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VOICES OF COLOR
What now for the Dreamers?
Christine Browning
volume:  
volume 38
issue 1
February 2017
imagestuff

Trump’s threatened deportations brought several thousand into the streets of downtown Los Angeles in December 2016, including these women carrying signs in Korean, English, and Spanish. Photo: Christine Browning / FS

Three thousand immigrants and their many supporters rallied and marched in Los Angeles on Dec. 18 to defy Trump’s threats of massive deportations. Students, families, Latinos, Jews and Muslims, LGBTQ folks, unions, feminists, church groups and workers of multiple ethnicities, were all highly energized by the crowd’s size and the confidence of bold solidarity.

A young Honduran “Dreamer,” Jose Alvarenga, handed out leaflets in support of immigrant students that day. He is studying history at Pasadena City College, hoping to attend UCLA to get his degree. Jose said he is “fighting Trump’s racist programs,” and emphasized the urgent need to build forces now to protect undocumented students, workers and their families. “We need student walkouts and mass demonstrations,” he emphasized.

Dreamers’ dilemma. DREAMER is an acronym for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (Dream Act), a congressional proposal first introduced in 2007. The law went through numerous transmutations in Congress before failing in 2011. In August of 2012, President Obama bypassed D.C. politicians and signed an executive order known as “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” called DACA. The title “Dreamers” was tagged to the 750,000 students who signed on to this program.

Obama’s order contains many of the Dream Act’s flaws. Applicants have to be in the U.S. and under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, to have come to this country before their 16th birthday, and lived here since 2007. They need a high school graduation or GED certificate and to be currently in higher education or honorably discharged from the U.S. military. They can have no record of a felony or significant misdemeanor, and be no threat to “national security.” All this still confers no legal status or a pathway to citizenship, and places vital personal and family information into the hands of the federal and state governments.

Obama’s executive order was presented as an expression of his concern for immigrant youth. But actually, it bolstered his 2012 campaign for Latino votes and his work to meet the Pentagon’s critical need for recruits. Additionally, Obama was also heavily pressured by several Dreamers who walked from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., demanding relief for undocumented students. During their long trek, they built community support and sat-in at Obama’s Denver election office, while Dreamers in other cities took similar actions.

A few years later, just months before the end of his presidency, the news broke that Obama had deported more than three million undocumented immigrants, more than any other president of the USA. These included the unaccompanied minors who flooded across the border in 2014.

As Trump takes over, Dreamer students may lose their work eligibility and could be ordered to appear in federal immigration court to face deportation proceedings. The stark uncertainty of what the future holds for all the undocumented, alongside Trump’s racist and xenophobic rhetoric, is driving students and activists all across the country to stand together and fight.

Why come to the U.S.? Why have some 11 million migrants left their home countries in the first place? Media pundits ignore the fact that the U.S. government’s economic and political policies in Mexico and Central America, especially throughout the 20th century, have led to the outright theft of peasant and indigenous lands. Giant U.S. corporations such as United Fruit used and abused the land to grow massive crops for export and profit, gutting local agriculture. The United States has installed dictatorial oligarchies and made big profits from arms sales for their tyrants’ vicious wars on civilians. Seventy to eighty thousand peasants and workers were killed in El Salvador, more than 30,000 during the Contra War in Nicaragua, and 140,000 to 200,000 during the Guatemalan Civil War!

To this day corruption and extreme violence permeate these countries through U.S. engendered drug trafficking and wars. The growth of unregulated Maquiladoras at the U.S.-Mexican border further escalates worker exploitation and violence. These foreign-owned factories import supplies and equipment and use near-slave labor to produce commodities that are then exported — at no benefit to Mexicanos.

The passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) under the Clinton administration created a Mexican economic crash, as millions of farmers were no longer able to support their families because of imported U.S.-subsidized corn. Is it any wonder that so many have risked and lost their lives to cross their northern border in hope of jobs?

Mobilizing to defy Trump. Besieged by both panic and anger over Trump’s promised deportations, Dreamers are energetically organizing with supporters to combat Trump’s assault. Numerous states and hundreds of cities across the country, along with churches and unions are pledging new “sanctuary” protection for the undocumented. Colleges are meeting with students and providing counseling, resources and promising protection. Community groups and leftist activists are coalescing around connected demands instead of segregating around single issues.

Resisters need to plan now how to defy Trump if he denies federal funding to those who oppose his policies. How to stand between the students and La Migra if agents invade campuses and neighborhoods and job sites? How to reject the Feds’ demands for information on immigrants. Activists at Cal State University Los Angeles are organizing a rapid response network to surround government agents if they do arrive on campus.

History shows that fundamental change comes from the bottom up when people unite en masse, determined to fight for what’s right. Today we must stand together militantly, just as the water protectors have done at Standing Rock, to halt Trump’s far-right assaults and the whole system’s profit-oriented business as usual.

Our efforts in defense of undocumented immigrants and Dreamer students are nothing less than a united fight for open borders and immediate, unconditional legalization with full civil and labor rights for all!

Christine Browning is a long-time activist for immigrant and abortion rights, and a passionate environmentalist in Los Angeles. She’s studying at Los Angeles City College, heading for a degree in Ecology. Contact her at: cmbearthling@att.net.

Este artículo en español / This article in Spanish

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