DACA, Jesus, and family: A letter

25920354254_905845d444_b
A DACA demonstration, by Bread for the World.

Dear Family,

Greetings to my dear ones across the world. Some of you are in Pakistan. Some in Canada. Many of you are scattered across the United States—Pennsylvania, New Jersey, North Carolina, Michigan, Kansas, California, etc. I am writing to all of you to tell you a little about myself. I know we see each other at weddings or funerals every few years. We hug and we take photos for Facebook (so we can show off our saris). But I am starting to realize we do not really know each other.

Let me explain.

As you know, I am an immigration attorney. But the work I do is public interest law — I serve low-income families, the vulnerable. Part of the reason I do this work is because of the religious tradition I inherited from you. I am proud to be descended from generations of Pakistani Christians who took me to church every Sunday and made me memorize chapters and chapters of the Bible. It shaped who I am. My values.

You taught me how to love. Empathize. How to be kind. Serve others. And now here I am, working with undocumented immigrants during a time when they are being vilified by our own president.

Soon, the government will stop accepting renewal applications for DACA aka Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA helped almost 800,000 young men and women who came here as children get protection from deportation. DACA helped them to work legally and achieve their dreams of going to college, owing a home, starting a family.

Fam, I wish you could come and follow me around for a day. For the last few weeks, young people have sat across from me and cried as they talk about the fear they feel. They’ve shown me their grades, pictures of their toddlers and talked about graduate schools plans they are afraid to pursue. And now they’re left waiting. Wondering. Afraid.

When I see them, I see my parents, uncles and aunts when they immigrated to the States. I see you.

This is wrong. This isn’t the Christianity you taught me. You taught me Christianity is beyond all borders and nations. You taught me “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” You taught me to treat everyone like an angel. You would say, “What would Jesus do?” You made me sing, “Jesus loves the little children/All the children of the world.” Does he though? Do you?

Do you know anyone with DACA? Odds are you do. You just don’t know you do. I am very thankful to know people like my former coworker and friend Rossmeri Ramirez. She has DACA and is speaking out about it. But we need others to speak out and support immigrants. We need you. I need you.

Family, we are scattered across the globe. We are the same. We eat the same food, flavor our basmati rice with the same mango pickle. We like the same clothes, we wear the same gold jewelry. We go to the same churches. But politically, we are very, very different.

Can you tell I am angry? I apologize. But I am angry. You shaped me into the person I am. You are proud of me. You believe in service and missions. And yet your politics is hurting the very people I am working to protect. This isn’t the Christianity I want to know. Can you explain it to me?

Yours,
Kishwer

Kishwer Vikaas is an immigration attorney living in Sacramento, California. She grew up attending Mennonite church and school in Lancaster County, Philadelphia and South Jersey. She used to write about South Asian pop culture for Sepia Mutiny, MTVDesi, The Aerogram, etc. but has since retired. You can find her on Twitter @phillygrrl.

What are we willing to trade for DACA?

Dear Rebecca:

I take it as a given that — following Donald Trump’s DACA announcement — we’d both like to see Congress pass a law giving the so-called “Dreamers” a chance to stay in the U.S. legally and even create a pathway to citizenship for them.

So. What are we willing to give up?

Republicans control Congress, after all. Not all Republicans are immigration hardliners — lots, with the business community, love them all the cheap labor that immigration, legal and otherwise provides. But it remains the case that a unified GOP is probably going to want to pass a bill that lets them tell their constituents: “See! We made the country safer!” Just giving the Dreamers a legal pathway to stay isn’t going to get the job done. Giving the GOP a win might.

So I say: Give them the wall.

Don’t get me wrong. I think Trump’s wall is stupid. Probably ineffective. Mexico certainly won’t pay for it. And it goes against everything we’ve been taught about our country being a hope for people around the world who needs hope.

I also think most Republicans recognize that failing to come up with a solution on DACA will be a disaster — condemning people who are here to a lawless grey zone, at best, or requiring their deportation to “home” countries they don’t know at worst. That’s why President Trump, for all his anti-immigrant bravado, punted the issue back to Congress.

Still, I don’t trust the GOP simply to do the right thing. Do you?

