Last week was a rough one for immigrant youth and their allies. On Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration is rescinding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the program that has granted temporary deportation relief to about 800,000 young people brought here illegally as children. The administration will leave DACA in place for six months, to give Congress time to come up with a legislative fix.
The news of DACA’s potential end angered and saddened the young people it benefits, known as Dreamers.
Rallies and protests broke out as Dreamers took to the streets to vent their opposition to a policy change that they saw as unfair and politically motivated. Many are fearful at the prospect of deportation to countries that they do not know. This fear is real; under Trump, arrests of noncriminal undocumented immigrants are up 150 percent this year. As early as March 6, some Dreamers could find themselves at risk for deportation.
But there is another group that should be feeling sadness and anger at DACA being rescinded — and most of its leaders seem unconcerned by this reality. The decision to end DACA will have enormous consequences for the future of the Republican party. Trump’s DACA decision forever marks the GOP as the party of nativists and xenophobes. Even in the unlikely event of some kind of congressional fix to save the Dreamers, Trump’s heartlessness has wrecked the GOP brand with Latinos.
From the ugly rhetoric of Trump’s campaign to his false claim that millions of “illegals” cost him the popular vote, it is clear that Trump was never overly concerned with the Latino vote. On the campaign trail, he vowed to end DACA if he were elected.
Now that this has happened, a line has been drawn. Hundreds of thousands of young immigrants are contemplating the real-life impact of the end of DACA. So are Latinos and other Americans – and neither group likes what is sees.
One of Trump’s prominent Latino supporters, Javier Palomarez, president of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, resigned from Trump’s National Diversity Coalition in disgust.
Former U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin cried as she spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the DACA decision. “I don’t know this (Republican) party, I don’t recognize this party. This is not the party that I fought for, for 32 years, to improve its standing in the Latino community,” she said.
In a statement, Samuel Rodriguez, the leader of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said, “If the president breaks his promise to us to protect these children, they should be prepared for a mass exodus of the administration’s Hispanic support.”
Meanwhile, DACA is popular with the public. An August NBC News poll found that 64 percent of Americans support the DACA program.
If DACA ends, it will be a tragedy for its grantees. And the GOP can thank the president for bringing the party to its national Prop 187 moment.
Proposition 187 was a 1994 California measure that sought to ban undocumented immigrants from accessing non-emergency state services. Embracing this plan, Republican Pete Wilson was elected governor. Prop 187 succeeded too, although it never went into effect because it was struck down in court. The lasting impact of Prop 187 was to increase Latino voter registration and mobilization against the Republican party, so that the Golden State these days is solidly blue. Democrats control the state legislature, and no Republicans hold statewide office.
Trump’s DACA stance has put the GOP’s future at risk by alienating Latinos on an even greater scale. Already, Latinos have helped turn Arizona from a red state to a battleground state. And there is growing progressive activism among Latinos in Texas. With his latest move, Trump is only accelerating these trends.
True, in the 2016 election Trump received somewhere between 14 percent and 29 support from Hispanics (the figure is a matter of dispute between exit poll results and Latino vote experts). Whatever the true figure was, it dropped this week. Conservative and independent Latinos are likely as appalled by the administration’s lack of compassion towards the Dreamers as progressives are, which does not bode well for the GOP.
Some leading Republicans, like Speaker of the House Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, had urged that DACA not be rescinded.
Yet these are a few voices out of the nearly 300 Republican members of Congress. And neither Ryan nor Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has committed to bringing a vote on the Dream Act, which could protect DACA grantees from removal, to the floor of their respective chambers.
By 2020 or 2024, Trump will no longer be president. The GOP, however, will be stuck with its image as hostile and uncaring towards Latinos and immigrants for generations to come. By crushing the dreams of young immigrants, Trump has created the GOP’s future nightmare.