Opinion

What’s love got to do with Trump’s DACA repeal? Nothing at all

Daniela Arias, shown on the campus of the University of Washington Tacoma last month, was born in Mexico in 1999 and taken into the U.S. as a baby. Now, she's a DACA Dreamer and has never felt so threatened in her life. She hopes to start classes at UWT in September.
Daniela Arias, shown on the campus of the University of Washington Tacoma last month, was born in Mexico in 1999 and taken into the U.S. as a baby. Now, she's a DACA Dreamer and has never felt so threatened in her life. She hopes to start classes at UWT in September. The News Tribune

An old adage among skeptical journalists advises that if your mother says she loves you, be sure to check it out. When a U.S. president professes love? We’d say even more wariness is in order.

President Trump talked a good game about love last week. Maybe the scenes of kindness in Houston softened his armor, or he was swept up in the Summer of Love 50th anniversary reverie. Whatever the cause, as Trump entered the holiday weekend preparing to decide the fates of young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers, his heart seemed full to bursting.

“We love the Dreamers,” he said. “We love everyone.”

The president had an odd way of showing it Tuesday. His administration announced it would start unraveling the Obama-era program that has provided freedom from deportation to some 800,000 young people brought to the U.S. by their parents, including more than 17,500 in Washington.

No new applications will be accepted under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Meanwhile, those already here under DACA protection have good reason to worry what will happen to them once their permits expire.

While Trump raves about love, many Americans see this action for what it is: pure cruelty. He did it against the advice of confidantes and clear-headed Republicans. Despite lame claims of unconstitutionality and weak assertions of his predecessor’s executive overreach, there can be little doubt that dismantling DACA is meant to appease Trump’s narrow anti-immigration base.

If only he’d sat down and had a heart-to-heart talk with Daniela Arias of Tacoma. The 17-year-old Lincoln High graduate is hoping to attend the University of Washington Tacoma this fall. She has no memory of her parents carrying her across the border — an illegal act by them, yes, but an unknowable offense for a girl who only ever saw Mexico through an infant’s eyes.

“I have no idea what it looks like, how people are — it’s alien to me,” Daniela recently told News Tribune reporter Craig Sailor. “It would be devastating to leave my life here and my opportunities.

“It’s nerve-racking to think someone has the power to take that away.”

The good news is that what the president takes away, Congress has power to give back. Lawmakers must do so without delay.

They also must resist efforts to tie Dreamer legislation to Mexico border wall funding or any of the other assorted nativist Trump campaign pledges. Such efforts would be a colossal waste of time and would expose the “love the Dreamers” talk as sheer nonsense.

Trump has passed the buck to Congress, saying he wants to help DACA beneficiaries as long as the legislative branch leads the way. We’re glad to see all eight Democrats in Washington state’s delegation call his bluff. “We urge you to immediately work with Congress to pass clean legislation to protect Dreamers,” they wrote in a letter to Trump Tuesday.

It’s even more gladdening to see Republicans like Rep. Dave Reichert of Auburn immediately press for Dreamer legislation; he said Tuesday that penalizing young immigrants for crimes they didn’t commit “is not in the American DNA.”

Alas, America occasionally forgets what it’s made of. For a sobering historical reference, look no farther than Puyallup.

At this year’s Washington State Fair, a ceremony and exhibit honor the thousands of Japanese Americans who were incarcerated under the fairgrounds grandstands in 1942 before being shipped off to detention centers. They were hard-working families full of children who knew no home beyond Washington, honored no flag other than Old Glory.

Let’s pray that 75 years from now, we won’t be commemorating another travesty of justice.

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