Dreamers Awake

“Never to have to think of yourself as white is a luxury that makes you deeply stupid.” ~ Leonard Michaels

It does? Michaels was an Ashkenazy Jew born in New York City – his father was born in Poland. He graduated from NYU and then got his MA and PhD from the University of Michigan – in white-bread Ann Arbor – and then he moved to Berkeley to spend the rest of his life as a Professor of English there.

So what does he know about whiteness? He led a privileged life. But he wrote good stuff – maybe because he knew he led a privileged life. That was something to overcome, or maybe it was Berkeley itself. The Free Speech Movement started there in 1964 and Ronald Reagan, who was governor out here at the time, called Berkeley “a haven for communist sympathizers, protesters, and sex deviants” – so that place was, and still is, a bit radical.

That might explain the quote. Michaels didn’t want to be stupid. Think of yourself as white. Think what that means in American culture. That’s as odd as being black or brown or yellow, or puce or mauve or taupe or plaid for that matter. Whiteness is not a baseline given. “White” is not the default race. You’re not all that special. Don’t be stupid about it.

Donald Trump doesn’t mind being stupid:

President Donald Trump is expected to end an Obama-era program that shielded young people from deportation, but he will likely let the immigrants known as Dreamers stay in the United States until their work permits run out, according to multiple people familiar with the policy negotiation.

These aren’t white people after all:

That plan would allow Trump to fulfill a campaign promise to end one of Barack Obama’s signature initiatives while also giving the president a way to keep the pledge he made after Inauguration Day to treat the Dreamers with “great heart,” said sources on both sides of the issue who are involved in the discussions.

An announcement could come as soon as Friday, just days before a deadline imposed by 10 states that threatened to sue the U.S. government if it did not stop protecting people brought into the country illegally as children.

Advocacy groups that want to preserve the program are urging the White House to ask those states – led by hurricane-ravaged Texas – to postpone their Tuesday deadline. A delay would give those groups more time to negotiate, and it could give Trump the space to avoid making a major policy announcement while his administration is eager to remain focused on hurricane recovery efforts.

So, does he treat these brown people with “great heart” or not? Maybe he does have a Great White Heart, but there are pressures:

The president is under intense pressure to move quickly to end the program – called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or, more commonly, DACA – from groups that supported his candidacy because of his pro-deportation immigration position and his promise to end this particular program on his first day in office.

“This is something that he has absolutely turned his back on the base on,” said Chris Chmielenski, NumbersUSA’s director of content and activism. “I can’t say it enough. He promised to do it and he has not done it yet.”

The White House certainly could ignore the deadline imposed by the states threatening to sue, and instead leave the issue to the courts or Congress. But his advisors are urging Trump to take the reins.

“He’s been advised that it’s in his political interest for him to be the one to make the decision to terminate the program because he’ll get the credit,” said a source that is familiar with the conversations inside the White House. “And if it’s going to end anyway, why not take the credit for it?”

They’re only brown people after all, but it’s complicated:

The idea of allowing the roughly 800,000 immigrants now protected by the program to stay for as long as two years under current work permits is supported even by many of the groups that want DACA scrapped. So long as no new permits would be given and none would be renewed, those groups see the reprieve for current DACA enrollees as necessary.

“It seems to be the most practical way to do it,” said Ira Mehlman, a spokesman with the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that opposes protecting Dreamers and is in talks with the administration.

That window could give Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill who are sympathetic to these young, undocumented immigrants some time to come up with a plan before most of the recipients lose their status, said a congressional source familiar with the GOP strategy.

“I think he’s genuinely conflicted on this and trying to figure it out,” one of the Republicans said.

Think of the Great White Father in agony:

“DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me,” Trump said in February. “To me, it’s one of the most difficult subjects I have because you have these incredible kids, in many cases not in all cases. In some of the cases they’re having DACA and they’re gang members and they’re drug dealers too. But you have some absolutely incredible kids, I would say mostly.”

That sounds like confusion, not agony, which makes no one happy:

The administration has continued to allow Dreamers to apply for the program and has even renewed their permits – at nearly the rate of the Obama administration – which has angered some of his own supporters.

Americans for Legal Immigration PAC dropped its endorsement of Trump in May because he did not end DACA. “There is no room for compromise,” the group’s president, William Gheen, said this week.

