BY SUSAN ESTRICH
I keep thinking of that as I see the pictures of the “Dreamers” and their mothers.
How can we punish these children? What are these mothers to do?
How cruel can you get?
I get as angry as the next person when I hear stories of illegal immigrants “farming” the government, collecting benefits I pay for, while I’m still working six days a week. But not at their children. Not at kids who are mostly in school and/or employed, playing by the rules, paying taxes, keeping out of trouble, studying and working.
“Dreamers” – that is, beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program – aren’t the gang members hanging out at the corner. The “Dreamers” are the kids who have school and work permits for which they reapply every two years, though they’ll no longer be able to after Oct. 5, when the Department of Homeland Security stops accepting any renewal requests. [The office already stopped accepting initial DACA applications on Tuesday.]
The “Dreamers” are the kids serving in the military, risking their lives for this country, coming home to earn college degrees, working on the books because the program lets them.
No one ever promised that DACA was a path to citizenship, but why shouldn’t it be?
Why shouldn’t these young Americans – who were brought to the United States by their parents as children, grew up here, stayed in school, found jobs, stayed out of trouble, paid their taxes – be treated as other young Americans are?
There’s a myth that nothing could be easier than coming here illegally, raising your children without papers and living a life in the shadows in the hopes that someday you can come into the light. It’s not easy. Giving these kids a chance after they’ve met all the requirements is not likely to spur a new wave of immigration. Is there anyone in the world who is so out of touch that they think that Trump’s America is rolling out the welcome mat? Imagine how desperate you would have to be to still be trying, braving the heat, the storms, the obstacles of Mother Nature and President Donald Trump.
There is, of course, the other half of the equation. Who, exactly, is going to rebuild Texas after Hurricane Harvey and, God forbid, Florida after Hurricane Irma? Would that include the hundreds of thousands of construction workers who we will need to come flooding across the border if we are ever to have a chance of recovery in the short run?
That’s always been the dirty little underside of the immigration debate: politicians who, despite declaring themselves as anti-immigration, have employed a nanny or housekeeper here illegally. And what would they do without that cheap labor? No more gardeners in Los Angeles. No more low-cost cleaning ladies, whom, sadly, some of the wealthiest folks in town prefer. No more farm workers to pick the grapes and the strawberries. What will happen to the restaurant industry?
And so it goes. We have long been a nation of hypocrites when it comes to immigration, celebrating our past even as we ignore its lessons, saying one thing in public and doing another in private, talking tough and then cutting corners. Hypocrisy is nothing new.
But cruelty is. The Trump Administration turned an ugly corner this week. Hopefully, Congress will rescue our soul.
– Susan Estrich’s columns appear regularly in The Oklahoma Observer