This week, President Trump turned the futures of 800,000 young immigrants, many of whom know no life outside the U.S., into gambling chips in a toxic political climate. Aside from being unquestionably cruel, a lawsuit filed by 15 state attorney generals on Wednesday alleges that the administration’s actions were motivated by racial bias and that they violate the due process rights of DACA recipients. We’ve got a long battle ahead, folks, and there are a few crucial things to remember as we wage that battle.
1. Stand with all immigrants.
There is no room for respectability politics in this fight. DREAMers are not the victims of irresponsible parents, nor should their struggles be used to erase other, less “sympathetic” immigrants who did not grow up to become doctors and lawyers and college professors.
This “good immigrant, bad immigrant” narrative is a divide and conquer tactic that has historically been used to pit communities of color against each other. We have seen it in Hawaiian plantations, where white sugar planters assigned wages based on nationality in order to breed resentment among their immigrant workers and keep them from organizing.
We saw similar dichotomies among second-generation Japanese Americans—who, despite being born in this country, were nevertheless viewed as foreigners—in the WWII concentration camps. There, Kibei “troublemakers” who dared assert their legal rights were threatened with deportation while Nisei who kept their mouths shut were shuffled off to the Midwest as “goodwill ambassadors.”
2. Immigrants are more than their economic contributions.
Many well-intentioned DACA defenders have been quick to highlight what immigrants do for our economy as a counterpoint to claims that they pose a threat to American workers: 91% of DREAMers are employed. Immigrants do the dirty, menial jobs that we don’t want. They commit fewer crimes than citizens. They get the job done.
All of these things are true—but they are beside the point. Ending DACA has nothing to do with “the economy.” This is about racism and xenophobia and sending a message to Black and brown Americans that they are not welcome here.
We need to be focusing our attention on the myriad ways immigrants’ human rights are being violated, not how much money American businesses stand to lose when their undocumented employees are deported. Moral outrage has no price tag.
3. Asian Americans, this is our fight too.
The overwhelming majority of Asian Americans are immigrants or the children of immigrants. Nearly 1.6 million Asian Americans—one out of every seven Asian immigrants—are undocumented.
The Trump administration’s repeated attacks on immigrant communities—not only in rescinding DACA, but in accelerating deportations that divide families, reviving an unconstitutional family detention program, and restricting immigration from non-white countries—affect us all.
Those of us who are a few generations removed from our families’ arrival in this country, who blithely enjoy the arbitrary privileges of citizenship, would do well to remember it was not so long ago that our grandparents and great-grandparents were subject to the same exclusionary tactics. The safety and security afforded us by the sheer luck of when and where we were born is contingent upon our complicity in a system that routinely treats immigrants and people of color as disposable.
We must speak out, loudly and without apology, against white supremacy. We will not be complicit in the degradation and dehumanization of Black, Latinx, Muslim, Asian, and Pacific Islander communities.
4. Now is not the time to give up.
Shit’s been hard lately, I know. The planet is literally on fire and drowning underwater at the same time. The supposed leaders of the “free world” sit idly by while U.S. airstrikes continue to kill Yemeni children and a Nobel Peace Prize recipient oversees the genocide of the Rohingya people. Our president is downright giddy over the prospect of starting a nuclear war. Neo-Nazis are marching in the streets, staffing local police departments, and crafting government policy.
It’s okay if you need to take a nap. Make yourself a cup of tea. Watch some YouTube clips of baby animals learning to walk. Get blasted and eat an entire pizza by yourself. Do whatever you need to do to feel some semblance of sanity in this crazy, broken world.
But after that? Come back. We need you. We can’t do this without you.
Stay involved. Stay informed. Find ways to fight back against this rising tide of hate. Talk to your friends, your family, your kids, your coworkers. Write letters to the editor. Call Congress. Hold your elected leaders accountable to the people they claim to represent. Give time and money if you can.
Do not let racism and xenophobia go unchallenged. Do not retreat. Do not do nothing.
By Nina Wallace, Densho Communications Coordinator