Advocacy groups on both sides of the issue have been bombarding the White House and lawmakers with calls and letters as the deadline looms.

“We will not be pushed back into the shadows,” said Cristina Jiménez, executive director of the United We Dream. “We’ll continue to rally and to March, to show Trump and Congress that they are here to stay.”

The lines in the sand are drawn and the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent is not impressed:

Donald Trump is suddenly overcome with a profound sense of concern over the possibility that he may be abusing his own power as president. No, really, this is what multiple news organizations are now reporting – and asking us to believe.

But, given Trump’s track record when it comes to constraining his authority thus far, perhaps a hint of skepticism is in order.

His situation is uncomfortable:

Axios reports that the White House is keenly aware that ending DACA would create major complications for businesses that employ these people. Some White House staffers are also worried about facing scalding criticism for ending the program, which would uproot the lives of many people who were brought here through no fault of their own, who are thoroughly American and who want to contribute positively to American life.

And there’s this:

Staffers view the opprobrium they would face as akin to that which met Trump’s thinly veiled Muslim ban; his pullout from the Paris climate deal; and his failure to unambiguously condemn the Charlottesville white supremacists.

In other words, some people in the White House appear to believe that (just as in those other cases) ending protections for the dreamers risks putting them on the wrong side of a deeply consequential moral dilemma – and would have terrible practical consequences for the country as well. But according to Axios, Trump may pull the plug on DACA because the prevailing White House view is that continuing it would be illegal:

Senior officials tell us the majority view inside the Trump administration is that DACA is illegal, and the only way to deal with the problem of illegal immigrants who arrived here as children is for Congress to act.

Handing it off to Congress is an option, or maybe not:

Sources tell the AP that the administration is deeply split between those who argue for keeping the program (Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump) and the immigration hard-liners who have argued that it is unconstitutional (Stephen Miller, Jeff Sessions, the now-departed Stephen K. Bannon). So Trump is likely to side with the immigration hard-liners, who are leaking that they believe keeping this executive action violates the Constitution – and this will be the defense for ending it.

Sargent is skeptical about that:

Are you freaking kidding me? Are we really supposed to believe the constitutionality of the program is weighing on Trump or will be instrumental in shaping his final decision?

It is a truly shocking coincidence that the same advisers who are telling Trump that DACA is unconstitutional were also the ones most responsible for the disguised Muslim ban and also pushed Trump to pardon Joe Arpaio. Bannon and Miller were key drivers of the ban’s original rollout. They both reportedly favored pardoning Arpaio. My point is not just that this strongly suggests their view of DACA’s constitutionality is rooted in their hostility to immigrants, though it does.

And there’s this:

It’s also that this hints at an amusing double standard on the part of the White House’s immigration hardline faction when it comes to the care with which they approach Trump’s exercise of his authority. Bannon and Miller’s haste to rush out the travel ban led them to trample all over the proper legal process for such measures, which in turn helped lead to its initial blockage by the courts. Bannon and Miller also appear to have privately told Trump that pardoning Arpaio would please his base, which only underscores how cavalier they were about a major decision with serious separation-of-powers implications. While Trump’s pardon power is quasi-absolute, there is widespread agreement that this nonetheless constituted an abuse of his power, something that plainly did not concern Bannon and Miller.

Nor was Trump remotely concerned about the legal details surrounding his use of executive authority to institute the veiled ban on Muslims, or about the prospect that pardoning Arpaio might constitute an abuse of his power. And do we really need to remind you of Trump’s abuses of power and lawlessness in other areas – the emoluments clause violations; the firing of the FBI director over the Russia probe after demanding his loyalty; the rage at his attorney general for failing to protect him from that probe; and the obvious use of the Arpaio pardon to signal that more pardons on Russia may be coming?

Consider that, and consider this:

I’m not arguing that there is not a legitimate debate over whether DACA is constitutional. There is. My own view is that DACA and Obama’s attempted expansion of it, which was blocked by the courts, are legitimate exercises of executive discretion. But it’s not really that unreasonable to argue that they aren’t. DACA and its expansion did push hard into new legal territory. It is plausible that the courts would strike DACA down. This would not be a wildly absurd decision. Similarly, though some conservatives like to pretend DACA’s unconstitutionality is an easy call, this is actually grounds for a legitimate legal dispute in both directions. Indeed, four Supreme Court justices and a host of legal experts, including ones who lean to the right, did not see Obama’s expansion of it as illegal. Many argue DACA is legal.

