My Turn

Opinion: Hypocrisy and ignorance in DACA decision

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When you read Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Sept. 5 announcement of Mr. Trump’s decision to end the DACA program, it’s helpful to recall Sessions’ history, his inaccurate reading of national history, and the Trump administration’s poor record in Circuit Court decisions in their Muslim Ban efforts.

DACA , the abbreviation for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was announced as a policy by President Obama in 2014 to keep young people brought to the U.S. by their undocumented parents from being deported. Many of those children are now in their upper teens, 20s and 30s. They collectively call themselves Dreamers, because all they have known is their, and their family’s, pursuit of the American Dream.

There are 800,000 dreamers now facing deportation to a country they do not know. Most of them are excelling in U.S. schools, colleges and graduate schools. Neither Trump nor Sessions nor Congress has made any attempt to research who these young people are or what they add to our national fabric and economy.

Sessions justified his and Trump’s decision by saying DACA was an “unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch.” ThinkProgress.com explains that in Arizona v. the United States, the Supreme Court says that “the executive does have the unilateral authority to permit certain undocumented immigrants to remain in the country.”

Think Progress goes on to say, “the case for or against DACA isn’t really a constitutional case at all. It is a question of whether federal laws enacted by Congress permitted the Obama administration to act as it did.” That’s for the Supreme Court to decide, or Congress to amend.

Another point Sessions made in his Sept. 5 statement on DACA was that “The effect of this unilateral executive amnesty contributed to a surge of unaccompanied minors on the southern border that yielded terrible humanitarian consequences. It also denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.”

As the Immigration Policy Institute reports, the surge in unaccompanied minors came from the countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras before 2014. The numbers fell, then rose again in the summer and fall of 2015. These children were, and are, fleeing the highest murder rates in the world, where weak governments cannot, or will not, control marauding gangs. They were never eligible for DACA.

It is ignorant at best, or a lie of great cynicism, that our Attorney General confuses these desperate, family-less children riding on the tops of freight trains with adult Dreamers.

Sessions said in his statement that DACA “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.” Sessions is not identifying what jobs are being stolen from Americans; he’s repeating the same false claim made by Republicans for decades. They have advanced no evidence to show that Americans want to do dishwashing, stoop labor in agriculture, or slaughterhouse work. Employers in those fields cannot find enough native-born Americans to do that work.

On the other end of the job spectrum, employers desperate for people qualified to work with computers, writing code, and other technical jobs can’t find enough Americans skilled enough to do that work.

Sessions said with sanctimonious irony: “We inherited from our Founders – and have advanced – an unsurpassed legal heritage, which is the foundation of our freedom, safety, and prosperity. As the Attorney General, it is my duty to ensure that the laws of the United States are enforced and that the Constitutional order is upheld.”

But Sessions’ home state, Alabama, and region, the South, fought and lost the Civil War over their right to deny decency and citizenship to hundreds of thousands of slaves they owned as unpaid property. Sessions, and most of the South, have always opposed federal antidiscrimination laws and voting rights for people of color and equality for women and LGBTQ citizens.

As the Atlantic reports, Gerry Hebert was a lawyer in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division who testified under oath that Sessions called the NAACP and ACLU “Communist-inspired, un-American organizations that were trying to force civil rights down the throats of people.” Where is the “rule of law” in those documented positions?

The last thing the U.S. needs is to be lectured by a radical, unreconstructed bigot like Sessions, or a president ignorant of American history.

The Dreamers deserve our best welcome, compassion, and justice, not our worst discrimination.

Fox is a social activist from the Taos area.

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