Trump’s DACA repeal provides chance at national unity

Editor’s note: This was originally published in the Sept. 7 issue of The Campus Weekly.

After a long weekend of waiting, we finally got the announcement: the Trump administration has officially announced the rescinding of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, commonly known as DACA.

The decision was more or less expected, following an informal announcement of Mr. Trump’s intent late last week. The formal announcement gives Congress six months to figure out a legislative solution to the order.

The decision has drawn widespread and condemning criticism – perhaps the harshest rebuke of any controversial Trump decision to date (and there have been many).

Bernie Sanders characterized the order as “the ugliest and most cruel decision ever made by a president of the U.S. in the modern history of this country.” President Obama also called the move “cruel,” and many opponents of the repeal took to Facebook and other social media to slam Mr. Trump’s decision as well as those who voted for him.

Alex Shawver, a graduate student in music, expressed dismay and challenged Trump supporters to defend the President’s decision:

“Could any of my conservative friends please share with me their thoughts on Trump’s decision to end the livelihoods of hundreds of innocent law-abiding immigrants who pay taxes and contribute to the most valuable parts of our society? Surely this is a line for you. Surely you can’t support this.”

Other posts were more aggressive, calling out Trump supporters as directly responsible for ruining the lives of countless hard-working immigrants who had been promised a fair deal.

I am always skeptical of attempts to pin direct responsibility for any government’s or president’s actions on voters.

People vote for an astonishing variety of reasons, and assuming support for particular actions or reducing voting behavior to black and white notions of “responsibility” is risky at best and wildly irresponsible at worst.

But I do tend to agree with Mr. Shawver: there ought to be lines.

So I find myself asking, for the umpteenth time since Mr. Trump took office: when is enough enough? What will it take for voters to realize they have made a mistake?

I think that too often those of us who did not support Mr. Trump desire public confessions of guilt from those who did. Much of my family voted for him; I won’t deny that a part of me wants to hear them say those three magic words: “I was wrong.”

But the larger and more rational side of me simply wants them and their fellow one-time Trump supporters – to vote him out in 2020.

I want them to vote out the members of Congress who went back on their promises to resist him, and instead enabled his embarrassing and destructive behavior.

It’s hard to predict what will actually happen with the DACA repeal. It may indeed lead to a policy disaster, and ruin the lives of hundreds of thousands of hard-working, young and bright Americans who, for the most part, cannot remember ever calling another country home.

But Mr. Trump appears to have little to nothing in the way of a plan to guide Congress through the repeal. Like healthcare and tax reform before, immigration was a Trump “day one” priority on which he has utterly failed to seriously and thoughtfully follow through.

Indeed, the DACA announcement may be nothing more than an attempt to blackmail congressional Democrats into supporting Mr. Trump’s infamous border wall – something they appear extremely unlikely to do.

So, my hope is that Congress works out a plan in which the Dreamers are, in one way or another, allowed to stay. Perhaps it will even advance a more comprehensive immigration reform bill, though I seriously doubt it.

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José Manuel Santoyo speaks at SMU's December 2016 convocation Photo credit: SMU

My larger hope is that Trump supporters realize that they have been played with direct and shameless emotional appeals from the start of his campaign: the wall never was anything more.

Nor was immigration reform itself – otherwise, why begin that reform process by rescinding the most successful and least controversial component of the current apparatus for dealing with undocumented immigrants?

Concrete, tangible and realistic policy goals are not a component of Mr. Trump’s strategy. It is generous to say he has a strategy in the first place.

He is not a results man, but an orders man—in Trump’s world, results are demanded, assumed and lied about but never actually achieved.

He is not a businessman, but a bully. Some of his supporters (I’m thinking of the alt-right and young, would-be macho frat boys who still rave about the legendary greatness of THE MOOCH) find his behavior—“style of governing” would be too generous, as Trump does no governing—exciting and worthy of preening adulation. Sensible people, on the other hand, find it abhorrent.

Trump’s continued refusal to take any interest in policy or curb his juvenile behavior ought to be seen for what it is, and what many have been calling it all along: the trappings of a man who is uniquely unfit for office and a man who does not deserve any further support from anyone.

I remain optimistic that many of his supporters will come to see this before the next election cycle. I retain my hope that this country might actually unify itself in opposition to such blatantly irresponsible and senseless decisions.

I would say one more thing: remember your friends who are affected by this tragedy, and reach out to them. Remember your extraordinary dumb luck that you are able to live and work here—just as Dreamers do—without fear of deportation.

And if you do have to fear deportation, I’d like to say this: I’m so, so sorry.

It’s not worth much, and it may seem silly, but right now it’s the only thing I can think to say.

Many others in this country are sorry, and I think that some day this country will be too. Someday, even the Trump supporters who refuse to look reason and compassion in the face will realize their folly.

Until then, la lucha continúa. Here’s my friend and DACA recipient José Manuel Santoyo, speaking truth to power and exemplifying courage every day of his life:

“Over 800,000 DACA recipients submitted their information to the government and payed millions of dollars to have temporary protection from deportation. Now, this administration’s deportation machine has access to those records.

We knew from the beginning this program was temporary, and could be taken away by any new administration. So now more than ever, it’s time for Congress to act and pass a bill that protects immigrants from deportation, and gives us an opportunity to adjust our status without criminalization of our parents and more militarization that terrorizes our communities.”

Tell us what you think.