If States Were Countries

How does an old white guy who was born in the United States and has never left it for a longer period than two weeks relate to a dreamer? The answer was to imagine that each state were a separate country and put myself in the shoes of my two oldest granddaughters. Let’s explore.

Back in late 1999 most of my family left New York State for destinations in the South. My (at that time only) granddaughters were 2 and 4 years-old at the time. Their parents settled in North Carolina in hope of a better future and of course the girls came with them. There was no family vote; they were little kids and traveled with their parents.

Their parents furthered their education and have gone on to a solid middle class existence complete with paying a lot of federal, state and municipal taxes. The girls went to public schools and especially since they were gifted received a pretty good education. They both played softball at a very high level in addition to recreations teams. They graduated (one of them with honors) from what was then North Carolina’s top rated high school. They are currently Dean’s List students in one of North Carolina’s state universities. They have held, and currently hold, part time jobs in addition to volunteering. They have never been in trouble with the law. Bottom line they are good kids who are destined to be productive, taxpaying citizens after completion of their educations.

They hardly remember New York. If they were lost in several North Carolina towns without benefit of a navigational aid they would have little if any hardship in finding their way around. Drop them into any town in New York in the same situation and they would be totally lost. Bottom line they are North Carolinians not New Yorkers. Is that much different from a young adult who was brought to the United States as a child by their parents from another country?

I remember hearing the racist “solution” of, “Send them back to Africa,” in my youth. The late comedian Redd Foxx incorporated that line into one of his comedy routines. He said, “If you want to send me back home send me to St. Louis, Missouri.” Looking at my surname I’m sure some would suggest sending me to Poland. I’ve never been to Poland and only speak about 500 words of Polish (I’m certain with mispronunciations and terrible grammar). The only beverages I could order are beer, milk and water. I couldn’t read the street signs.

That gives me some empathy for part of the situation dreamers find themselves in. As if that weren’t bad enough it actually gets worse.

Comprehensive immigration is tough. Where to draw the line is an impossible task. The plight of the dreamers (when divorced from other issues) is easy. They are as American as my granddaughters are North Carolinians and they often know no other way of life.

Out of frustration with congressional inaction, in 2012 President Obama decreed DACA, (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). The act was intended to be a temporary way for young people who came into this country as children to have a legal status. It was far from a free pass; in order to be eligible they had to pass a lot of “tests”. Part of the vetting process included turning over a lot of personal information including addresses and family members. One of the guarantees the government made to these young people was that said information would not be used to facilitate deportations unless they were removed from the DACA rolls because of criminal violations. To date about 1,500 of the 800,000 dreamers have been removed. That is less than one-quarter of one percent. In my mind that is an admirably low “wash out” rate!

The Friday before the announcement a reporter asked President Trump, “Should dreamers be worried?” Trump’s reply was, “We love the dreamers.” (That was when I knew DACA was in trouble.) When it came to announcing his decision on the policy he punted. Instead of making what should have been a personal announcement he sent Attorney General Jeff Sessions out to do (what I’m certain Sessions considered to be) the honors.

The only thing I like about Trump’s decision is that he put the ball back in Congress’ court; (although he did it with other motivations.) Starting with the aftermath of World War II Congress has ceded more and more to the Executive Branch. This wasn’t out of respect for the presidency; it was to avoid the politically tough decisions in order to enhance their chances of reelection. If you never do anything it is difficult to hold you accountable for doing something wrong. Most analysts will tell you that Trump gave Congress six months to act. If you really get into the details of the plan it is more like 30 days. In any scenario many dreamers are going to get hurt in this transition because I can’t see Congress acting in 30 days. Congress’ inability to act is why Obama acted back in 2012. Remember a significant immigration reform act passed the Senate with 68 votes (more than two-thirds) only to die in the House without a vote because Republican leadership wouldn’t allow it to go to the floor.

Nobody is willing to give a straight answer as to if or how ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) will use the data dreamers supplied to deport undocumented people. If you look at the history of how law enforcement and our legal system work I expect them to use it. Law enforcement takes the low hanging fruit in America. That is why drug users and street level dealers go to jail much more often than mafia bosses and white collar criminals.

Dreamers – whose country of origin is often one with a corrupt government and police force – are basically being punished for having trusted their government and doing what it asked by expediting their families and their own deportations.

I look at those two young ladies who came to North Carolina as babies and say this just isn’t the American way.

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