September 11, 2017

NOBODY’S OPINIONS | The Death of a Dream

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Since Trump rescinded the DREAM Act a few days ago, a number of articles have appeared on the internet citing the extreme cruelty of his decision. Many of these articles make their point by showing a Hispanic male in their early 20s doing something admirable—graduating as Valedictorian from high school, saving people’s lives during Hurricane Harvey, researching a cure for cancer—and juxtaposing it with the inevitable fate Trump has forced upon them just to gain a few political points: being deported to a country they have never known. While all DREAMers are skilled workers with no criminal record who have little memory of their country of origin, in many respects this picture is highly inaccurate. It exemplifies the tendency of our media to make its readers complacent by not painting an issue with stark, clear strokes, but rather a blurry impressionism that elicits emotion rather than a logical response. In this article, I will explain why Trump’s rescission of the DREAM Act is significantly more damaging to the soul of this nation than the media would have you believe, by repudiating these headlines piece by piece.

Misconception #1: Trump is rescinding DACA for political points – playing to his base

The first part we have to look at, as with anything Trump does, is why. Is this new decision a carefully calculated political maneuver, a wanton act of cruelty, or just something Trump came up with when he saw his shit in the toilet at 3AM and was triggered because it didn’t have blonde hair and blue eyes? The media, of course, has been reporting that Trump is rescinding DACA—with a six month window for Congress to act—as a dog whistle to his supporters who hate brown people. However, Trump complicates this picture by being extremely ambiguous about what it is he’s trying to do. At first glance, his strategy of threatening Congress with the backlash from deporting 800,000 DREAMers seems like effective motivation to get them to act. But upon further inspection, it just puts the Republicans in Congress in an untenable position. After all, these are the same politicians that have campaigned on repealing Obamacare and deporting illegals for the last 10 years, but despite having full legislative power, they “can’t” repeal Obamacare and choose to keep the illegals here? The obvious conclusion is that Republicans don’t really want to repeal Obamacare, and are just using healthcare as an inflammatory issue to get gullible voters to elect candidates who just want to cut taxes for the rich. On the other hand, if the Republicans fail to secure the rights of the DREAMers, they will bear absolute moral responsibility if they are deported, and this will crush their popularity with the minority groups who are rapidly becoming a crucial segment of our electorate.

Trump has so far been publicly ambiguous about what he will do with the DREAMers should Congress fail to act, but it’s very likely he has told Congress of his intentions in this scenario, or lied to them that he will deport every single DREAMer to force them to act, if that is indeed not his intention. In fact, the public can read Trump’s action in two distinct ways: (1) Trump wants comprehensive immigration reform and is doing this to try to force Congress to come up with a permanent solution; or (2) Trump wants to deport all DREAMers, and is using this delay to shield himself from responsibility by pointing to Congress’s inaction. The key is that the American public, and most importantly the DREAMers, don’t know what his intentions are. They can’t, if Trump is to use this as an effective tool for leverage with Congress—the only leverage he has is public opinion. If the citizenry was sure Trump had no intention of deporting these DREAMers, Congress would not be under any pressure. The reverse is also true—if we were sure Trump would deport every single DREAMer, Congress would have strong pressure to act and Trump himself would receive no credit for forcing Congress to do so—they would be seen as acting in opposition to a hostile president and as the real heroes in the situation. Trump makes this duality even more credible by walking back his statements a little bit—seemingly in response to the backlash—but by being “strong on immigration” in the election he leaves us with no safe way to call his bluff, if he is indeed bluffing.

So why is this not an effective strategy? It seems like a good use of limited information to force action on a controversial subject. But what about the DREAMers? If you were told you had six months to stay in this country before being deported to Mexico, what would you do? First thing is you would definitely start learning Spanish to cover your ass. The second thing you would do is make sure you could escape these consequences—getting asylum in Canada, Britain, etc. or hiding where Immigration can’t find you because gambling your life on how charitable Trump feels six months from now is like playing literal Russian roulette. So you stop going to work, you stop going to school, you stop going anywhere you’d be expected to be and you disappear underground. Or maybe you just give up on this country and let what happens, happen—or at least wait it out to see how these six months go.  

But what really are Congress’s options? There are only two remaining choices I can think of. The first is threatening to impeach Trump, or actually impeaching him and making Pence reinstate the DREAM Act as part of a broader narrative of erasing everything Trump has done since taking office. The other is passing some alternative better than deportation but bad enough that Republicans wouldn’t mind it—something like creating special communities for illegal immigrants or DREAMers, which are comparatively unsafe and ruled by “inferior” councils of their own men, making them register in a database and granting them fewer rights compared to normal Americans, like taking away their right to work and vote and receive benefits from the government because they can’t work—oh, wait. I guess maybe we could have them wear a Taco-shaped badge to identify them or something? Which leads me to the next inaccuracy in the picture we’ve been given—out of the current population of eligible DREAMers, a large percentage have no connection to Mexico or Central America at all.

