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A betrayal of America’s soul

Sep 11,2017 - Last updated at Sep 11,2017

For the United States — a country of immigrants and their descendants — September 5, 2017, marked a betrayal of the nation’s soul.

The announcement by President Donald Trump’s administration that it is ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme, which President Barack Obama established by executive order in 2012, threatens to upend the lives of an entire generation.

The DACA programme permitted close to 800,000 undocumented young people (known as “Dreamers”), brought into the country as children, to be protected from deportation, so long as they passed a background check and maintained a clean criminal record.

What we saw on September 5, of course, is that an initiative begun by executive order can be dismantled through a counter-order by the executive’s successor.

But ending the programme creates a real possibility of arrest and deportation for hundreds of thousands of young people who feel themselves to be American through and through — indeed, who overwhelmingly have no memory of living in any other country.

They have committed no crime, and are building productive lives in the United States — whether by going to school, working, starting families, establishing businesses or serving in the armed forces.

The administration announced that it would continue to renew permits for those already in the DACA programme for another six months, and then stop. No new applications will be accepted.

Only enactment of immigration legislation by the US Congress before the March 5, 2018, deadline — a formidable challenge in view of today’s highly fractured political conditions — can enable Dreamers to stay without fear of being tracked down, rounded up and expelled.

On occasion, Trump has expressed sympathy for the Dreamers. While vowing during the presidential campaign to end DACA, he also acknowledged the moral case to be made for maintaining it, saying that he would be faced by a “very, very hard” choice.

And even after the repeal was announced, he declared that he wanted to “resolve the DACA issue with heart and compassion”.

Yet, apparently convinced that DACA beneficiaries have taken jobs away from citizens, he concluded that the same heart and compassion were needed “for unemployed, struggling, and forgotten Americans”.

Sadly, in making this choice, the president has opted to turn away from the classic American vision engraved on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbour, expressed in Emma Lazarus’s poem, which begins: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

That credo has benefited tens of millions of newcomers, and it has immeasurably strengthened America.

The same vision ought to apply to young people who — yes, it is true — were undocumented at the time of arrival, but who came to America through no choice of their own. Instead, they now face the risk of a total disruption of their lives and an uncertain fate.

As a result, Trump positions himself in the dubious company of those throughout American history who displayed malice and suspicion towards new arrivals: the supporters of the Alien and Sedition Acts of the 1790s, which lengthened the period for naturalisation to 14 years; the Know Nothings of the pre-Civil War years, who sought to bar Catholics from the country; those in the early twentieth century who claimed that newcomers from Eastern and Southern Europe, and from China and Japan, could not be made into Americans, and whose arguments led in the 1920s to stringent quotas for immigration from those regions; and those so intent on keeping out Jews seeking to flee Nazi Europe that even the small immigrant quotas for those countries were not filled.

In sum, I am saddened and ashamed. 

As a Jew, I am all too aware of the Torah’s direction, given no less than 36 times, to “love the stranger”. And, as an American, I feel that we have succumbed — today, at least — to small-minded, short-sighted xenophobia, rather than lived up to the vision of our country at its most welcoming and compassionate best.

 

 

The writer is chief executive officer of the American Jewish Committee. ©Project Syndicate, 2017. www.project-syndicate.org

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Comments

THANKS TO DAVID HARRIS FOR POINTING OUT THIS BETRAYAL OF OUR (USA) TRADITION AND MELTING POT POLICY THAT IS BEING BASHED AND CHILDREN BEING USED AS AN EXAMPLE OF PROMISE KEEPT. LETS FACE IT, NO COUNTRY WANTS A LAWLESS SOCIETY BUT CHILDREN WHO HAPPENS TO END UP IN USA, NOT KNOWING WHERE AND WHEN THEY ARE BROUGHT OVER HERE, I SAY LEAVE THAM ALONE. AT LEAST OUT OF HUMANITERIAN REASONS, THESE CHILDREN SHOULD BE US CITIZENS AND MY PRESIDENT AND HIS ADMINISTRATION IS WRONG. NOW, LET US COMPARE THIS POLICY WITH WHAT JORDAN HAS BEEN DOING. I AM MARRIED TO A JORDANIAN AND WE HAVE ONE SON WHO GREW UP IN JORDAN UNTIL HE GRADUATED FROM HIGH SCHOOL BEFORE COMING TO HIS COUNTRY FOR UNIVERSITY EDUCATION. THROUGH OUT HE WAS IN JORDAN WITH MY WIFE WHO WAS WORKING FOR THE JORDANIAN GOVERNMENT, HE COULD NOT GET HEALTH INSURANCE FROM HIS MOTHERS JOB, LIVED ON YEARLY VISAS, PAPER WORK, SEGREGATED BECAUSE HE HAS TO PAY EXTRA FOR ANY GOVERNMENT SPONSORED SCHOOL ACTIVITIES, COULD NOT AND WAS NOT ABLE TO APPLY FOR ANY PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES IN JORDAN, NO RIGHTS ( CIVIL OR HUMAN ), CAN NOT GET DRIVING LICENCE AND THE LIST OF HUMILIATION GOES ON AND YET SOME ONE LIKE DAVID HARRIS KEEPT A CODE OF SILENCE ON THIS ONLY TO TALK OF DACA. WHICH OF THESE TWO PARALLELS ARE MORE LETHAL, IN-HUMAN, IN-SENSITIVE, AND/OR AGAINST INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHT LAWS. BY THE WAY, JORDAN IS NOT ALONE ON THIS POLICY AND I WILL LIKE TO SEE MORE PUBLIC OUTCRY AND CONDEMNATIONS ABOUT THE TREATMENT OF JORDANIAN WOMEN AND THEIR FAMILIES MARRIED TO NON JORDANIAN MEN. IN BOTH CASES, I CALL THEM ABOMINATION AND MAN'S INHUMANITY TO MAN SO PICKING ON TRUMPISM WHILE BRUSHING ASIDE THE GENDER BASHING THAT IS EPIDEMIC ALL OVER THE WORLD IS HYPOCRICY AND UNFAIR. I DID NOT VOTE FOR TRUMP NOR WILL I EVER VOTE REPUBLICAN BUT THE FACT IS THAT WE (USA) ARE BEING USED LEFT AND RIGHT BECAUSE AMERICAN BELIEVES IN HUMAN RIGHTS AND FAIRNESS. HOW CAN WE READ OR TALK ABOUT DACA WHEN WE ARE BEING TAKEN FOR GRANTED. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH AND LET US CLEAN THESE MESS SIMULTENOUSLY.

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