The Universal Notebook: Dreamers are Americans

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The extremely unpopular President Donald Trump has now added yet another offense to his growing list of assaults on the America people. He has tried to kill the Affordable Care Act, pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate change agreement, rolled back environmental protections and last week decided to repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, threatening 800,000 Americans with deportation.

Two-thirds of Americans disagree with Trump on repealing DACA. In fact, two-thirds of Americans disagree with Trump on most things. But we are currently living in a dictatorship of the minority, a sorry state in which the least-qualified Americans have usurped power.

And, yes, the so-called Dreamers are Americans. Most have never known any home other than America. The idea that Trump would deport them is nothing short of cruel. Immigrants who risk their lives to get to the United States in search of a better life are far more American than people who make a virtue out of accidents of birth such as being white, male, American or, in Trump’s case, born rich.

There was no pressing need for Trump to end DACA. He simply wanted to throw some red meat to his base, people who wrongly blame immigrants for their own failures. Republicans used to understand that America needs its immigrant population, both documented and undocumented. That’s why President George W. Bush proposed a path to citizenship. Close to 70 percent of agricultural workers in the U.S. are Mexicans and close to 50 percent of farm workers are undocumented. Our economy depends on immigrants.

And no, Mr. & Mrs. Rust Belt, immigrants are not taking your jobs. They are doing jobs you won’t do. There is no good economic argument for repealing DACA or deporting hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of people who don’t have the right paperwork. Mass deportations of the kind that the unkind would like to see would cost this country more – an estimated $2.6 trillion loss to U.S. gross domestic product over 10 years – than might be saved by sending them away.

President Barack Obama was absolutely right when he made his infamous remark about people in small towns where there have been no economic opportunities for 25 years “clinging to guns and religion.” What people don’t seem to remember is that Obama was sympathetic to their plight and that there was more to Obama’s diagnosis.

He said, “it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

The deep, dark and dirty divide in this country is a function of people needing someone to blame, someone to look down on, someone to be better than. That is the source of the racism and xenophobia that propelled Trump to power. Pandering to this pathetic prejudice by pardoning former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and repealing DACA may make Trump supporters feel powerful, but it will only add to the popular sentiment against Trump and will likely fill the streets with protesters.

Trump is a master of creating crises where there were none. In just a few short months in office he has alienated not only the majority of the American people, but also the American business community, which split with him over his perceived defense of white supremacists and now over his sudden need to place 800,000 Americans in peril.

The upside of Trump’s repeal of DACA is that he may have forced Congress to do its job, something it has been unwilling and unable to do in recent years. With the exception of U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who weasels out of everything, Maine’s congressional delegation has condemned Trump’s action. It is now up to Congress to act to protect the Dreamers, which President Obama did by fiat only after Congress failed to act.

What Congress should do is grant American citizenship to law-abiding people who are de facto Americans. Even Trump’s own party is beginning to realize how wrong he is about DACA.

“Americans do not hold children legally accountable for the actions of their parents,” Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, said last week.

That’s because to do so is morally wrong and downright un-American.

But since Trump and his supporters have established the principle that children can be punished for their parents’ actions, perhaps only the children of Trump supporters should be sent to fight the war with North Korea that is the next unnecessary crisis Trump seems determined to create.

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.