American Dream Turns Into a Nightmare
For 800,000 Dreamers the morning of September 5 saw their American Dream turn into a nightmare. Donald Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the end of Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Introduced in 2012, this allowed undocumented migrants under the age of 16 to obtain residence and work permits lasting two years, extendable if the child is not convicted for a crime.
The child migrants are popularly known as Dreamers after the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (Dream) Act that created the DACA program. As one might guess from this acronym, DACA has a good reputation among most Americans, who cannot understand why young children should be deported to countries with which they may have little or no connection.
Ending DACA had been the subject of debate within the White House. Paul Ryan, Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, publicly urged Trump not to end DACA. His daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kuchner also argued for its continuation, as did White House chief of staff John Kelly.
Trump’s crocodile tears
As recently as April Trump stated in an interview with AP that these young people could “rest easy” since his anti-immigration policies were “not after the Dreamers, [but] after the criminals.”
He even put on a sickening show of a leader torn between his heart and his head: “The DACA situation is a very difficult thing for me, as I love these kids, I love kids. I have kids and grandkids, and I find it very, very hard doing what the law says exactly to do and, you know, the law is rough.”
In reality all he is conflicted about is whether to lose yet more popular support or risk his reputation with his reactionary social base, which expect him to stop all illegal immigrants from obtaining jobs that could otherwise be filled by Americans – despite the fact that US unemployment is at its lowest level since 2001.
Yet when Texas and nine other states threatened legal action if DACA were not rescinded by 8 September, Jeff Sessions, who has strong links to the alt-right himself, overrode these powerful voices in the President’s inner circle. He argued DACA was unconstitutional, that Obama had enacted it without support from Congress.
The final decision to terminate the program rests with Congress, while a six-month transitional period and a commission to work out a follow-up solution take effect.
Nevertheless, the right wing is reassured by the fact that, before the six-month deadline expires, investigations can be launched and that, if “accumulations of misdemeanors” can be found, then mass deportations can still be justified. Dreamers and their families remain in a state of acute anxiety and uncertainty.
Being thrust back into illegality is a bleak and difficult prospect. To lift their illegal status five years ago, Dreamers handed in a host of their details in confidence, which will make it easier for United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to track them down.
The protests on 5 September by Dreamers and their supporters are encouraging. Over the past decade, these young people, who came to the US as children, have built a political movement: speaking out, staging demonstrations, building alliances and putting pressure on lawmakers to grant them a legal foothold.
Emerging from the undocumented underground, in 2012 they wrested a victory from Barack Obama by protesting, lobbying and shaming him for his record of aggressive deportations. His two Administrations carried out 2.5 million deportations between 2009 and 2015 – a record 419,384 in 2012 alone. But he was forced to use his executive authority to create DACA.
Now a truly mass campaign needs to be built starting with other migrant workers’ organizations, but reaching out to the trade unions, political organizations like the Democratic Socialists of America, Black Lives Matter, and the radical left.
Of course the campaign’s first objective should be to reverse the President’s decision on DACA. In this task no reliance can be placed on Republicans like Ryan or Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, let alone the Republican Congress. Nor can they rely on the Democrats.
They can only find help in powerful mass mobilizations on the street, civil disobedience, including mass withdrawals of labor, like the famous Day without Immigrants general strike in 2006, when the streets of America rang to the cry “Si, se puede” (the original “Yes, we can”). And we can do it again.
Our goals should be extended from keeping DACA to full citizenship rights for all undocumented immigrants. We must not let ourselves be divided along the lines of our different countries of origin. Americans born in the USA need to join the movement in force, rejecting Trump’s “nativism” and proclaiming the unity of working people.
Local action committees should be set up where we can organize democratically, plan joint actions and coordinate them nationally. These action committees should be seen as a starting point to bring together the many different campaigns against Trump, in order to unite the different axes of resistance. Democratic organization and coordination at the grassroots can be the starting point for the development of an urgently needed third political force in US politics: a new working class party able to lead a real nationwide resistance.