the daca repeal shows that ‘dreamers’ should be naturalized, not left with vulnerable undocumented status

September 7, 2017
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On Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration is ending DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), the program implemented under the Obama administration allowing undocumented people brought into the United States as children to legally live and work, in six months.

Given the thinly-veiled racism underlying Session’s announcement speech, as well as the even less veiled racism constituting his entire public life, this move was rightly called out for the hateful act against Black and Brown immigrants that it was.

Of course, as Trump’s entire campaign was ran (and won) on this hate, the repeal itself was not too surprising—though that certainly doesn’t mean it is any less devastating to the millions it will affect across the country (there are nearly 800,000 undocumented persons protected by the program). What is perhaps more surprising, however, is how criticisms of the move overlooked the fatal flaws within DACA and the Obama administration themselves, the very same oversight that might have led us right here in the first place.

Inherent to its name, DACA always kept the door open to the possibility of the Trump administration’s current actions. Rather than naturalizing people brought in as children, the Obama administration only “deferred” their punishment, while continuing to criminalize their parents and deporting them at unprecedented rates.

By exploiting this urge to overlook the lesser evil when faced with the greater (a practice the Democratic party knows all too well), Obama was thus able to falsely claim a moral high-ground, rebuking Trump’s repeal of DACA as “cruel” in a viral statement, without ever having to answer for his own cruelty as “deporter-in-chief.”

In addition to illuminating the bombastic type of racism that is still deeply entrenched in this country, Trump’s administration should offer insight into how liberal ideals of conceding the dehumanization of some in the face of abuse for the sake of mild “progress” always leads to further abuse down the line. These concessions are what neoliberalism demands, but if you only ever resort to choosing the lesser of two evils, when will you ever find yourself facing anything good?

As we rally around the immigrant communities affected by Trump’s actions (without forgetting that some of them are Black), we must commit to not just getting things back to the way they were, but to ensuring that this can never happen again in the first place. To #DefendDACA is not enough, because DACA was never enough. We cannot win by criminalizing the actions of immigrants trying to survive simply to win a concession of “deferred” action against their children. The charge now is to challenge whether a government of colonization has the moral authority to dictate whose living here is criminal and whose isn’t, because it will never dictate without abuse, whether that abuse is deferred or not.

In the meantime, here are some tips for if you or someone you know is harassed by immigration officials (fliers in Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Spanish and English).


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