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ICYMI: Two Must-Read Reflections on Immigration and Trump’s America

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Two powerful opinion pieces today capture the disruption to families and futures caused by the Trump Administration, as well as the hopes for an America that remembers its values and reignites the American experiment.

In the New York Times, Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, an undocumented graduate student at Yale University, writes a op-ed about the American families devastated and left behind by the Trump Administration evisceration of immigration enforcement priorities, recapping the tragic separation of the Lara family in Ohio, and adding her own personal story to the mix. The op-ed reminds us that there are six million American citizen children with at least one undocumented parent, with many of these families now living in fear or living separately because of indiscriminate deportations.

And in Time, leading journalist Jorge Ramos reflects on the power of two ascendant movements led by courageous young people — the Dreamers and the Parkland High School students — and reflects on what their advocacy and personal stories may mean for our country and our politics moving forward.

Both opinion pieces are essential reading and are excerpted below:

Karla Cornejo Villavicencio’s New York Times Op-Ed: “The Americans Left Behind by Deportation”

“In the fall, I traveled to rural Ohio to meet with the children of a man who had been recently deported to Mexico, even though he was considered a model citizen by his neighbors and had no criminal record beyond driving without a license. I had seen video footage of his three young boys and little girl saying goodbye to him at the airport. They looked like orphaned bear cubs, wandering around aimlessly in the terminal, their faces frozen in fear.

Eric, the oldest at 14, is in the eighth grade and wants the local Wendy’s to make an exception to its minimum age requirement so he can work there. “I’m the man of the house now,” he told me. When their father left, so did the only member of the family who could drive. Eric walks several miles to the grocery store and returns carrying heavy bags of food even in the snow. Their mother, who is also undocumented, is now the family’s sole source of income and works long hours at a factory, so Eric has to come straight home from school to take care of his younger siblings. (He had to scrap plans to try out for the wrestling team.)

…America’s historic uneasiness with interracial marriage and mixed-race children has found a new incarnation in the persecution of families with mixed legal status. There are nearly six million citizen children who live with at least one undocumented parent, and perhaps millions of other Americans who are married to undocumented immigrants. The Trump administration’s aggressive detention and removal of undocumented immigrants is not only inhumane in its treatment of immigrants, but a direct attack on the rights and well-being of their American family members.

…I, too, had to worry about this dilemma. I am the child of undocumented immigrants from Ecuador who brought me to this country when I was 5. I am the American dream incarnate, with an Ivy League education and a book deal. Now I am married to an American citizen, but there is no guarantee that my spouse’s status will shield me from deportation.

…Short of comprehensive immigration reform, which seems so unlikely these days, there are ways to end these inhumane deportations. In February 2017, John Kelly, then the secretary of homeland security, issued two memos essentially doing away with enforcement priorities for ICE, which generally called for not targeting undocumented immigrants if they did not have serious criminal records. The Kelly memos made all undocumented immigrants targets — even if they had spotless records, and even if they had spouses or children who were citizens. A return to Obama-era priorities that focused on criminals and security risks would restore some level of compassion to enforcement in the short term. Though far from the best solution, that would at least protect the rights of citizens.

Unless protecting American citizens was never the point of any of this.”

Jorge Ramos in Time: “Why Dreamers and the Parkland Survivors Will Change America”

Young people — the Dreamers and the survivors of a school shooting in Parkland, Florida — are pushing for real change in America. They are not requesting change from the politicians; they are demanding it. They have nothing to lose. A 19-year-old with a legally bought AR-15 killed 17 of the survivors’ peers and supervisors. They don’t want to be next. And the Dreamers, risking deportation to a country they don’t even know, have come out in record numbers, changing the mind of one president — Barack Obama — and closing the government of another — Donald Trump. They won’t stop until they, their parents and their siblings are legalized.

The Dreamers and the survivors are using the same tactics: to be in your face, unafraid, exploring possibilities with a new and strong voice on social media, exposing hypocrisy and even threatening the political class: If you don’t do what we tell you to do, we’ll get rid of you in the next election.

…I have learned a lot from the Dreamers, which is why I dedicated this book to them. While I was there in Houston, I told them that when I faced off with Donald Trump at the press conference in Iowa, the first thing I asked myself was, What would the Dreamers do?

…I believe that Dreamers are doing the same thing: rebelling against unjust laws. They stand at the forefront of a new civil rights movement in the United States, one in which nobody is illegal, regardless of the papers you may or may not carry in your wallet.

That’s why I dream with them.”