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Politics

Immigrants are just like all other Americans: hard to categorize

Esther J. Cepeda on

CHICAGO -- Tragically, Donald Trump has managed to do that which eluded Barack Obama: Fulfill his campaign promises on immigration.

Last week, Trump announced that he would end the always-explicitly-temporary Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. He also suggested that Congress act within the next six months to enact permanent legislation.

While it may be satisfying to proclaim, as many immigrant-rights leaders and their allies have, that Trump's move was "evil," "cruel" and "the worst decision Trump has made," doing so ignores the fact that the groundwork was laid by someone else.

For starters, a quick recap of how DACA came to be.

In 2010, President Obama failed to gather the five Democratic holdout votes that would have passed the full DREAM Act, which included a path to citizenship.Then, in late May 2012, Obama issued his executive action on DACA, overruling long-standing objections (on the grounds of constitutionality) by his Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano -- who, ironically, is now suing the Trump administration for violating administrative procedures and due-process requirements by abruptly ending the program. When DACA was announced in the middle of Obama's re-election campaign, it was seen as a patronizing half-measure since the president had spent all of his limited political capital on passing the Affordable Care Act.

There was also widespread misunderstanding and misinformation within the Latino community. Many believed that the actual DREAM Act, or another type of amnesty, had become law with the stroke of Obama's pen.

 

By late October, news agencies were reporting that some Hispanics who might have considered voting for Mitt Romney based on their views about economic issues were turning toward Obama because of his support of the DREAM Act and immigrant rights in general.

Sure enough, Obama coasted into his second term with the help of Hispanic voters. He eventually left office with Latinos primarily remembering him as the "deporter in chief."

The truth is that although DACA's revocation is terribly upsetting for the hundreds of thousands of unlawfully present immigrants and their families, we all knew this day would come.

This doesn't necessarily make the situation any easier, but it does no one any good to push the myth that young people are suffering solely at the hands of Republicans and a president who was specifically elected to rid the country of as many immigrants -- legal and not legal -- as possible.

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