68-32, as 14 Republicans joined the then-Democratic majority. The bill, proposed a pathway to legal status and eventually citizenship for undocumented residents with otherwise clean records, as well as more resources for border security, but not a bigger wall along the US-Mexico border. Teabaggers prevented the bill from coming up for a House vote, and that failure in the House prompted Obama to order DACA.

Congress should pass a law formalizing the DACA provisions, but they also should dust off the 22013 immigration reform bill and put it forward again. It could easily pass the Senate and it would pass the House if House Speaker Paul Ryan denies the teabaggers’ veto of bipartisan legislation. We don’t need a border wall, certainly not as long as there are cities along the Gulf Coast — as well as the Atlantic and Pacific coasts — that desperately need infrastructure improvements to survive the next few decades of rising sea levels and fiercer storms induced by climate change. — JMC

From The Progressive Populist, October 1, 2017


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