By MOHAMED HAMALUDIN
This much must be conceded about President Donald Trump: He is determined to fulfill his campaign promises with perhaps greater zeal than many of his predecessors in office. Case in point is his hardline immigration policy, including his pledge to vigorously deport undocumented immigrants. But his zealous drive to send as many of the 11 million or so of them as possible back to their home countries lacks compassion and an empathy for the vulnerable.
The plight of the undocumented immigrants whose parents brought them into the country, some as infants, cries out for such consideration. The Senate Democrats who could not hold the line this week in demanding that these young people continue to be protected from deportation will be just as complicit in what will most likely be their mass expulsion.
The federal government shut down over the past weekend because Democratic senators, in particular, refused to endorse a spending bill to keep it open unless the status of the youngsters was resolved.
The Democrats found themselves being portrayed as villainous anti-Americans by the Trump propaganda machine. He took to Twitter, as usual, to accuse them of putting foreigners over the interests of Americans. And a Trump campaign aired with a voice in the background saying, “Democrats who stand in our way will be complicit in every murder committed by illegal immigrants.”
Instead of going on the offensive also and pointing out the fundamental unfairness in subjecting the youngsters to deportation, the Democrats surrendered and, by midday Monday, they accepted a vague promise from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) to address their concerns. But even if that happens, the fact is that Trump and the Republicans will not agree to any softening of his immigration policy.
But this is not a matter of foreigners versus Americans. A look at the story of the young immigrants shows that the Democrats were right to hold out for a deal to legalize their stay in the country and wrong to yield the advantage to Trump. Instead, they put votes over principles.
The dispute centers on President Barack Obama’s signing an executive order in 2012 providing the young immigrants temporary reprieve from deportation. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals order or DACA initially covered about 1.5 million people, a number that is about 800,000 now, called the “Dreamers” after a failed comprehensive immigration reform initiative called the Dream Act.
Those covered by DACA had to meet certain criteria, including coming to the U.S. before their 16th birthday, having no criminal background, living in the country continuously since June 15, 2007, and periodically applying for an extension of their stay. About 799,077 were approved for renewals. DACA does not grant them citizenship, just reprieve from deportation.
An overwhelming number of the “Dreamers” came from Mexico and others coming from more than 20 other countries, including and Guyana, Jamaica, Nigeria and Trinidad and Tobago, according to a Washington Post story dated last Sept. 7. The paper also cited a report from the Migration Policy Institute that the 11 million undocumented immigrants include about 600,000 blacks.
The Black Alliance for Just Immigration, The Post said, is concerned about deportation generally because blacks “are detained and deported at five times the rate of other populations of undocumented people.” This should stir the passions of African Americans.
For the “Dreamers,” deportation would mean being expelled to home countries which most of them do not know or where violence is endemic.
Trump, who has dubbed DACA “illegal amnesty” and claims it threatens American jobs and culture – meaning white culture, of course — announced in September an end to the program. That means as of March 2020 the “Dreamers” would all be subject to deportation.
It is surprising that there was not an outpouring of support for the Democrats during the weekend impasse. Whether elsewhere in the country and in the world around or in Florida, where the “Dreamers” number around 32,800, the hundreds of large women’s rallies did not seem to have DACA as a priority, judging from some of the news reports.
While Trump blithely believes he has a mandate to ride roughshod over those who oppose him, the presidency is not The Apprentice. It is a democracy with checks and balances against over-reach of power. A CBS News report quoted by The Hill news site on Jan. 18 said almost nine in 10 Americans polled want the “Dreamers” to be able to stay in the country.
In that context, it is good to ponder on William Shakespeare’s admonition in The Merchant of Venice:
The quality of mercy is not strain’d, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes The throned monarch better than his crown; His sceptre shows the force of temporal power, The attribute to awe and majesty…
President Trump may not be as partisan to Shakespeare as he is to Fox News so perhaps someone should read this quotation to him.