So this is not a slam-dunk case in either direction. But does anyone really believe that Trump, Bannon or Miller, of all people, are motivated by any good-faith effort to determine whether DACA constitutes an abuse of the president’s power? Come on now. Seriously?

Now add this:

A new NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll finds that Americans say Trump’s pardon of Arpaio was “wrong” by 60 percent to 34 percent. They support protections for the dreamers by 64 percent to 30 percent. And 71 percent say most undocumented immigrants should be given a path to legalization.

But wait, we keep hearing that Trump’s immigration agenda has the support of a vast silent majority of “the people,” while only “elites” who have contempt for the “deplorables” disagree with it.

No, most everyone is not with Trump on this. Something is amiss here, and Ed Kilgore adds this:

DACA could be a bargaining chip in a deal that includes not only border-wall funding but restrictions on legal immigration and other nativist priorities. Congress – and Congress alone – can provide a permanent resolution of the plight of Dreamers (whose very moniker, after all, was created by a never-enacted bill called the DREAM Act, which refers to Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors). Trump’s decision to slowly kill DACA instead of exposing the entire eligible population to the possibility of immediate deportation (not that the federal government has the resources to do that anyway) seems highly compatible with a strategy of making a deal that doesn’t look like a flip-flop.

That’s the “art of the deal” – making a deal that doesn’t look like a flip-flop, even when it is, for a better deal – a big wall right now, paid for by American taxpayers, not the Mexican government. Deport these kids very slowly, no matter how much the resident nativist-folks howl, to get that wall built now. Those resident nativists will stop howling. That may be the idea.

The Atlantic’s Molly Ball, however, sees a different Trump:

He feels for the Dreamers. As with other controversial administration policies, a moderate-establishment wing of the White House opposes the change, while a populist-conservative faction is pushing Trump to make it. Trump himself feels pulled in both directions.

More than one immigration advocate put it the same way to me: “Somebody told him these are good kids,” and it stuck. He didn’t want to anger the Breitbart wing of his base. But unlike other undocumented immigrants, hardworking young students didn’t strike him as criminals. And in an administration where personality is policy, Trump’s feelings carried the day.

The hardliners weren’t satisfied, and when they realized the White House wasn’t going to act, they sought to force Trump’s hand. A group of Republican attorneys general brought the 2014 lawsuit that prevented Obama from protecting Dreamers’ relatives. That suit is still pending…

Immigration advocates suspect that Trump was trying to keep DACA in place without affirmatively supporting it – but the attorneys general called his bluff.

A weak president, hazy on policy and hazy on his beliefs, can be manipulated, but that’s a trap:

Trump has come under heavy pressure not to do it in recent days – in personal calls from senior Republican lawmakers and business heavy hitters, and in a full-court press from activists across the political spectrum, such as a Wednesday letter signed by numerous leading conservative evangelical Christians.

“Donald Trump is driving the Republican Party into the one place they tried to avoid – being blamed for the government hunting down and deporting kids,” a liberal immigration advocate told me. “He’s pointing a gun at his own head: ‘I’m going to shut down the government unless I get a border wall, and then I’m going to start deporting Dreamers!'”

Never to have to think of yourself as white really is a luxury that makes you deeply stupid, and German Lopez explains that:

To understand what Trump is doing, it’s important to first understand how many conservative white Americans feel about the state of US politics. The best description of that comes from sociologist Arlie Hochschild’s book, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right.

Hochschild spent years with Tea Party members in Louisiana. Out of that experience, she came up with a theory to explain how many of them feel: As they see it, they are all in this line toward a hill with prosperity at the top. But over the past few years, globalization and income stagnation have caused the line to stop moving. And from their perspective, other groups – black and brown Americans, women – are now cutting in the line, because they’re getting new (and more equal) opportunities through various government services, new anti-discrimination laws, and policies like affirmative action. All of that builds resentment.

This is what Trump is speaking to. By playing into white fears of crime and concerns that minorities are taking their jobs, he’s signaling to his white supporters that he’s a politician who is finally taking their problems seriously.

