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The Atrocity Of Hopelessness: DACA Repeal Marks A New Low For Trump

Diego Lozano watches the coverage moments after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), will be suspended with a six-month delay, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017, in Phoenix. President Donald Trump on Tuesday began dismantling the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, the government program protecting hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children. (Matt York/AP)MoreCloseclosemore
Diego Lozano watches the coverage moments after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), will be suspended with a six-month delay, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017, in Phoenix. President Donald Trump on Tuesday began dismantling the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, the government program protecting hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children. (Matt York/AP)

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Those of us parents who are sending our kids off to school this week, likely with a giant sigh of relief, might spare a moment or two to consider the cruel irony of the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

DACA was initiated in 2012 by President Obama to provide some 800,000 children, brought to the United States as children, the opportunity to seek an education, and gainful employment, without fear of deportation.

To understand the ineptitude and cowardice that Trump has shown on this matter, it’s important to understand the reason DACA exists in the first place.

It exists, in short, because of reactionary policies enacted over the past two decades. Long before candidate Trump started braying about building his big, beautiful wall, Republicans had been pushing to beef up our southern border with an onslaught of border patrol agents, surveillance and fencing.

The result, as documented by Princeton sociologist Doug Massey (the nation’s foremost scholar on immigration policy) was absolutely predictable, though it appears never to have occurred to anyone in the GOP.

Loyola Marymount University student and dreamer Maria Carolina Gomez joins a rally in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA program outside the Edward Roybal Federal Building in Los Angeles Friday, Sept. 1, 2017. (Damian Dovarganes/AP)
Loyola Marymount University student and dreamer Maria Carolina Gomez joins a rally in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA program outside the Edward Roybal Federal Building in Los Angeles Friday, Sept. 1, 2017. (Damian Dovarganes/AP)

Rather than risking repeated trips across the border, hundreds of thousands of undocumented workers decided to move to the United States. Often they brought along their wives and children. (Because that’s the kind of depraved people they are — they actually want to live with their wives and children.)

Frankly, you don’t have to be a Princeton professor to see all this. As an inexperienced and sheltered young reporter working in El Paso three decades ago, I had figured it out. Back then, day laborers were allowed to wade across the Rio Grande en masse (I often watched them from my balcony). They worked long hours at jobs, and for wages, Americans wouldn’t accept. Then they returned to their families in Ciudad Juarez. It was the crackdown on the border that convinced them to settle in the U.S.

Tragically, around the same time, the Clinton administration was busy making it much harder for undocumented workers to become legal citizens.

And this left our government with a practical and ethical problem: what to do with the children of these undocumented workers?

In ordering Congress to find a solution, Trump is (once again) seeking to blame others for a moral and humanitarian atrocity that belongs solely to him.

Surely, it wasn’t fair to blame a 6-year-old for the decision made by his mother or father, right? Surely, the rulers of a country founded and sustained by immigrants, one known the world over for taking in huddled masses, weren’t going to deny children raised on American soil the chance to become citizens of what was, indisputably, their own homeland.

Right?

In 2001, folks in Congress drafted the so-called Dream Act, intended to help these kids find a path to legal citizenship. But wouldn’t you know it — Republicans eager to appear tough on immigrants, especially brown ones, again objected. Comprehensive immigration reform stalled, over and over.

The result was that more than a million children and young adults were forced to live in the perpetual fear of being booted out of the country. This situation prevailed for more than a decade, until Obama eventually put an end to it with DACA, a program that granted those who applied a temporary guarantee they would not be deported, and a work visa.

Not just anyone was accepted into the program. You had to be enrolled in school and have a virtually spotless criminal record. DACA recipients are, by and large, ambitious and successful, many of them heroic.

But of course, DACA was just supposed to be a stopgap, until Congress could pass immigration reform. Because that hasn’t happened, DACA represents the only legal protection from deportation Dreamers have.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a news conference Tuesday on President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA program, which has provided nearly 800,000 young immigrants a reprieve from deportation and the ability to work legally in the United States. (Susan Walsh/AP)
Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a news conference Tuesday on President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA program, which has provided nearly 800,000 young immigrants a reprieve from deportation and the ability to work legally in the United States. (Susan Walsh/AP)

The rise of Trumpism, a movement fueled by anti-immigration zealotry and thinly veiled white supremacy, led directly to Tuesday's decision, one the president didn’t even have the guts to announce himself.

No surprise there. Born into wealth and bigotry, Trump remains the most despicable specimen of white privilege in our history, a bully who plays to his base by inflaming their racial paranoia and delusions of persecution, a weakling who preys on the vulnerable.

In ordering Congress to find a solution, Trump is (once again) seeking to blame others for a moral and humanitarian atrocity that belongs solely to him.

Impeachment is too good for Donald Trump. In a just world, he would be deported.

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Steve Almond Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Steve Almond is the author of 11 books of fiction and nonfiction. He writes Cog's advice column, #HeavyMeddle, and is the co-host of Dear Sugar Radio.

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