Walt Whitman (over 150 years ago): “We Americans have yet to really learn our own antecedents, and sort them, to unify them. Those who believe that the United States is a mere Anglo-Saxon country are wrong.” He also noted the “Latin race contributions to the American nationality.”
“To unify them” or assimilate them and accept them has been America’s ongoing challenge. Trump wants an Anglo-Saxon America, and to wall out all others, but that possibility has long ago disappeared. He has been particularly virulent against the “Latin race” which contributes so much today and is growing more rapidly than Anglo-Saxons. Robert Frost in his polemic against building walls said, “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling out, and to whom I was like to give offense.” In the last article in this series we return to discuss the powerful sway of the federal government and the need to counter our president.
A Stockton poll this week indicates New Jerseyans strongly support Dreamers but are more cautious on legal immigration.
- “Do you support or do you oppose allowing undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children to remain in the United States and apply for citizenship?” Support: YES 74.9% Oppose NO 19.7%.”
- “Which one of the following do you think should happen regarding legal immigration into the United States: Immigration level should remain the same: 45.6%, fewer immigrants should be allowed in: 27.1%; more immigrants should be allowed in: 17.3%.” While remaining the same is not necessarily bad for the moment, the reality is that our white population is aging and decreasing so we will need more immigrants to fill jobs and keep our economy growing.
What we need is a new comprehensive immigration law that addresses all unauthorized and authorized immigrants and grants a path to citizenship for many. However, so far Trump and Republicans and Democrats in Congress are only discussing DACA and DREAMERS. To achieve this limited goal Trump insists on the expensive and ineffective Wall, plus, an end to both the diversity visa and family reunification – a non-starter. So we are at an impasse.
DREAMERS are undocumented immigrants, some 2.6 million, who were brought here illegally as children and have grown up in America knowing nothing about their own countries. DACA recipients, a subset of some 690,000, also came here illegally as children, but they enrolled in DACA after meeting strict criteria which allows them temporary lawful status with work authorization. Many Dreamers did not apply for DACA, often because they were afraid that providing their address might lead them to being deported. They are in a more tenuous situation.
What is the status now of Dreamers and DACA recipients?
Because petulant Trump did not get his $25 Billion for the wall and his other demands, he recently said “DACA is dead.” However, his administration has approved 55,000 initial and renewal applications just this year. Trump planned to phase out the program and rescind work permits for hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients, but federal district judges issued nationwide injunctions blocking those plans for at least for a while. Dreamers are still in limbo, and 9,160 immigrants with pending renewal applications have already lost their DACA status and work authorization.
In 2013 The Senate “Gang of Eight” managed to pass a somewhat comprehensive immigration plan, but the House turned it down. Democrats have been trying unsuccessfully to get a DREAM Act passed for 16 years. So the fight to protect all Dreamers is far from over and consideration for other immigrants is further down the line. It might be more realistic now to pass a bill that would just continue the DACA program, but even that could fail if Trump continues with his insane demands.
There is a lot to protest in terms of federal actions. Through the Justice and Homeland Security Departments Trump is chipping away at the wellbeing and reducing the number of all immigrants.
- The arrest rate has doubled, and increasingly includes non-crimiminals and others who innocently appear at court houses.
- The deportation rate has been slower because of the backlog, but AG Sessions is increasing the number of judges and urging them to be more strict.
- At the Mexican border more people are being immediately turned back including those who seek asylum.
- Sessions continues to threaten Sanctuary Cities, but there is a pending lawsuit against that.
- Trump’s plans to cut overall legal immigration rates are designed to delay the date that White Americans become a minority. The plan would scale back a program that allows people residing in the United States to sponsor family members living abroad for green cards, and would eliminate the “diversity visa program” that benefits immigrants in countries with historically low levels of migration to the United States. Together, the changes would disproportionately affect immigrants from Latin America and Africa.
- He also wants people to be denied a green card if an immigration officer concludes they are “likely” to receive even just one form of government assistance, such as children’d Heath Insurance, Medicaid, SNAP and more.
Our work is cut out for us. Being in the midst of midterm elections only makes legislation more difficult, but protests must continue.The opportunity to achieve some of our objectives will be greatly helped if we gain control of one or both houses of Congress. Regardless, ringing in my ears are the words of Neil Diamond’s song Coming to America: “Far. We’ve been traveling far Without a home But not without a star. Free. Only want to be free. We huddle close. Hang on to a dream… On the boats and on the planes They’re coming to America.” We need them and we must learn to cherish them.
To access all articles in the series go to the SEARCH function above and enter: Immigration Yesterday Today Tomorrow or click on the slider on the front page when you see the immigration series featured.