He cannot fix those problems, but he can take those problems seriously, for what that’s worth, which may be nothing much.

It also may be deeply stupid. David Rothkopf, a visiting professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, looks at wider consequences:

In the past two weeks, I have visited Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. In each, the conversation inevitably turns to President Trump – but not in the way that he might imagine. He is a source of morbid fascination everywhere. The most common question I get is, “How long do you think he will remain in office?” The next most common is, “How did this happen?”

They sense that we have elected a deeply stupid president:

In Mexico, I encountered a businessman who regularly lost employees who had migrated north – he alleged illegally – across the U.S. border. He was sympathetic to Trump’s promise to better police that border.

But even those defenders seemed to have been taken aback by the events of the past few weeks. It appears Trump’s defense of neo-Nazis and white supremacists in the wake of Charlottesville was as much a watershed abroad as it was in the United States. It has become harder to publicly back him given his willingness to associate himself with racist American extremists. The pardon of former sheriff Joe Arpaio was seen as a doubling down on these odious impulses, coming as it did in the wake of the controversy over Trump’s Charlottesville remarks and his subsequent defense of them in his rambling, unhinged Phoenix rally. Particularly among Latin communities outside the United States, Arpaio is among the leading symbols of discrimination, abuse and hate-mongering. He is the Bull Connor of his generation, the leading example – until Trump – of those who twist the law to use it against the weakest and the innocent.

This is not good:

Trump’s U.S. opponents may view this as only one of the president’s defects and a fairly domestic one at that. But based upon my travels and conversations with international visitors, I would argue that of all his flaws and mistakes in office, none has had so profound or so detrimental effect around the world as the president’s racism. The Russia scandal, Trump’s incompetence, his revolving door of staff and his failure to get anything substantive done legislatively all account for little in the consciousness of most foreigners. And while his foreign policy – particularly his seeming willingness to flirt with nuclear confrontation with North Korea and with other military conflicts from the Middle East to Venezuela – has generated legitimate concerns worldwide, the most frequent criticisms I have heard of his actions tie to his intolerance and attacks on ethnic groups.

This began during the presidential campaign, of course, with his insults to Mexicans and his anti-Muslim rhetoric. It was compounded when he surrounded himself in the White House with people closely associated with white supremacist and intolerant views, including Stephen K. Bannon, Sebastian Gorka and Stephen Miller. Even now that Bannon and Gorka are gone, the pattern of the first seven months of Trump’s presidency centers around the president’s fear or hatred of the “other.” From the bungled but tenaciously pursued travel ban to the consistent prioritization of the wall with Mexico to an immigration crackdown that has targeted the innocent, Trump consistently has sent a signal to those outside the United States that they are no longer welcome.

That’s rather obvious:

This perception has been compounded by his regular comments denigrating foreign leaders or entire peoples. Statements by apparently-valued White House aides – such as Miller’s claim that the welcoming words on the Statue of Liberty were an afterthought that could be ignored – have reinforced the sense of hostility. As a result, in country after country I have visited, the most common theme I have heard is one of avoiding the United States. People said they would not visit here as planned, that they had relatives who would not be studying there as planned, that something had changed. As one Arab executive said to me, “I don’t know how I or my family will be treated anymore. Why take the risk?”

They won’t take the risk, and that has consequences:

It has become clearer in the past several weeks than ever before that at his core, Donald Trump is a racist committed to promoting division and intolerance as a core political strategy and central policy initiative. That’s terrible for us at home. And from traveling around the world, it is clear that his policies are not only undercutting America’s standing in the world but also making us less safe by alienating our friends and inflaming our enemies.

Donald Trump doesn’t seem to get that, because Leonard Michaels was right, never to have to think of yourself as white is a luxury that makes you deeply stupid. Think of yourself as white, and think what that means in American culture, and what that means in the larger world.

Who would want to be the Bull Connor of this generation? Donald Trump is not letting loose the snarling police dogs and blasting kids away with high-pressure fire hoses. He’s just hunting down and deporting kids, perhaps slowly, but surely. To many, that feels like the same thing – and that’s a luxury even he can’t afford. America, white as it is, for now at least, can’t afford it either. There’s really no need to be deeply stupid.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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