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In a new piece in the Washington Post’s The Plum Line blog, Greg Sargent focuses on a promise that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan made last year to Dreamer Angelica Villalobos. Read Sargent’s piece: “One year ago, Paul Ryan made a heartfelt promise to a ‘dreamer.’ Now she’s back”:
Almost exactly a year ago, Paul Ryan had a powerful, high-profile exchange with a young mother who was brought to this country illegally as a child. This “dreamer” mom was frightened and uncertain about what Donald Trump’s election meant for her future. At a CNN town hall, she asked Ryan whether people like her should be deported.
“No,” Ryan said reassuringly. He insisted that “I hope your future is here,” and that “I’m sure you’re a great contributor to [your] community.” Ryan told her not to worry about getting deported. He said: “We have to find a way to make sure that you can get right with the law.” He stressed that Trump agrees.
Now hundreds of thousands of dreamers like that young mother are losing their protections. Trump and many Republicans have pivoted sharply to bashing Democrats for wanting to protect “illegal immigrants.” And House GOP leaders are refusing to commit to even holding a vote on any solution that the Senate produces for the dreamers.
Last night, that same mom, Angelica Villalobos, appeared with her daughter on “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell,” and reminded Ryan of his promise to her:
“He needs to think about what he said,” Villalobos said of Ryan. “He’s not meeting the promises that he made.”
It is the nature of the promise that Ryan made that matters. It was a promise not just to this young woman, but, delivered before a large national audience, it was a promise to hundreds of thousands of people like her, and to countless others who are their friends and family members and sympathizers, and to the country at large, about what Trump and the Republican Party truly stand for in this debate over the future of this vulnerable population.
Ryan’s message to all of those people wasn’t simply that dreamers will not be deported. Rather, it was that he and Trump see them as deserving of a future place in the United States, by virtue of the fact that they are blameless for their plight (having been brought here as children through no fault of their own), and by virtue of the fact that they are already contributing to American life. This is what Ryan meant when he said to Villalobos that it is on Republicans to give her a way to “get right with the law,” and that “I hope your future is here.”
Trump and Republicans are going to have to decide whether they actually believe this, or not. Trump and Republicans have repeatedly given voice to the general sentiment that they do believe it. Ryan did so above. Trump has tweeted similar sentiments. Mitch McConnell has said he is “very sympathetic” to these “young people” who “were brought here at a tender age and who have grown up here.”
But right now, the evidence strongly suggests that they don’t, in fact, believe any of this, or don’t see any particular reason or need to act on this belief. Trump and Republicans have swung around sharply to bashing Democrats for wanting “amnesty.” In other words, they are now lumping in the dreamers with the broader population of undocumented immigrants, which Trump (and some Republicans) have tarred with all kinds of lies about them supposedly committing crimes, harming low-skilled U.S. workers and perpetrating terrorism.
…House Republicans may not prove willing to legalize the dreamers at all. Or they may say they are only willing to do so in exchange for “poison pill” demands that are deliberately made so onerous that they make any compromise impossible, in hopes of blaming Democrats for the failure of a deal, which Republicans will have brought about to keep the right happy.
…Either way, Trump and Republicans will have to make this decision soon enough. And at the core of that decision is the question of how they view the dreamers — which remains unresolved.