Dumping the children
Once again, President Trump lied when he broke his pledge to treat the Dreamers with “great heart” as he succumbed to his campaign promise to deport nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as children, 13,000 of whom are Nevadans. It’s obvious he doesn’t believe in the U.S. values expressed by Emma Lazarus in her famous sonnet inscribed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. As long as people like Trump’s immigrant Eastern European wife are allowed in, no need to worry about the huddled masses.
Even in these volatile times, there is one group of immigrants who inspire widespread sympathy and support—the children who came to the United States with their undocumented parents in search of a better life for their families. They came as babies and as teenagers and one, Astrid Silva, Nevada’s most famous Dreamer, arrived as a little girl clutching her tattered doll. These young people grew up in the United States, graduating from our high schools, working long hours at tedious jobs, going to college, becoming the teachers, the paramedics and the firefighters we depend upon.
Dreamers serve in our military and volunteer for dangerous assignments at home, putting their lives on the line to give back to their adopted country. One Dreamer, Alonso Guillen, worked as a disc jockey under the name DJ Ocho until he lost his life during Hurricane Harvey as he rescued flood victims. These are the people Trump and his compadres want to toss away.
In June of 2012, President Obama issued his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, known as DACA, granting the Dreamers authorization to work and protecting them from deportation. Trump promised to end DACA on his first day in office, but he delayed the decision, by many accounts, realizing how cruel it would be to deport young people to countries they barely knew. Meanwhile, anti-immigrant zealots like Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his like-minded state attorneys general insisted he keep his campaign promise.
Opposition to ending DACA has been steadily building this year, as nearly 2,000 elected officials and community leaders signed a letter in support of the program. The website www.withdreamers.com lists just six Nevada officials in support of DACA, although there are many more. State Senator Yvanna Cancela, West Wendover Mayor Daniel Corona, Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve, Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, Reno City Councilmember Jenny Brekhus and Las Vegas City Councilmember Bob Coffin signed the letter.
It’s up to Congress now. Democratic Sen. Christopher Murphy of Connecticut expressed the wishes of millions of Americans who still believe in the dream of America’s melting pot when he tweeted to Republicans that “your moment has come. Every Democrat will join you. Show the courage and grace to save these children, and our nation.”
Republicans risk sparking national unrest by treating DACA recipients and their lives so cavalierly. Already, high school and university students have staged walk-outs from classrooms, and they and their allies are loudly protesting, sometimes with direct action, at congressional offices throughout the country.
Nevada Republicans issued generic statements of support for DACA and the Dreamers, but the time for hollow words has passed. Action is now required. That means Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Mark Amodei must actively engage in finding a solution, such as passing H.R. 3591, the American Hope Act of 2017 to allow Dreamers to earn Conditional Permanent Resident status. And Gov. Brian Sandoval must use his considerable influence within the Republican Party to persuade Congress to act promptly and decisively.
Dreamers are as American as the rest of us. Years from now, our children and grandchildren will ask us what we did to defend the Dreamers in their hour of need. What will we tell them?