Washington, DC – Below is a column by Maribel Hastings and David Torres from America’s Voice en Español translated to English from Spanish. It ran in several Spanish-language media outlets earlier this week.
The 15th of June marks the tenth anniversary of the executive order that ex-President Barack Obama issued creating Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which extended work permits and deportation relief to thousands of young undocumented immigrants who arrived before 2007.
A decade later, DACA faces many legal hurdles and, in fact, a court ruling limits it to renewing work permits, not accepting new applications. Around 100,000 young people will graduate from high school this year without the possibility of obtaining a work permit, a situation that complicates their immediate reality, as well as that of their families and neighbors.
Their middle and long term plans remain in limbo from this moment on, as their professional development is truncated, their eventual work experience in their areas of academic interest definitively limited and, therefore, the livelihood they dreamed about for themselves and their loved ones is reduced to a job that they never imagined, due to their interest in higher education.
The DACA anniversary is a reminder of the fragility of the program and the inaction of Congress to provide a permanent solution, whether it be just for “Dreamers” or as part of that elusive migration reform.
And these days, as electoral winds blow, that inaction and delay in Congress is not limited to immigration, but also other measures, such as gun control bills—in a nation sowing cowboy culture, where everything is resolved with bullets. In recent days, on top of the massacres in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas, incidents multiplied in diverse cities around the country, ending in shootings, deaths, and wounded people.
The international projection of these images has once again rebalanced this system of “liberties”—poorly understood, and even worse regulated—that makes the United States, and especially its society, a laughingstock of human history: as a nation that has so much, but lacks the common sense to change the impulse of its militarized psychology.
Because if someone thought that the murder of children in Uvalde would change the minds of Republicans and the powerful gun lobbyists to have greater regulation—or even just keep military arms out of reach of unbalanced young people under 18 years of age, in gun and pawn shops—well, that would be a mistake. The massacre of children in Sandy Hook, in 2012, also didn’t bring them to their senses.
The issue of guns is like a soap opera that repeats itself over and over again, with the same beginning and same end. A killing happens, and many times the killer is motivated by racism and other prejudices; the news media, nation, White House, and Congress, in turn, express their consternation over what happened; at the same time, Congress dusts off gun control measures that are never approved; time goes on, the shock of the moment is replaced with some other issue…and the matter is not resolved. Until the next killing and repeat of the same song and dance.
Essentially, the nation has become desensitized to gun violence and inaction to confront it. That is why, right now, those “lone wolf” supremacists are lying in wait for the next sign of hate rhetoric toward non-white minority groups to act, in the name of the absurd “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory, which their new/old “heroes” wield these days as campaign strategy to push their neo-Nazi agenda.
It’s the same with immigration. A thousand studies could be cited about the benefits to this country of legalizing undocumented immigrant workers, and complaints because the so-called “Dreamers” still don’t have legalization, and the temporary protection they received a decade ago is on the tight rope of the courts. Recall that even the hands who harvest and process our foods, farm workers, mostly don’t have documentation. Republicans, for their part, go to the border to stage theater about the “crisis” there, telling us that we are being “invaded,” but they are the first to block bills that try to reform immigration laws in their diverse manifestations: border, asylum, undocumented immigrants, et cetera.
Those Republicans are not betting on safeguarding their principles as a party, but on benefiting politically from the remnants of that rancid Trumpism that continues to enthrall the conservative wing of the country, promoting not only an anti-immigrant agenda, but also turning civil rights back decades, to make minorities, especially immigrants of color, invisible once again.
This occurs because this country and this Congress have perfected the art of making believe that they are doing something. That is, the politicians and politicos and many of their friends, particularly in the right wing news media, find it more profitable—from an electoral point of view—to claim there is a problem, and condemn and blame the Democrats for this problem. But if those Democrats propose a solution, well, they block and reject it. It’s better for them if the problem they complain about so much is never solved.
In any case, those who do their part are, of course, Dreamers, whose contributions year after year have been studied and praised by everyone, underlining above all what they have done for this country to this day, and also what they could do if their situation was regularized, as the hope has been for over a decade.
For example, every study on the topic tells us that Dreamers add more than $40 billion to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per year, which translates to almost six times more than the $7 billion DACA costs the United States. Among many other factors, this is due to the fact that this group of young people have also become part of the economy as purchasers and investors, whether it be in the automobile sector or in real estate. Additionally, they have started businesses, created jobs, expanded the banking industry by opening accounts, and above all, strengthened the international competitiveness of this country through their educational studies.
However, there are still many citizens who believe the fallacies about immigrants and Dreamers, since those voters consume all that they see and read on social platforms of dubious repute. Ex-President Donald Trump perfected this tactic and now his minions put it into practice, among them the leader of the Republican minority in the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, the third-ranking member of Republican House leadership, Elise Stefanik, as well as dangerous demagogues like Republican Congresspersons Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz, to name two.
These figures have perpetuated the lie that the 2020 election was “stolen” from Trump and now their central message is that we are being “invaded” by undocumented migrants, and that the Democrats want to take away their right to arm themselves to the teeth with military assault rifles in order to hunt deer.
All the ignorance sustained by this group of Republican extremists prevents them from understanding that if DACA were eliminated completely, the loss to the U.S economy could surpass $21 billion. Is racism more important than the palpable economic reality produced by, for example, Dreamers?
The worst part is that the Republican demagoguery and blockade produces paralysis in Congress, now majority-Democratic; and Democrats have always made the mistake of allowing themselves to be intimidated by their moderate faction, as well as the Republicans, to the point of total inaction and not having much to show to voters in the midterm elections, when control of Congress is in play.
Because deep down, Democrats also benefit from this Republican paralysis, having someone to blame for not making accomplishments. The danger is that the profile of today’s voters is changing and many voters do not have the same patience or loyalty to the parties. They vote expecting results, something that in this electoral cycle is very difficult to demonstrate.
To read the Spanish version of this article click here.