First they came for the Socialists and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.
Over 700,000 immigrants and migrants brought to this country as children continue to await their fate as Congress wages a political budget battle employing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals as the wedge issue within a larger immigration policy shift. After the Administration rescinded DACA in September, the fate of the Dreamers and the resurrection of DACA has been tied to the passage of a budget that could spell out a path to citizenship for Dreamers while also requiring money for Trump’s wall on the southern border and a curtailing of legal immigration as he makes manifest his take on a national identity.
In the midst of this strategic negotiation, real lives are unraveling with undocumented immigrants and migrants being picked up, detained and deported back to their home country even after building a life in the United States for 15, 30, 40 years. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and Customs and Border Protection have been given license and budget to seek proof of residency or work status, and the 2018 Budget, called The New Foundation for American Greatness, proposed by the Trump Administration allocates $44.1 billion for the Department of Homeland Security to fund more agents and detention facilities among other anti-immigrant policies and practices.
This position against immigrants isn’t a new ideological stance swept in with this Administration. As recent as 2013 and during the prior administration, more than 80% of deportations were without official judicial review, which had been embedded as a standard following the establishment of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees in 1951 (Sarah Stillman, The New Yorker, January 25 2018) and detention and deportations have been steadily rising. But 2017 has brought immigration to the forefront of ideological and political positioning beginning with the Muslim ban at this Administration’s inception and ever present in the rhetoric put forth through tweeted presidential white papers.
Efforts to oppose nativist thinking about who belongs in this country by addressing over 500 years of history including original inhabitants and caretakers of the land is an argument that does not resonate with those espousing American nationalism. Our history, which has cultivated cultural erasure, does not engender humility or understanding of our embodiment of immigration and migration as the cornerstone to this nation’s founding and growth.
So we find ourselves within a nation led by a figurehead who promotes an increasingly isolationist and nationalist construct in an effort to create an identity that has never truly existed. Given a year’s worth of spewed rhetoric, we know that to “Make America Great Again” means to make America White–for the first time. The obvious irony of Trump’s anti-immigrant principle is that he married an immigrant who may have “chain-migrated” her parents to the US. But he has never allowed the facts of his life to deter any contradictory policies he advances.
The status of Dreamers, however, largely finds support among a majority of Americans. Stories abound of a husband and father who was deported back to Jordan after building a life for forty years in the US; of a 39 year old father who had lived in the US since he was 9, deported back to Mexico; a mother deported after 21 years in the US who left behind her two teenage children, and multiply this by 27,000 to know the number of lives upended in 2017.
Unlike other historical moments that are marked by silence on the part of the American people, including the fate of the MS St. Louis conveying Jewish refugees denied entry into the US and the Executive Order 9066 which led to the incarceration of Japanese Americans across the US during WWII, Executive Order 13769, referred to as the Muslim ban and the plight of the Dreamers has not gone unnoticed by a vociferous, persistent constituency that will not be quieted or worn down by the onslaught of egregious policy making.