Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Those words have never felt more meaningful, more necessary than they do today. America has stood as the beacon of acceptance, of freedom and sanctuary throughout our history. We welcomed the Pilgrims, those fleeing religious persecution, those seeking safe passage during times of war, genocide, tyranny. Freedom has meant different things to different people at different times, though. For many of America’s citizens, freedom was about achieving equality. For others, it was about economic prosperity. For others still, it was about simply being able to be safe.
Today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions stood before the nation to announce that DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was being terminated. Fulfilling a campaign pledge, the President of the United States authorized the judicial department to rescind the executive order signed by President Barack Obama in June 2012. No new applications will be accepted after September 5th. To clarify: DACA created a pathway to citizenship for approximately 1.76 million young people who were brought illegally to this country as children by their parents.
Since the program began, approximately 800,000 undocumented immigrants have been granted protection under DACA. DACA requirements include
• Came to the United States before their 16th birthday
• Have lived continuously in the United States since 15 June 2007
• Were under age 31 on 15 June 2012 (i.e., born on 16 June 1981 or after)
• Were physically present in the United States on 15 June 2012, and at the time of making their request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS
• Had no lawful status on 15 June 2012
• Have completed high school or a GED, have been honorably discharged from the armed forces, or are enrolled in school
• Have not been convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanors, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety
Each applicant for DACA paid a $495 fee along with additional fees of up to $575 if they wished to travel outside the U.S. for educational, employment, medical or humanitarian purposes once approved.
91% of current DACA recipients were working, earning an income and contributing to state, local and federal taxes. 9% were in school. These young people had no control over how they came to this country, but they were steadfastly determined to stay, to work hard and to be a part of our democracy in every way possible. They were the very definition of what it meant to be American.
Part of the beauty of the American Dream was that anybody could achieve it. You could be poor, you could be black, you could be a woman, you could be disabled, you could be uneducated, but if you worked hard, you could make something of yourself, something that you could pass down to the next generation, something that you could share with your community. The American Dream extended beyond our borders, giving promise to those who yearned for freedom, opportunity, and equality. They, too, could come here and work hard and achieve their dreams. America was the Golden Door, offering entrance to anyone willing and able to participate in our unique and promising experiment at democracy.
Today, that dream ends for many people outside and inside our country. The door closes upon those whose only crime was being too young to know what was happening to them. The door closes on those were exemplary and notable Americans, like the young rescue Alonso Guillen, who was killed in Houston this week helping to rescue folks stranded from Hurricane Harvey.
Donald Trump seems determined to roll back every act of progress that was made during Obama’s tenure as President. He seems especially dogged to eradicate anything that bears the stamp of Obama’s name.
Take away DACA.
Take away Transgender service in the military.
Take away LGBTQ rights.
Take back the Paris Climate Accords.
Attempt to take back – of course – the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.
Take back the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Pardon Joe Arpaio.
Repeal laws that protect bears, in their dens and with their cubs, from being shot.
Repeal regulation that prevents coal companies from dumping debris and toxic waste into streams and rivers.
Repeal rules that prevent the “mentally incapable” from obtaining firearms.
Nullify a rule that restricts states from withholding funding from family-planning clinics that provide abortions.
Repeal privacy rules that prevent internet service providers from accessing consumer data.
Rollback workplace safety regulations.
The list goes on and on. The repeal of DACA is only the most recent in a long string of repeals and refutations that the Trump Administration is accomplishing, in an attempt to erase the legacy of Barack Obama.
Never mind that such notable business leaders as Tim Cook (Apple), Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) urged the President not to go through with his plans to repeal DACA. Or that at least two states (New York and Washington) have threatened to sue if DACA is rescinded. Or that Republican leadership, including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, publicly stated that repeal of DACA is a bad idea for the country.
Rarely does a new president come into office with the single-minded focus to sweep away everything that his predecessor accomplished? Usually, there are a few items to be “rebooted” with any new administration but only in the case of bitter political rivalries (like Clinton staff allegedly removing the W’s from White House keyboards when George W. Bush was elected) do we see the kind of vicious slashing and burning that this administration is undertaking. It begs the question: what the hell did Obama do to Trump?
There’s the obvious: that Trump never saw Obama as legitimate and kicked off the shameful birther movement with his tweets claiming that he had seen Obama’s real (aka Kenyan) birth certificate. Which never appeared because it didn’t exist. But this feels personal. Why?
Donald Trump is 71 years old. He doesn’t appear to be in great physical fitness, so it’s unlikely that he will live more than another 10-15 years. His reputation (such as it was) was well established, and he would likely have continued to be profitable in his many business ventures (if it isn’t just a house of cards). Even if he wasn’t running for office to boost his negotiating power with NBC over a new “Apprentice” contract, and he truly wanted to serve this nation as our 45th President – why does he seem to have such a personal vendetta against our last president?
I don’t have the answers to that question. I suspect that the President is a deeply racist individual (he is, after all, the son of a KKK member) and that it chafed him when the President taunted him during the Correspondents Dinner in 2011 about the birth certificate debacle. I understand that Trump’s belief system and political agenda differs from Obama’s, greatly. But why the personal animosity? What was Obama doing – or attempting to do – that would have so harmed Trump personally that he became a heat-seeking missile bent on the destruction of Obama’s legacy? Was he threatening his livelihood, his family, his honor? What? No other president has ever come to office with such a vitriolic agenda to undo what his predecessor had done.
For the past ten months, I have felt as though I were dreaming. I thought I was having a terrible nightmare. A nightmare in which a racist, sexist and xenophobic reality show star had somehow gotten elected president of the United States and systematically began dismantling the programs that had given us sweeping progressive success for the past eight years. I thought I might be dreaming that people with valid visas would be turned away at airports, prevented from coming to this country to see their families, visit our landmarks, attend our schools and participate in freaking robotics competitions. I figured I was having a flashback when the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists were marching in American streets with torches, chanting “Jew will not replace me.”
I still feel like I’m having a terrible nightmare and maybe I will wake up. But the truth is that I was dreaming, these past eight years, and that dream has ended.
This is the country we are currently living in. This is happening. And if Trump gets what he wants, we really will not remember our lives before he took office. We won’t remember those who stood with us, at the Women’s March, who worked side by side with us in demonstrating for social justice, who vowed with us to fight for the American Dream even if they came here under different circumstances. We won’t see people who don’t look like us – either they’ll be hiding in their communities or they will flee this great nation. We won’t remember that an African-American president once gave hope to the children of immigrants by offering them a path to citizenship and a chance to be a part of our democracy.
The Dream is over.
Hey now, hey now
Don’t dream it’s over
Hey now, hey now
When the world comes in
They come, they come
To build a wall between us
I no longer know for certain that they won’t win.