After months of promising Dreamers that they had nothing to worry about and that he had a “big heart,” Trump sent out arch-reactionary AG Jeff Sessions to announce the repeal of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).
This is a vicious attack on the immigrant population as a whole, targeting young people who came to the US at an early age and who voluntarily gave their information to the government in exchange for removing the threat of deportation. This places some 800,000 Dreamers in grave danger in six months when the cancellation of the programme is supposed to go into effect.
This danger is not only that of deportation, but also that hundreds of thousands stand to lose their jobs, healthcare coverage, and ability to get student loans. Already no additional new applicants to the programme will be accepted and no renewals will be allowed after October 5.
The timing of the move to end DACA has been presented by Trump as forced by the threats of nine GOP state Attorneys General to sue the administration for failure to rescind DACA, which Trump promised on the campaign trail.
What is Trump doing?
On the one hand, Trump presents himself as still sympathetic to the plight of Dreamers and suggests that he might be willing to sign legislation securing their right to stay. But talking points distributed by the administration say that DACA recipients should prepare to “self-deport.” This is historically the language of the far right. This is not the action of someone who thinks DACA recipients are “great kids” or of someone who has a “great love” for Dreamers.
Every passing week or month piles up evidence of Trump’s willingness to pursue the most mean-spirited, utterly indefensible attacks on vulnerable populations, as part of the strategy of cementing his support on the right. Trump can see that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation is widening and that at some point a section of the Republican Party could abandon him completely. He has sought to mobilize the right wing base and historic right wing organizations including the Christian Right, the anti-immigrant groups, the NRA etc to threaten disloyal Republicans with being primaried. Increasingly Trump seems to be leading a party within the party.
Trump’s attack on DACA follows his defense of white supremacists in Charlottesville and his pardoning of Joe Arpaio, the notorious Arizona sheriff convicted of illegally racially profiling, humiliating and torturing immigrant detainees. But facing increasing political isolation in Washington and blowback from important sections of the ruling class, Trump is clearly worried that he may have gone too far with DACA. This may partially explain why he is suddenly making deals with the Democratic leadership on raising the debt ceiling, hurricane relief funding and DACA legislation.
DACA was a progressive measure brought in by Obama because of the total deadlock on immigration reform in Congress, failing to pass the widely supported DREAM act. However, we should never forget that Obama himself was dubbed Deporter-in-Chief by immigrant rights organizations, as he still holds the record for highest levels of deportations in presidential history, more than all previous administrations combined. DACA itself was a concession to a militant protest and direct action movement led by fearless undocumented youth and their supporters.
Trump has moved to blunt the opposition from the broader layers of the population outside their base, by proclaiming it’s now Congress’ job to actually make DACA permanent by legislation, but as part of a comprehensive “immigration reform” agreement. The six month delay of when the threat of deportation will begin is supposed to be the deadline for Congress to produce an alternative to DACA.
This is completely disingenuous. The GOP-dominated congress has not been able to pass any major legislation since Trump took office. They were ready to throw 20 to 30 million people off of healthcare and only came back from the brink at the last possible moment, and we’re supposed to trust these politicians?
Moreover, will GOP legislators “do the right thing” when they are facing the threat of primary challenges by even more right wing and xenophobic elements inspired by Trump? On top of which the Republicans have many more issues that their leadership considers more urgent priorities including “tax reform”, ie massive tax cuts for the rich.
It is clear that without sustained, coordinated and escalating mass protest and direct action, neither Congress nor Trump will act to legalize DACA.
Media reports indicate that some in the Democratic Party leadership would be willing to give partial funding for Trump’s border wall in exchange for him signing legislation to legalize DACA although the leader of the Senate Democrats Chuck Schumer denies this. Such a bargain would be outrageous in the context where the overwhelming mass of voters support DACA, oppose mass deportation policies as well as a border wall.
Unfortunately but predictably, the Democratic Party leadership appears more focused on making a deal with Trump than mobilizing immigrants and the millions of native born workers and young people who are appalled by this racist administration and want to fight back.
Build mass resistance
There is enormous scope to build that kind of movement as the vast majority of the US population favors continuation of DACA. As the Washington Postnotes “At the end of last year, Pew Research asked Americans if those who immigrated illegally as children should be allowed to stay in the country. Nearly three-quarters said they should, with a third saying that such a policy was ‘very important.’ The overall figure includes 82 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of Republicans.” Republican party politicians have also been known to say their initial opposition to DACA wasn’t on principle and only because they thought it should happen by legislation instead of executive order. Well, they have their chance now.
Corporate America also favors DACA for its own reasons because it wants to regularize the position of undocumented workers while leaving the bulk of them as super-exploited, second class citizens. Sessions and the hard right falsely claim that DACA “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens”. However, the ruling class does seek to use immigrant labor to held drive down wage levels overall. We seek to raise the living standards of the whole working class by rebuilding the labor movement as a fighting force. Immigrant workers will be a decisive force in rebuilding labor. For the same reason, in addition to it being the most humane position, we are in favor of citizenship rights for all undocumented workers.
The threat of mass resistance played a key role in stopping the so called Muslim Ban and Trump’s threat to deport millions in the first six months of his administration . These resistance networks must be reactivated and developed further on campuses, in workplaces and in communities Already, there have been significant protests, student walkouts and civil disobedience in multiple cities.
Every fighter for immigrant rights understands that defeating Trump and Sessions will require far bigger and more extensive mobilizations. Our inspiration should be be the mass movement of immigrant workers that defeated the racist Sensenbrenner bill in 2006. But this time there will be far greater unity of immigrants and the native born as this vicious administration is bringing millions to see the need for unity. Defeating Trump’s attack on DACA will be another step in the wider fight to drive him from office and defeat the right.
Immediately, we need the large immigrant rights organizations, unions, progressive leaders, like Sanders and the entire left, need to set a date for a national day of action to bring out hundreds of thousands into the streets to make it clear that the consequence of ending DACA and deporting Dreamers will be massive social unrest. Workplace actions, up to and including strikes, as well as mass blockades and occupations, should be a part of strategic and tactical escalation.
These mobilizations, while focusing on the immediate question of DACA, should also raise broader demands for immigrant rights and against the whole racist, xenophobic agenda of the right.
• No rotten deals with Trump! Make DACA permanent
• End the threat of deportations for all undocumented workers and their families.
• For real sanctuary cities – no cooperation with ICE plus living wages, free college for all residents, housing justice, healthcare and services for all.
• Ban “broken windows” policing and profiling of immigrant populations
• Unconditional, immediate legalization for all undocumented immigrants including citizenship rights.
• A united fight led by the labor movement for good jobs and decent housing for all.
• Unite the fight for immigrant rights to all the other struggles against the right into a mighty force to bring down Trump