Dare to dream

Threats to DACA threaten the narrative of America’s generosity

The author has taught in the Department of English at Chico State for 28 years.

Without the hope and promise of an American dream, President Donald J. Trump would not exist. That is not fake news. It is a singular truth.

His mother, the late Mary Anne MacLeod, emigrated from Scotland in the early 1930s. At the age of 18, she arrived in New York City with $50 in her purse. She worked as a domestic servant for the next five years before marrying Fred Trump. Although she never broke immigration law, she came in and out of the country under dubious circumstances, making false claims about her legal status on her re-entry permits to the U.S. After all, she did not become a naturalized citizen until 1942.

I am sympathetic to the strategies used by Mrs. Trump to overcome the ambiguities of her legal status because, since 1977 when I first arrived at Indiana University on a scholarship from the United Kingdom, I made similar choices. During the 20-year period when my visa status changed from J-1 to H-1 to resident alien and finally legal citizen, I was not always honest in the way I declared my status when I re-entered the U.S.

Yet America was generous enough to overlook the “white lies” perpetrated by Mrs. Trump and me. America was big-hearted enough to allow us to fulfill our dreams. In her case, she became an important New York socialite and mother to a future president. In my case, I became a professor of English literature in the Golden State. It’s a familiar narrative, one that we share with countless generations before us.

This is what makes the president’s latest decision to terminate DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) so unconscionable, counterproductive and, frankly, so un-American. Right now, 800,000 so-called “Dreamers,” many of whom have lived here since they were children, live in fear of deportation. In most cases, they have broken no laws, have paid their taxes, and have pursued lofty education goals in search of a dream.

Unless we push back forcefully against the president’s decision, it would surely be no exaggeration to say that the American dream has ceased to be the cornerstone of our core narrative.