Well, they can’t throw Alonso Guillen out of the country. Too late for that.
Guillen, 31, died in the Houston flood last week while trying to save the lives of others. His rescue boat slammed into a bridge and he drowned.
But if there were an estimated 800,000 “Dreamers” in the United States before Guillen’s death, there are still 799,999, which should keep the Trump administration busy and happy.
The president still has a terrific opportunity to protect our nation against — in the words of his attorney general — “crime, violence and terrorism” by deporting every last undocumented immigrant who was brought to this country as a child. Who cares that most of them are as law-abiding as anybody else?
You know what offended us most on Tuesday as we watched Attorney General Jeff Sessions announce that the Obama era’s protections of Dreamers would be rescinded? It was that he expressed not a word of compassion for the people he had just kicked in the teeth.
Sessions talked repeatedly about the importance of the “rule of law,” something he uttered not a peep about that last week when his boss, the president, pardoned Joe Arpaio, the former Arizona sheriff who trashed the rule of law.
But the attorney general couldn’t be bothered to point out that the vast majority of Dreamers are respectable young men and women who came to the United States a long time ago, often carried in their mothers’ arms. They hold down jobs and go to school and know no other home. They eat hamburgers as happily as they eat tacos and they speak, as often as not, with a Chicago accent or a Southern drawl or a Texas twang.
Sessions said nothing about that, probably because he doesn’t believe it. He talked only about “constitutional” concerns — though legal scholars are divided as to whether Barack Obama’s DACA order is unconstitutional — and his imaginary notion that Dreamers steal jobs and bring “crime, violence and terrorism.”
Alonso Guillen was no terrorist. Certainly not when, against his worried father’s advice, he set out in a small boat in a raging flood late at night to help his neighbors. And certainly not when his body was pulled from the waters four days later.
Every Dreamer is in deep trouble now. Sessions announced there will be “an orderly, lawful wind-down” of DACA — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — over the next six months, giving Congress time to take action, should it choose to do so, to protect the Dreamers.
What a cowardly abdication of responsibility by the Trump administration. Congress is far more likely to replace DACA with a humane alternative if Trump takes the lead, and the president said later on Tuesday that he does not “favor punishing children” for “the actions of their parents.” Yet he has punted to Congress.
For their part, Republicans in Congress as a whole have shown no interest in passing legislation to protect Dreamers from being deported, and that’s not going to change. The far-right Freedom Caucus in the House, in particular, will never grow a heart. But dozens of individual Republican members of the House and Senate do sympathize with the plight of Dreamers and could, in theory, team up with Democrats to pass a bill.
Or so we dream.
To do so in the House, Speaker Paul Ryan would have to allow a floor vote on such a bill knowing that a majority of his Republican caucus does not support it. Ryan would be risking his position as speaker by violating a custom known as the “Hastert Rule,” and he has never shown much political courage.
But while Ryan believes Obama’s order protecting Dreamers was an abuse of executive authority, he has made clear he is not keen on rounding up Dreamers. He said as much again on Tuesday in a statement released after Sessions’ announcement:
“It is my hope that the House and the Senate, with the president’s leadership, will be able to find consensus on a permanent legislative solution that includes ensuring that those who have done nothing wrong can still contribute as a valued part of this great country.”
If Ryan and his counterpart in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, step up to protect Dreamers, they could be inviting civil war within their party, but that’s a war worth fighting. The GOP must become more inclusive in our changing country — by, most obviously, supporting comprehensive immigration reform — or doom itself to irrelevancy.
We will never understand. What’s to be gained by deporting — or driving back into the shadows — hundreds of thousands of good people who were brought to the United States as children and are Americans now in every way, save for a piece of paper?
The burden is on Congress, distressingly, to pass a Dreamer bill. May common decency prevail. They could call it the “Alonso Guillen Act.”
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