FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Truth-Telling in Immigration

Photo by Molly Adams | CC BY 2.0

As we enter a new year, 800,000 Dreamers await news of their fate in this country.  Thwarted by a president who will soon terminate the only program giving them temporary reprieve from harassment or deportation, stood up by a Congress that couldn’t muster the will last year to grant them a pathway to permanent residency, they wait.

But not all are simply standing by.  On New Year’s Day I scan the internet, seeking photos and stories of Dreamers willing to share something of their lives and their contributions to America.  On a USA Today site, I read about Ellie, whose DACA status enabled her to attend community college fulltime, earn an associate’s degree, and eventually become the first person in her family to attend a four-year university.  I learn about Julio, for whom DACA meant the opportunity to become a mortgage loan officer and a tax-paying, contributing member of his community.  There is Carla, who started a digital marketing business, and there, too, is Reyna, who founded an organization that advocates for migrant youth.

These are only a few of the many Dreamers who have not been deterred from speaking out and sharing their stories.  When Donald Trump announced last September that he would terminate the Obama-era DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) Program by March, 2018, many Dreamers began protesting in Washington and other cities for a just resolution of the crisis, seeking to galvanize public support.  They have persisted in telling their truths in an era of official distortions and betrayals.

In her 2008 study of immigration policy, Illegal, Alien, or Immigrant:  The Politics of Immigration Reformpolitical scientist Lina Newton showed how changing images of immigrants colored debates and influenced legislation in the 1980’s and 1990’s.  Though many Americans expressed concerns in the 1980’s about job security when they discussed immigration, they nevertheless acknowledged the contributions that immigrants were making to American society; 61 percent of Americans surveyed in a 1984 Newsweek/Gallup poll agreed with the assertion that “immigrants help improve our culture with their different cultures and talents.”  In the political climate of the time, Congress passed, and President Ronald Reagan signed, the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, opening a pathway on which 2.7 million undocumented immigrants would eventually advance to permanent residency.

By contrast, the 1990s, the era of Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America,” saw a shift in congressional debates about both government and immigration.  Playing on Americans’ growing economic insecurities, lawmakers, particularly Republicans, increasingly characterized government as an engine of redistribution that shifted citizens’ tax dollars to the undeserving, and they lumped into that “undeserving” category both welfare recipients and immigrants.   They not only characterized legal and undocumented immigrants as freeloaders; they also played up a more ominous image of the “criminal alien” who constituted a threat to law and order.  In that era, the most significant piece of immigration-related legislation, the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, unsurprisingly introduced stiffer new enforcement measures while offering no new avenues to permanent residency or citizenship.

In the ensuing decades, negative images of immigrants as freeloaders and as threats, played up by politicians and nativist think tanks, have continued to predominate in public debates about immigration, whether those debates have concerned policies dealing with legal immigration or with the presence of undocumented individuals in the country.  This situation has persisted despite countervailing developments, such as President Obama’s executive order creating DACA in 2012 or the publication in 2016 of a National Academy of Sciences report affirming immigration’s “overall positive impact on long-run economic growth in the U.S.”

With the candidacy and presidency of Donald Trump, the negative and threatening discourse about immigrants has been taken to unprecedented levels, spurring an uptick in hate crimes and bias incidents and creating an atmosphere of fear that many public officials have described as corrosive to public trust in local law enforcement.  It has been in this fearful atmosphere that many Dreamers have been speaking out and even engaging in civil disobedience, often at great risk to themselves.  They know that it is possible for a Dream Act still to be passed in this Congress, and the coming weeks will be revelatory about the nation’s capacity to resist falsehood.  In the meantime, the Dreamers continue to remind us of the talents and the promise they offer to this nation.  They bear witness to Americans’ potential for recognizing a shared humanity and for acknowledging an inclusive America that is home to us all.

 

More articles by:

Andrew Moss is an emeritus professor from the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, where he taught a course, “War and Peace in Literature,” for 10 years.

Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
David Yearsley
Bollocks to Brexit: the Plumber Sings
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail