March 21, 2017

Should the United States Deport the Dreamers?

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A friend of mine teaches mathematics at a local high school.

She has a degree in mathematics, but she may well be deported back to Mexico and seized by Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

Why? She committed a crime: When she was three years old, her mother carried her on her back across the border into the United States from Mexico.

A recent report suggests that in California, a teacher shortage is “most acute in mathematics, science, and special education,” and that “California must take purposeful steps now if the state is to avoid more acute, widespread shortages of teachers.”

My friend isn’t taking anyone’s job who is a citizen of the United States. So, why deport her? A frequent argument is that “the sins of the parents must be borne by their children.”

This kind of thinking is probably based on the writings of Bronze Age writers like the author of Exodus 20.5.” :

“I am Yahweh your God, am a jealous God. I punish a parent’s fault on the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those who hate me.”

“Exodus 20.5” was written in a time when people held the belief that the earth was flat and the stars were in fixed positions. This passage from the bible about the sins of parents being passed onto their children is in the same category as saying “the earth is flat.” They are both born of ignorance.

Another argument as to why my friend should be deported is: “Why should my taxes go to pay for an illegal’s education.” I suppose the response is that the taxes my math teacher friend will pay during her lifetime, in the United States, will greatly exceed whatever part of her tuition taxpayers paid toward the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) government program.

My friend is referred to as a “Dreamer.” This simply means an unauthorized immigrant who came to the United States before age 16. Those approved for the DACA program, instituted by President Obama, are given a work permit and protection from deportation for two years. Benefits can be renewed. This allowed my friend to come out of the shadows and get her degree and teaching credentials.

But now, although Trump says he has “a big heart” for Dreamers, it seems they are being detained or deported. On February 16, lawyers for a detained “Dreamer” went to court seeking his immediate release and calling his arrest unconstitutional, but a federal magistrate didn’t release him. Lawyers and supporters of Daniel Ramirez Medina said they were disappointed the 23-year-old would not be freed. Under Obama policies, dreamers like Medina were protected. Under “The Donald;” he still is being detained.

In another case, Daniela Vargas was released from federal detention on March 10; her fate in the United States is still up in the air, highlighting the uncertainty Dreamers face under the new administration.

The 22-year-old college student was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on March 1. She was born in Argentina, and has been in the United States since the age of seven. Again, she is a Dreamer, and like Medina, was supposedly protected by DACA. She was detained and released, but she can be deported at any time.

For now, however, more than 750,000 Dreamers will remain in legal limbo.

How can Homeland Security ICE agents have such arbitrary power? Ask Donald. On January 25, 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” that potentially makes almost every undocumented immigrant a deportation priority. They don’t even need a criminal record.

The Executive Order is premised on Trump’s belief that “many” of the 11 million immigrants in the country without papers pose a “significant threat national security and public safety.” This language, combined with a later clause empowering low-level immigration officers to deport anyone based on their singular judgment that someone poses a “risk to public safety or national security,” is a clear signal that President Trump wants his Deportation Force to feel completely empowered to target anyone.

So, my teacher friend’s response to living in a world of uncertainty is to have headaches, dizzy spells, and severe depression. She is married to an American citizen, which means nothing under Trump’s deportation rules. They have a precious little boy, Enrique, age five. She could be torn away from her family and job at any moment.

She lives in a police state where there is no law. What are her options? Her church is a “sanctuary church,” but it does not have a living space for her or her family yet. There are many sanctuary churches in the Los Angeles area that are prepared to provide living spaces on their church grounds or in private homes for undocumented immigrants.

A national movement among progressive churches to build an “underground railroad” for the undocumented to go to Canada is underfoot. Meanwhile, my friend has a support group of fellow Dreamers and relatives, and that is helpful. What she would do without her husband and son, I don’t know.

What is the takeaway here, what can the reader do? I believe that when Homeland Security/ICE begins to seriously deport Dreamers and other undocumented people, there will be a national movement against this. Sanctuary churches will convert classrooms and other facilities into living quarters. Showers and other other amenities will be installed. You can be part of that activity. Turning your home into a sanctuary to protect dreamers will at least temporarily hide them, but when federal agents bang on your door, and have a warrant naming undocumented people signed by a judge, you must release them lest you be arrested for harboring them. Before turning your home into a sanctuary, seek legal advice from an attorney.

I think there could be a national movement against removal of Dreamers and other undocumented. There could be mass demonstrations to become a part of. Such demonstrations, I can testify as an organizer, stopped the Vietnam War.

As for organizations which protect immigrant rights in the Los Angeles area, ALTOTRUMP! is probably the most effective.

If you are currently represented in Congress or the Senate by a Republican, unless that person is highly unusual in his/her views on the subject, join the Democratic Party candidate’s campaign to replace him/her.

Returning to my friend the mathematics teacher, I don’t know if she can stand the stress of living in this police state where federal agents have virtually unlimited power against people in her situation. I frequently lay awake at night wondering if I am willing to go to jail for harboring a person labeled a criminal by Donald Trump.

My own life would be a bit easier if I didn’t know a real life Dreamer who could be separated from her husband and son; it would be calmer if the term were just an abstraction as it is to millions of us.


Author: Keith Shirey

Image: Todd Dwyer/ Flickr

Editor: Deb Jarrett


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