FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Going After the Dreamers

Photo by Jens Schott Knudsen | CC BY 2.0

Donald Trump decided, despite promises made here and there, that he would renounce former President Barack Obama’s policy towards children who had come to the United States without papers. These children, now close to a million, had entered the country with their parents. Obama’s executive action, named Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), allowed these young people to apply for a work permit and claim some important benefits of United States residency. To take advantage of DACA, these young people had to come out of the shadows and register voluntarily with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The U.S. government, in other words, was able to get information on almost a million people who did not have papers. This act of good faith, to register with the government, will now make it easier for the government to find, arrest and deport them.

These young people, the Dreamers, will be arrested merely for having registered with the government and will be sent to countries where they have never lived and whose languages—in many cases—they do not speak. Since their parents did not register, and still mostly live in the shadows, these Dreamers will be separated from their families and sent off on their own. Little wonder then that there is widespread anger at this action by Trump, not least because he had promised often not to take this action.

Data on the Dreamers are quite astonishing. Over 90 per cent of them have jobs and pay taxes (almost $2 billion, according to one study earlier this year). The Dreamers that one encounters are often supremely grateful for Obama’s policy since it allowed them to take advantage of state-subsidised college tuition even though later in life they have not been afforded social protections (such as food stamps and government medical insurance schemes). These young people, then, pay into the U.S. exchequer without being able to take advantage of whatever social security net remains for the U.S. population.

Trump and his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, make the claim that DACA is illegal. It circumvents U.S. immigration law and gives immigrants without documentation the hope that they, too, can take advantage, at some later date, of such a scheme. To prevent producing an impression that the U.S. government encourages undocumented immigration, the Trump administration wishes to crack down on DACA. It will take at least six months for the government to unravel the DACA programme, but even then there are going to be important, and rarely discussed, practical problems before the administration. One study finds that it will take a minimum of $12,500 to arrest and deport each of the Dreamers.

Since there are effectively a million Dreamers, the total bill for the repeal of DACA will be $12.5 billion, more than twice the total annual budget of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. How Trump’s administration proposes to raise this kind of money to conduct these deportations has not been made clear. A conservative Cato Institute study found that the total cost to the U.S. economy for the DACA repeal would be $200 billion. It found that the average Dreamer is 22 years old, either employed or studying. Since leaving school might result in deportation, a very large number (17 per cent) of the Dreamers finish college and pursue advanced degrees. “It is important to note that these estimates are conservative,” wrote the authors of the report.

Negative impact

In fact, the negative impact on the U.S. economy might be much greater than the $200 billion that they estimate. California will be the hardest hit. The departure of the Dreamers will cause a loss of nearly $85 billion to the State.

Obama’s executive action was meant as a stop-gap measure. Obama had, at the time, asked the U.S. Congress to pass the DREAM Act, which was first introduced in Congress in 2001 and then each year afterwards. It proposes to deal with the significant problem of undocumented people who live in the U.S. The total number of undocumented or unauthorised immigrants in the country is just over 11 million. There has been a slow decline in the entry of undocumented migrants since the U.S. economy slowed down in the wake of the 2007-08 credit crisis.

Whereas previously the largest number of undocumented migrants came from Mexico, the numbers from Central America and Asia have now begun to outnumber them. A Pew Research Center study from 2016 found that Indians constitute the largest growing category of undocumented migrants to the U.S. at this time, though in numbers they are behind immigrants from Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala). There are now half a million undocumented Indians in the U.S., an increase of 43 per cent since 2009.

Across the U.S., desperate protests are taking place against Trump’s actions. In New York City, hundreds of people gathered outside Trump Tower to make the case for the migrants, while small towns saw smaller vigils. The protesters are worried not only for the Dreamers but also for the future of their country. Bilingual signs, mostly in Spanish and English, proclaiming that the Dreamers must stay are raised as Dreamers bravely come to the microphones and tell their stories of desperate anxiety. Activist groups such as United We Dream and groups of lawyers and social workers have reached out to Dreamers, informing them of legal options and drawing up petitions to make sure the resistance against Trump’s repeal grows. The options are limited. Trump has the right to repeal DACA. Only popular pressure can stop him.

Despite the noises from the Democratic Party promising to resist Trump’s inhumane agenda, major Democratic legislative leaders cut a deal with him just a few days after he announced his DACA repeal. Senator Chuck Schumer and Representative Nancy Pelosi met Trump and cut a deal on the legislative agenda. Trump, Schumer and Nancy Pelosi all made unclear noises about passage of the DREAM Act in the future. Kamal Essaheb (National Immigration Law Center), Greisa Martinez (United We Dream) and Angel Padilla (Indivisible Project) urged these Democrats not to tell the Dreamers to “wait”. Time is of the essence. Firm commitment to genuine immigration policy is imperative, they suggest.

Five former U.S. Secretaries of Education, those who ran the Department of Education in the administrations of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, wrote an open letter to Congress urging passage of a comprehensive immigration law that would provide shelter not only to the Dreamers but also to their parents and others who had no documentation.