So. A compromise of sorts will be probably needed. One that lets them look tough on immigration. Maybe it’s increased funding for ICE, or reduced numbers of legal immigrants. Of all the options on the table, building a wall seems like it might be the least bad.

There’s going to be a temptation among Democrats to hold out. And certainly, nothing should be conceded before both sides get to the negotiating table. There’s also no reason to give away the store. But if we truly believe that anything but legal status for the Dreamers amounts to a disaster — and I do — then we probably have to be willing to compromise, to not let perfect be the enemy of accomplishing something good. That means we’ll have to give up something we’d rather not give up. In politics, this is how it often works.

So. What are we willing to give up? There are real lives depending on the answer.

Sincerely, Joel
 

 

We’ve Been on the Verge of “the Trump Era” since 1848

Joel:

“Be forewarned. This is a new era. This is the Trump era.”

Those were the words from Jeff Sessions’ recent speech to the border patrol–beyond the dehumanizing language, the fear-mongering, the disregard for facts, the insult to history–that scared me. They were meant to scare lots of us–everyone who doesn’t fit into Trump’s narrow definition of the people he is supposed to be serving (though it’s clear that he doesn’t understand that the president serves, not rules).

Like so many of the words uttered by this administration, Sessions’ warning was also a call to arms. Though his approval rating is at record-settingly low for a modern president, Trump has fans who have been yearning to hear these words.

For others of us, the shock of the election has worn off, but we’re still in some other stage of grief–denial, anger, bargaining, depression–and have to figure out what will have to accept. It’s not the legitimacy of a Trump Presidency. Whether concerns about Russian interference are merited, we know that voter suppression and an electoral system that weights rural whites disproportionately were the real winners. But we have to accept that more than sixty million of our fellow Americans–most white people, most men, most wealthier people–voted for a person that most voters voted against. Not all sixty million of them were enthusiastic about voting for Trump, but many of them were excited about his racism, xenophobia and nativism, and Islamaphobia. Consistent with findings from the primaries, those more enthusiastic about Trump are more racist by all kinds of measures.

JS

Above, Jeff Sessions, the lawyer for the American people, except for the 69 percent of people in the US who aren’t white men. He’s been waiting since 1848 to kick all the Mexicans out of the country. 

Many conservatives missed this, in part because they wanted to. In his essay in the New York Times historian recently, Rick Perlstein offers some reflections on how he, among many scholars of conservatism, failed to predict Trump. In “I Thought I Understood the American Right. Trump Proved Me Wrong,” he concludes:

Future historians won’t find all that much of a foundation for Trumpism in [the intellectual heroes of conservatism]. They’ll need instead to study conservative history’s political surrealists and intellectual embarrassments, its con artists and tribunes of white rage.

To which many of us (and I’m guessing about 100% of scholars of color) responded with a collective eye roll.

Because if you think you understood the American right as distinct from white supremacy and structural racism, no, you didn’t understand the American right, and I’m not really sure you were trying very hard.

For all the accusations liberals live in “bubbles,” your bubble must have been opaque and soundproof if you have been hanging around the rightwing of this country and were unaware of the racial resentment of so many white Americans.

Because Jeff Sessions’ racism—that’s not new. It’s how a man of so few good ideas got this far. If you did not hear it, that’s because you were not listening to Coretta Scott King. And if you were not listening to Coretta Scott King, you are probably not listening to a lot of black people and a lot of women, and so you are never going to hear the information that you need to hear to understand the racism and misogyny that drives the American right. (This does not mean that liberals or progressives are free from racism. Just that it’s not their entire reason for existence, which is the case with so many conservatives; the word itself indicates a desire for the way things “used to be,” which is to say: racist, sexist, homophobic.)

Which is how we get here—depositing adults brought to the US as children, before what a Baptist might call the “age of accountability,” over the border without a proper process for insuring that their rights are protected.

It’s easier to not hear people when you’ve moved them out of the country, but don’t let that make you feel secure if you’re not part of a “deportable” population. A system that won’t let a Dreamer retrieve his papers to prove that he belongs here isn’t going to let you—women, people of color, non-Christians, poor people—speak either.