Editors Note: Originally published by the author at HuffPost.
Democratic leaders should unite and stand firm against President Donald J. Trump (“Racist-in-Chief” and “Hustler-in-Chief”) and the complicit Republican leaders on passing a clean DACA bill. A clean bill would focus only on DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which provides temporary protections from deportation and work permits for an estimated 800,000 young undocumented immigrants. Implemented by former President Barack H. Obama (“Deporter-in-Chief”) as an executive order on June 15, 2012, Trump announced the phase-out of DACA on September 5, 2017. As a manufactured crisis by Trump, unless Congress acts or the courts successfully intervene on behalf of immigrants, DACA will end on March 5, 2018, creating havoc for hundreds of thousands of undocumented youth. More specifically, if the xenophobic forces in the Trump administration and Congress prevail, the violent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents —la migra— will target the energetic, productive and hard-working youth with mass deportations.
I was originally skeptical of DACA, since I didn’t trust government officials, self-serving politicians or Obama (who, despite his eloquence and brilliance, deported an estimated 2.7 million undocumented immigrants), with the personal data of so many undocumented youth who applied, facilitating mass deportations with future administrations, such as the racist Trump administration. That said, since I was born in this country and am privileged (as a scholar with a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley) to exercise my First Amendment rights without fear of state repression (it might still occur!), I can’t chide the undocumented youth who desperately sought/seek temporary protections to live, work and pursue higher education without the cloud of terror following their every move.
I don’t know what it feels like to be in a constant state of fear or anxiety, not knowing when la migra will deport me (or my parents) at any given day. (Actually, I did grow up in America’s public housing projects, experiencing the horrors of poverty, state violence and hopelessness, but that’s another essay.) For undocumented immigrants, it’s not just la migra. It’s also the police. In non-sanctuary municipalities, for instance, the police and local authorities comply with la migra, where a simple traffic violation could lead to deportation. La migra also targets undocumented immigrants at court hearings. For undocumented parents, dropping off their child or children at school could also lead to deportation. Evidently, even companies like Motel 6 are complicit by sharing their guest lists with “Latino sounding names” with la migra.
In my old barrio, two words describe those who cooperate with repressive authorities: cowardly snitches!
While undocumented immigrants and their allies continue to organize against the racist Trump administration and complicit Republican leaders, Democratic leaders, who depend on the Latina/o vote, have failed miserably. For instance, when Michael Wolff’s explosive book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, had Trump on the ropes by portraying him as being child-like, dumb, unfit, unstable, irrational, incoherent, narcissistic, disloyal, dishonest, womanizer, absentee father and other unfavorable traits for the most powerful man in the world, Democratic leaders met with Trump and Republican leaders on January 9, 2018, to discuss DACA and immigration reform. This included Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX). Televised and moderated by Trump who, despite contradicting himself repeatedly and displaying his gross ignorance on immigration policy in front of the media, was able to change the national discourse away from Wolff’s insightful and explosive book. Obviously, the complicit media (Fox News, MSNBC, CNN) played along, once again, with Trump’s opportunistic photo op.
What’s wrong with the Democratic leaders? Maybe being in the same room with a “moron” like Trump —to use Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s alleged description of his boss— has rubbed off on them? Instead of meeting with Trump and Republican leaders with their pre-conditions to support DACA, such as funding a stupid wall, ending family reunification policies (so-called “chain migration”) and terminating the diversity visa system, the Democratic leaders should’ve demanded their own pre-condition: “We’ll only meet to discuss a clean DACA bill!”
While Trump lied about respecting and accepting any bill proposal that resulted from this flawed bipartisan meeting, in another White House-led immigration meeting (January 11, 2018) with only one Democratic senator in attendance, according to The Washington Post (January 12, 2018) and confirmed by Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-IL) (January 12, 2018), Trump displayed his true colors about black and brown immigrants by referring to African countries, Haiti and El Salvador as “shithole countries.” This racist and grotesque statement provides us with Trump’s underlying rationale for his draconian immigration policies, like ending the temporary protected status (TPS) for immigrants from Nicaragua (November 6, 2017), Haiti (November 20, 2017) and El Salvador (January 8, 2018). While Trump dreams about deporting black and brown immigrants, replacing them with European immigrants from countries like Norway, it’s time for all Democratic leaders to unite and stand firm against a racist White House and complicit Republican Party.
At the end of the day, Democratic leaders must learn from their counterparts when Republican leaders obstructed then-President Obama’s progressive agenda (sidenote: not all of it was progressive, however, like the murderous drones in majority-Muslim countries). By refusing to collaborate with the nation’s first African American president, for instance, Republican leaders successfully blocked Obama’s Supreme Court Justice nominee, Judge Merrick B. Garland. (Thanks to their obstructionist efforts, now we’re stuck with Trump’s reactionary Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch.) Moreover, Democratic leaders must learn to play hardball.
For Democratic leaders, the goal should be that Trump fails to advance his racist and elitist political agenda, like providing funding for his stupid wall (that Mexico will never pay for!), deporting undocumented immigrants in mass, providing welfare benefits for the rich, deregulating industry and destroying our environment.
Thus, Democratic leaders should cultivate and advance viable, progressive candidates to take over the Senate and House in this year’s mid-term elections. By doing so, Democratic leaders will check Trump’s racist and elitist agenda by building a political wall between Congress and the White House. In this context, meeting with Trump and offering to support funds for his stupid wall and draconian immigration measures, among other terrible policies, doesn’t help the cause to derail his regressive political agenda and presidential (re)election of 2020.
Finally, did I mention that Trump is a racist? And that goes for his entire administration and complicit, morally bankrupt Republic Party.
Dr. Alvaro Huerta is an assistant professor of urban and regional planning and ethnic and women’s studies at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. He is the author of Reframing the Latino Immigration Debate: Towards a Humanistic Paradigm, (San Diego State University Press, 2013).