Protests on the streets have not adopted a narrow perspective, to ask for an extension of DACA or for the protection only of the Dreamers. The slogans are a variant of “Protection for All”, which means that there is momentum from the streets for reforms in U.S. immigration law to protect everyone without documentation. The phrase for this is “comprehensive immigration reform”, a term that has come to be emptied of any meaning. Over the past 30 years, politicians have promised to crack down on immigration and to ensure that those who are within the U.S. as undocumented immigrants will get some kind of protection. The legislative leaders seem to have worked out some kind of deal with Trump to protect some undocumented immigrants if he gets some motion on his campaign promise for a strengthened border. This is all merely illusionary. The 11 million undocumented migrants will see no comfort in these deals.

Meanwhile, the President’s former adviser, Steve Bannon, reflects the opinions of Trump’s base. “There’s no path to citizenship, no path to a green card, no amnesty. Amnesty is non-negotiable,” he told Charlie Rose. This is the firm attitude of Trump’s base. They want arrests and deportations, they want a wall, they want to see more and more punishments meted out to migrants. Their vehemence will drive Trump’s obstinacy. This is what makes the fate of the Dreamers so perilous.

This article originally appeared in Frontline (India).

More articles by:

Vijay Prashad’s most recent book is No Free Left: The Futures of Indian Communism (New Delhi: LeftWord Books, 2015).

November 15, 2018
Elliot Sperber
Pythagoras in Queens
November 14, 2018
Charles Pierson
Unstoppable: The Keystone XL Oil Pipeline and NAFTA
Sam Bahour
Israel’s Mockery of Security: 101 Actions Israel Could Take
Cesar Chelala
How a Bad Environment Impacts Children’s Health
George Ochenski
What Tester’s Win Means
Louisa Willcox
Saving Romania’s Brown Bears, Sharing Lessons About Coxistence, Conservation
George Wuerthner
Alternatives to Wilderness?
Robert Fisk
Izzeldin Abuelaish’s Three Daughters were Killed in Gaza, But He Still Clings to Hope for the Middle East
Dennis Morgan
For What?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Government is Our Teacher
Bill Martin
The Trump Experiment: Liberals and Leftists Unhinged and Around the Bend
Rivera Sun
After the Vote: An Essay of the Man from the North
Jamie McConnell
Allowing Asbestos to Continue Killing
Thomas Knapp
Talkin’ Jim Acosta Hard Pass Blues: Is White House Press Access a Constitutional Right?
Bill Glahn
Snow Day
November 13, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
The Midterm Results are Challenging Racism in America in Unexpected Ways
Victor Grossman
Germany on a Political Seesaw
Cillian Doyle
Fictitious Assets, Hidden Losses and the Collapse of MDM Bank
Lauren Smith
Amnesia and Impunity Reign: Wall Street Celebrates Halliburton’s 100th Anniversary
Joe Emersberger
Moreno’s Neoliberal Restoration Proceeds in Ecuador
Carol Dansereau
Climate and the Infernal Blue Wave: Straight Talk About Saving Humanity
Dave Lindorff
Hey Right Wingers! Signatures Change over Time
Dan Corjescu
Poetry and Barbarism: Adorno’s Challenge
Patrick Bond
Mining Conflicts Multiply, as Critics of ‘Extractivism’ Gather in Johannesburg
Ed Meek
The Kavanaugh Hearings: Text and Subtext
Binoy Kampmark
Concepts of Nonsense: Australian Soft Power
November 12, 2018
Kerron Ó Luain
Poppy Fascism and the English Education System
Conn Hallinan
Nuclear Treaties: Unwrapping Armageddon
Robert Hunziker
Tropical Trump Declares War on Amazonia
John W. Whitehead
Badge of Shame: the Government’s War on Military Veterans
Will Griffin
Military “Service” Serves the Ruling Class
John Eskow
Harold Pinter’s America: Hard Truths and Easy Targets
Rob Okun
Activists Looking Beyond Midterm Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Mid-Term Divisions: The Trump Take
Dean Baker
Short-Term Health Insurance Plans Destroy Insurance Pools
George Wuerthner
Saving the Buffalohorn/Porcupine: the Lamar Valley of the Gallatin Range
Patrick Howlett-Martin
A Note on the Paris Peace Forum
Joseph G. Ramsey
Does America Have a “Gun Problem”…Or a White Supremacy Capitalist Empire Problem?
Weekend Edition
November 09, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Louis Proyect
Why Democrats Are So Okay With Losing
Andrew Levine
What Now?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Chuck and Nancy’s House of Cards
Brian Cloughley
The Malevolent Hypocrisy of Selective Sanctions
Marc Levy
Welcome, Class of ‘70
David Archuleta Jr.
Facebook Allows Governments to Decide What to Censor
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Zika Scare: a Political and Commercial Maneuver of the Chemical Poisons Industry
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail