The DACA recipients I spoke with Tuesday never expected Trump to keep the program. But they thought — they hoped — he might at least have some guidance on what comes next for 800,000 young people who know no other home.
Daniela Castro expected more.
Castro, of Marysville, is one of those Dreamers who lives up to the name. Brought to this country from Mexico as a 6-month old baby, she grew up to win a $180,000 scholarship in June to study biomedical engineering at Seattle Pacific University.
Now she faces possible deportation as soon as next year, with President Donald Trump ordering the wind down of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
But chief on her mind Tuesday wasn’t her own future (“It will work out for me, I believe that”) so much as the surreal lack of leadership in her adopted country.
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“We all knew DACA wasn’t going to last,” Castro, 18, said Tuesday. “But I thought he would provide some other way to go about it, some alternative ideas of his own. I didn’t think he would just end it, and say basically nothing.”
Actually what Trump did was tweet: “Congress, get ready to do your job — DACA!”
“Trump Fulfills Campaign Promise of Pushing Major Immigration Decision On Someone Else So He Can Watch TV,” was how The Onion summed it up (yes, I know, that’s fake news, but sometimes satire gets closest to the truth).
No matter what your views on illegal immigration, it was another whipsaw moment in Trump’s presidential leadership (if you can call it that).
On the one hand, Trump did promise as a candidate that he would cancel DACA and possibly deport everybody. So no matter how disruptive the action is, nobody should be surprised by it. One of the enduring lessons of the Trump era should be: We get what we vote for.
But the way he did it was classic Trump. He foisted the issue onto Congress, which is fine to a point. But then, as Castro noted, he offered no guidance about what Congress should do.
Let the Dreamers stay? Kick them out after six months? Give them a shot at achieving citizenship? Who knows.
Dreamers and other advocates seemed most dejected at this flippancy coming from the top Tuesday.
“If this somehow lights a fire in Congress, then great,” said Jorge Barón, director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project in Seattle. “But 800,000 people are hanging in the balance. There was no need to rescind DACA to start working on a solution. It’s a very destructive way to go about it.”
Echoed state Attorney General Bob Ferguson: “You can’t call this leadership. It’s punting the issue to others.”
Example: Since the spring, Congressman Dave Reichert, a Republican, has co-sponsored two bills aimed at resolving the Dreamers’ status. One, called the BRIDGE Act, would extend the Dreamers’ protection for three years. The other, called the Recognizing America’s Children Act, would give Dreamers a path, albeit a long one (10 years), toward a more certain legal status here.
Reichert is to be commended for trying. But here’s the thing: As of Tuesday night, the BRIDGE Act had attracted the support of only 6 percent of the U.S. House (26 of 435 members have signed on). The other bill has even less.
Trump could have thrown his weight behind either of these bills — or any other constructive approach for that matter. But he didn’t. He emoted, saying he has “great love” for the Dreamers. But the Dreamers weren’t feeling it.
“He’s hiding behind tweets and [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions,” fumed Paúl Quiñonez Figueroa, 22, of Seattle, a DACA recipient who spoke at a rally at Seattle’s El Centro de la Raza on Tuesday.
Blaming and buck-passing was the Trump style on Obamacare, too. It’s a big reason Republicans have failed to do anything on health care, despite controlling the entire federal government.
Castro, the Marysville Dreamer, told me she is going to put her head down and go off to college in two weeks. Even though we might evict her. What else can she do?
This is a great country that happens to be going through a full-blown political crisis. But just as it is for you and me, America is all she knows.