Over the course of the week, I have watched undocumented students express anxiety and fear as their fate lies in the hands of Donald J. Trump; a president who has relentlessly vilified immigrants, mentioned numerous times “Mexico isn’t sending its best” and referred to immigrants as “animals.”
Those that work for and with undocumented immigrants have witnessed firsthand the contributions of immigrants to the US, however, rising anti-immigration sentiments have overshadowed those contributions.
On Tuesday, the Trump administration announced that it would rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) for approximately 800,000 recipients living in the US. These are individuals who do not have legal status but have resided in America for most of their lives. For many undocumented individuals, DACA was not the answer to addressing their legal status, but it offered some form of relief. The ability to work allowed undocumented college students to attend law, medical, and graduate school. Many were able to have a sense of purpose which transpired into giving back to immigrant communities by fighting for immigration justice. In many cases, students knew that DACA did not equate into freedom, but it did allow them to dream about possibilities which they never considered.
Let us be honest with ourselves. Attorney General Jeff Sessions used the DACA announcement to reproduce “stock-stories” of immigrants by claiming crime and job loss as synonymous with immigration “influx” all of which are debunked by multiple non-partisan think tanks. The announcement had nothing to do with national security but more with upholding the values of white supremacy. Rescinding DACA as a ploy to follow the tenant of “law and order” in this administration bears little weight after President Trump pardoned Ex-Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has had a long-standing legacy of constitutional violations and lawsuits stemming from inmate abuses with fatal consequences.
The US has a long history of dehumanizing immigrants. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 that banned all Chinese from coming to America was the first time discrimination was legitimized in the US history. Mexican Repatriation Act of 1930 was triggered by the Great Depression and approximately 1 million Mexicans (many of whom were born in the US) were rounded up in trains back to Mexico. It is necessary to illuminate how white supremacist capitalism was the guiding value of early “immigration” in America.
These historical remnants continue to be reproduced in contemporary immigration rhetoric. In fact, the business of anti-immigration sentiments in this country is a well-oiled machine. Earlier this week, I read an investigative story titled “Who is behind the plot against DACA” and found a social networking map of all the key stakeholders, organizations, and elected legislators who are contributing to the white supremacy movement in the US. If we have any chance of passing the DREAM Act of 2017 or Comprehensive Immigration Reform we first need to name, call out, and address white supremacy values that are shaping immigration policies in this country. Ending DACA was solely to appease the anti-immigration sentiments which served as a focal political platform for President Trump.
I am constantly reminded by undocumented and unafraid activists, the immigration movement was never about the DREAM Act or DACA, it was about equity and justice for all immigrants. It was about justice for mothers and fathers who have endured backbreaking labor to feed their families, it was about infiltrating detention centers to unmask the inhumane and murderous conditions, and about living in a country without being robbed of humanity. As a country, we have to examine our white supremacist heritage and xenophobia if we truly want to be a nation of immigrants.