The American Dream…?
Define ‘American.’ As a child we are taught to be proud to be a part of ‘America the Free,’ ‘America the brave.’ Our grade school teachers tell us that Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue and discovered a ‘new world.’ We were told that everyone was accepted into the ‘melting pot’ that is America, made up of immigrants who sought freedom from oppression. And then we grew up. Columbus didn’t discover anything that had not already been inhabited. His intentions were to enslave those who he encountered, and the land of the free only meant freedom for those in power.
We Were All Immigrants
This country was built off of the backs and blood of the Native Americans who occupied these lands before Columbus ever lost his way and happened upon the ‘new world’; the enslavement of Africans, becoming no more than human chattel; the Chinese who lost lives to snow slides, explosions and disease while laying the final rails of the first transcontinental railroad line; and America’s neighbors south of the border. Not only were California, Nevada, Utah, most of New Mexico and Arizona and parts of Colorado and Wyoming all part of Mexico before 1884, Native Mexicans were given the choice to become US citizens or leave the area—but not for long.
By the 1900s U.S. farm owners recruited Mexicans and Mexican Americans, exploiting desperate workers with low wages and harsh living conditions. Twenty years later an estimated three quarters of California’s farm workers were Mexican or Mexican American. Mexican and Mexican Americans’ place in America’s history is ripe with brutal colonization and manipulation, and the recent retreat from the Deferred Action For Child Arrivals (DACA) program has continued the American tradition of unethical and cruel treatment.
“Spare me, liberals, please, the lectures on compassion. Spare me. We are the most compassionate country on earth.” – Dan Bongino
But appealing to Americans’ compassion seems to be a moot point. Dan Bongino, former United States Secret Service agent, explicitly stated, “Spare me, liberals, please, the lectures on compassion. Spare me. We are the most compassionate country on earth.” Well, that’s debatable—but the facts are not. The rhetoric and misconceptions about what the Deferred Action For Child Arrivals program—“They don’t pay taxes,” “They steal Social security cards!”—has led the charge of the uninformed.
What Is DACA?
DACA was started in 2012 by President Obama. It gives applicants the opportunity to live and work lawfully in the U.S., not as a citizen but through “deferred action,” a form of prosecutorial discretion in immigration law if they:
- Arrived in the United States before the age of 16
- Were younger than 31 years of age as of June 15, 2012
- Lived in the U.S. continuously since June 15, 2007; were present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012 and when request for DACA was submitted
- Graduated from high school, received a GED, or are currently enrolled in school or GED program; or, have been honorably discharged from the U.S. military
- Have no more than two minor misdemeanors, no felonies or significant misdemeanors, and are not a threat to national security or public safety
- Entered the United States without legal authorization or overstayed their visa before June 15, 2012
- Paid $465 for biometrics and work-authorization fees
Those involved in the DACA program go through an intensive background check before being given legal access to work or attend school (giving no reason to ‘steal’ a social security card) and pay their taxes. The same cannot be said for our sitting president, who is the first president in decades who refuses to release his tax returns, and who, during a debate with Hillary Clinton, argued that not paying taxes makes him “smart.” The same people who argued that he “brilliantly used” U.S. tax rules to avoid paying taxes are the same people literally and figuratively screaming about the possibility that ‘illegal aliens’ are living off hardworking Americans, and not paying their fair share of taxes.
Dehumanizing a person by calling them ‘illegal’ or an ‘alien’ doesn’t change the fact that undocumented immigrants pay state and local taxes—without the benefits of being a citizen. According to the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy, America’s undocumented immigrants pay an estimated $11.64 billion in state and local taxes per year. Of that $11.64 billion, undocumented immigrants pay $6.9 billion in sales and excise taxes, $3.6 billion in property taxes and about $1.1 billion in personal income taxes. These numbers are for undocumented immigrants. Those involved in the DACA program are not a part of these numbers. They are legally living, working and attending school.
Others claim that President Obama’s executive order was an overreach of power, unconstitutional and, according to Jeff Sessions, “The compassionate thing is to end the lawlessness, [and] enforce our laws.” The allegation that former President Obama’s executive order was unconstitutional is a tremendous fallacy. In this letter to Trump, constitutional scholars outline how DACA is constitutional: “There is no question that DACA 2012 is a lawful exercise of prosecutorial discretion. Our conclusions are based on years of experience in the field and a close study of the U.S. Constitution, administrative law, immigration statutes, federal regulations and case law.” The letter argues that DACA originates from the U.S. Constitution and exhibits how past presidents, including George W. Bush, “announced a deferred action program for students affected by Hurricane Katrina and later developed a program for the widows of U.S. citizens.”
Jeff Sessions Is Heartless
Sessions speaks of compassion, yet in the same breath passionately supports the end of a program that will destroy roughly 788,000 lives. Sessions talks about the law as though America has not historically been known to have laws that discriminate and brutalize groups of people, habitually people of color. Jeff Sessions is the same man who thought the Ku Klux Klan was “was O.K. until I found out they smoked pot,” and that the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP are “un-American” for “trying to force civil rights down the throats of people.” God forbid we all want the same liberties in the U.S. of A.
The Trump administration’s first post-Charlottesville move is to rescind DACA. Charlottesville’s white nationalist rally was fueled by the removal of a statue of a man who was a known slavery defender. Those in attendance chanted “Sieg Heil” and “Blood and Soil”—strong neo-Nazi rallying cries, and ultimately killed one peaceful protester by ramming a car into the crowd. After refusing to call out the outright hate and racism that took place during Charlottesville, during his campaign, and during his entire presidency, Trump continues along a path of what looks more and more like a white nationalist’s agenda. He has removed a program that will put hundreds of thousands of people of color—who have been here since they were children, through no fault of their own—in jeopardy. It appears that ‘Making America Great Again’ equates to making America’s minorities disposable again.
Although we have yet to be the land of the free, we can still be the land of the brave and stand up to injustice. DACA recipients are veterans, doctors, students and hardworking Americans. They represent the foundation of America. They represent the notion that we are all created equal. They represent what America should strive to be: DREAMERS.