Misconception #2: DREAMers are all Hispanic or Mexican

It is a huge misconception that only Latinos are affected by the DREAM Act. While a majority of DACA recipients are from Mexico or other Central American countries, more than 10% of the millions of DACA-eligible Americans are of Asian origin. To make this more relevant to Cornell, I want to point out that in Queens, more than 30% of the DACA-eligible population is Asian. In New Jersey, Koreans are the 3rd most-represented nationality among DREAMers, after Mexicans and equal with Ecuadorians – Indians are 5th. So much for the Mexican who has to learn Spanish – good luck to the group of 12-year-olds who need to learn Korean and Tamil in the next 6 months without any prior exposure.

Avritzer Dream Stats

Top 5 countries of origin for DREAMers from New Jersey (Source:

These are states with a higher-than-average population of DREAMers, and in them non-Hispanic DREAMers are relatively overrepresented—I wonder why that would be? Perhaps it has something to do with Latinos setting an example by accepting protection, and with the relative normalization of DACA status in these communities. Indeed, the New York Times found that only 30% of eligible Asian immigrants chose to seek DACA protection. But it is important to remember, if you are an Asian-American or African-American and think the rescission of the DREAM Act will only affect Mexicans—you are deathly mistaken. This act will destroy all our communities, and jeopardize the safety of those we hold dear. In ending the DREAM Act, Trump is not discriminating against Hispanic people. He is discriminating against our neighbors and our friends, and threatening to get rid of them unless Congress can act in a bipartisan way to address a hugely controversial issue. Oh well, there goes the neighborhood—literally.

Misconception #3: Trump’s decision is legal, and even if I don’t agree with it, it’s not an existential threat to this nation

Plenty of people will nonetheless argue that Trump has the authority to deport these people, and they have no reason to expect to be allowed to remain here given that they’re here illegally. This is perfectly true—with one caveat. The lack of expected protection does not stem from the fact that these people are here illegally. Why do the citizens and green-card holders, the ones who’ve lived in this country for many years, think they’re safe from the same fate just because they didn’t immigrate illegally? Everyone must know that the government has the physical capability to deport any person at any time. So, why do we think we are safe from such a fate? Because the government has certain laws and acts in place that guarantee its citizens certain rights, like the right to remain in this country. But a guarantee from this administration is much like a huge check Trump gives charities in their time of need—not worth taking to the bank. The DREAMers also had such a guarantee—that as long as they registered with the government and filled out the necessary paperwork, they would be allowed to work and be safe from deportation. With his decision, Trump shows his contempt for “inferior” citizens like DREAMers, just as he tried to endanger green-card holders when he implemented his Muslim ban. Remember that? When Trump originally issued the Muslim ban, it was unclear whether it also applied to permanent residents—I posit that this was intentional, a move by Trump to test the limits of his power against a theoretically protected class of Americans with his ban, using the Muslim ban merely as a pretext. A ban, by the way, that was enforced until the courts stopped it, without any definitive statement by Congress against this obvious abuse of power until it had already happened. If Congress will not defend the weakest among us, how can we trust it to defend anyone when Trump attempts to exercise his power? Indeed, Congress’s power is limited by time, and many times it is up to the citizens of this nation to take care of ourselves and each other—while we still can.

But how can we protect each other? How can we, the powerless folk of this nation, protect these twofold dreams: the dreams of our country, and the dreams of our people? The DREAM Act represents both – it is a legacy from Dr. King, who dreamed of little white boys and little white girls holding hands with little black boys and little black girls—and Hispanic boys and girls, and Asian boys and girls, transforming our nation of discord into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. Trump’s arrogance in believing he can shatter the dreams of our nation as a sacrifice to his ambition is like a storm drowning out the music of our symphony. How apt that it coincides so perfectly with the literal storms, hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Jose, in a fourfold display of human tragedy. Some people believe these aptly-timed storms in the two largest Trump-supporting states are vengeance for this, Trump’s ultimate act of hubris, a divine retribution for all the Republicans who allowed these people’s dreams to be undone by electing a man in violation of God’s doctrine. In reality, this is another part of our dream—that those who we cannot convince through words can be convinced through some supreme, incontestable act of nature that unifies our nation in opposition to the evil acts committed by its leaders. But there are dreams that cannot be, and there are storms we cannot weather. And while we alone cannot undo the death and devastation in Texas or Florida, we have, each and every one of us, an obligation to try and help our fellow man in this greatest hour of his need.

And that time has come. Trump is not attacking Mexican felons who threaten the safety of our homes—he is threatening our neighbors and our friends, because they hold tainted blood—the blood of criminals, who committed the crime of coming to America in search of a better life. But no, he obviously isn’t Hitler—Hitler would put you on a train if you had a drop of impure blood, but Trump at least asks if both your parents were illegals before doing the same. And since Trump isn’t Hitler, we shouldn’t resist him like Hitler—harboring these victims, and protecting them from the law, would be imprudent, and illegal, in a larger sense. Despite questions of morality, we would do these people no favors by giving them our assurances of protection in their time of need—just as this government has broken its word to them, we, as moral and upright people, shouldn’t give these gullible children false hope when we can break our word much more lightly. What we can do is wait, and help them only when the time is right. But this is certain: whether Congress sends them to the ghetto or the Wall, we must protect these people, or we’ll end up the ones in all black.

Avritzer AnneFrank

“For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.” – Elie Wiesel