I mentioned Trump a bit in connection with the #MeToo movement, so let’s talk about something else that’s often connected with the former prez: immigration—or, more specifically, undocumented immigration. That’s when immigrants enter the US illegally. And ICYMI, it was a big part of why Trump went on to win the presidency.
Remember xenophobia? If you’ve been able to spot it throughout this book, that’s great. (Well, the xenophobia isn’t great, but you know what I mean.) Xenophobia comes back into play here. In 2016, xenophobia was just as strong as ever in the US, so when Trump went around declaring that immigrants coming across the US–Mexico border were stealing Americans’ jobs, were not paying taxes, and were even straight-up “rapists and murderers,” millions of Americans were all too ready to listen.
He offered up solutions. BUILD A WALL! DEFUND SANCTUARY CITIES! INCREASE BORDER SECURITY!
. . . REPEAL DACA!
DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Prez Barack Obama intro’d the law to protect migrants brought to the United States illegally as kids—since, you know, they didn’t exactly have any say in the matter. Most of the young people protected under DACA (known as Dreamers) have spent most of their lives in the US, but still don’t have citizenship. DACA basically keeps these kids from being deported.
There are currently about seven hundred thousand Dreamers living in the United States—and some estimates put the number as high as eight hundred thousand. The average age of a Dreamer is twenty-four years old, with two-thirds of Dreamers being under the age of twenty-five. In other words: Gen Zers.
A wide variety of reasons. People were coming because of everything from the threat of persecution and violence in their home countries to extreme poverty—or just generally wanting to make a better life for themselves and their families. (Side note: if an immigrant has a serious fear of persecution or some other kind of danger, they can be granted asylum in the United States, even if they’ve crossed the border illegally.)
You’re right—the US could totally do more to get to the root of the problem and hand aid or other forms of help to the countries most impacted by these issues. And they do. But the money is either not enough or just not helpful, and plenty of issues exist beyond US control. (Not to mention some of these conditions exist in the first place due to past US interference in Latin American politics.)
In case that wasn’t clear . . . he was not a fan. At all. In fact, in 2017, he officially ended the program.
The decision was instantly met with backlash from critics—especially people protected under DACA.
But it was also met with lots of praise from supporters, who see Dreamers as a drain on US resources.
So yeah. Cue protests, which broke out across the country and brought out huge crowds in support of DACA.
People didn’t just protest.
They also sued.
15 States, D.C. Sue to Stop Trump DACA Decision
Six Dreamers Sue Trump Administration over DACA Decision
There’s a catch to this whole story. Prez Trump didn’t just end DACA; he also gave Congress a few short months to figure out a replacement plan.
The lives of hundreds of thousands of Dreamers were hanging in the balance.
After months of debates and delayed deadlines, Congress stiiiill couldn’t figure things out. And all this time, while current Dreamers were technically protected, no one could renew this protection. Plus no new applications were being accepted.
I was just about to get back to that. This whole time, the lawsuits were slowly making their way aaaaall the way up to the Supreme Court.
Finally, in June 2020, SCOTUS made its ruling.
But let’s backtrack for a second. The Supreme Court has nine judges—called justices. Each justice is nominated by whatever prez is in office when a vacancy comes up, so the Supreme Court can sometimes lean either more liberal or more conservative, depending on which recent prezes have been able to nominate more justices.
By this point in his presidency, Trump had gotten the chance to nominate two justices to the Supreme Court—tipping the balance squarely in Republicans’ favor, and, thus, in Trump’s. So everyone was pretty much expecting the Supremes to vote against DACA.
Cue even more suspense.
On the day of the decision, people nationwide were staring at their phones, waiting to hear Dreamers’ fate.
Then . . . the gavel came down.
A: omg. the supreme court ruled daca can stay.
A: yes! the vote was 5-4. justice roberts sided with the liberal justices.
B: no way. trump’s not going to be happy.
He wasn’t. He pointed fingers at the Supremes for going against him on purpose. But it didn’t matter.
DACA was saved.
. . . or not.
The Supreme Court left things a bit open ended. The justices said Trump’s attempt to end DACA was unconstitutional because he didn’t give a strong enough reason for doing so. Meaning if someone was able to come up with a good enough reason, DACA could hypothetically still be axed.
At the end of the day, one of the most important takeaways here is seeing just how directly politics affects people. And not just some people—a whole lot of them. In this case, seven hundred thousand.
In other words: the fates of the seven hundred thousand people protected under DACA are tied to the choices of the American public. As in, you. And they will continue to be for years to come. That’s a straight-up fact—one that can’t be ignored, whether you’re for DACA or against it.