Nativism is Alive in the White House

The nightmare begins for the 800,000 immigrants who had been protected from deportation by DACA. nnPresident Donald Trump, bowing to his baser instincts and his nativist basis, pulled the plug on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, sending Attorney General Jeff Sessions to the microphone Sept. 5 to make the announcement.

DACA was created in 2012 when President Barack Obama signed an executive order. The program granted temporary protection from deportation to about 800,000 immigrants who came as children. The deferrals were to be for two years and would grant work authorization papers, provided recipients registered with the federal government, paid a nearly $500 application fee, had and maintained a clean criminal record and met certain other requirements. DACA recipients also could apply for two-year extensions when their original deferrals expired.

The program has been considered a success, allowing immigrants with little connection to their home country to come out of the shadows, gain more productive employment and pay taxes.

Trump, during his election campaign, had promised to shut the program down, though he appeared to back away from the promise in December. The program has been under review since he took office.

Sessions’ announcement — that the Trump administration was rescinding the executive order and phasing out the program — was met with shock and dismay by the immigrant community and its advocates.

“President Trump proved once again that he is not a president for all Americans, but only a few,” Michael Tan, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, wrote in a blog post. “As with his recent pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, his message is clear: He stands with the nativists in rejecting communities of color and people of good will who understand that America’s greatest strength comes from inclusivity, not exclusion.”

And his message, as relayed through Sessions, is built on a set of stereotypical lies intended to generate fear and play to the worst instincts of Americans. Sessions, in his announcement, said DACA “was implemented unilaterally to great controversy and legal concern after Congress rejected legislative proposals to extend similar benefits on numerous occasions to this same group of illegal aliens.” This, Sessions said, amounted to “an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws” and “an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch.”

DACA has not been adjudicated in court, though a second Obama program targeting undocumented parents was tabled by a federal judge in Texas. The issue question remains open because a short-handed Supreme Court deadlocked on the case.

Sessions then blamed what he called “a surge of unaccompanied minors on the southern border” on DACA, conveniently ignoring the brutal conditions across Central America that were driving these kids north.

So DACA’s authorization is being revoked and the program will go through an “orderly process” as it winds down. All of this sounds good — until you factor in the 800,000 or so immigrants who are in limbo, immigrants who are working and/or going to school, creating better lives not only for themselves and their families, but for their communities.

The rescission is heartless. It is counterproductive economically. And, it’s cowardly.

Trump might differ, of course. As the Associated Press reported, Trump claims “a ‘great love’ for the young immigrants protected by the DACA program.” He told “a meeting with administration officials and congressional leaders Tuesday, (that) he has a ‘great heart’ for the young people. He says he hopes ‘Congress will be able to help them and do it properly.’”

This is absurd. Immigration has been one of the most divisive issues Congress has faced. And that was before the make-up of both houses of Congress shifted farther toward the GOP’s nativist wing. Even if immigration-reformers can peel away so-called moderates, they will need to make sure that conservative Democrats do not side with hard-line Republicans. And that assumes that Democrats will even be willing to discuss legislation that might give Trump a perceived win.

Trump has done a lot of damage with his DACA announcement, and immigration advocates need to take to the streets to defend these newly vulnerable Americans (yes, Americans). But we shouldn’t allow Trump’s attack on Dreamers to divert attention from a full reform of the immigration system that makes it more humane, more respectful of the pain and suffering of those attempting to begin new lives in the United States.

Hank Kalet is a poet and journalist in New Jersey. Email; blog,; Twitter, @newspoet41 and @kaletjournalism; Instagram, @kaletwrites; Facebook,

From The Progressive Populist, October 1, 2017

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