Many of the fables and fairytales we heard as children pitted the young heroes and heroines against ill-meaning adults.
Cinderella was berated by her evil stepmother. Snow White was put to sleep by a jealous queen. Hansel and Gretel were nearly cooked up medium-rare by the witch who lived in the woods. Such caricatures make for fantastic storytelling, as long as they never translate into real life.
Yet right now, over in America, the children of undocumented immigrants are faced with their own version of the Big Bad Wolf.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump announced he would repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in six months’ time.
This executive order – issued by former President Barack Obama – grants the children of illegal immigrants two-year, often renewable windows during which they can receive a work permit and are protected from deportation.
The President’s former attempts to curb immigration have been met with mass backlash, but this latest decision to roll back DACA has been interpreted as particularly vile.
Nicknamed “Dreamers” (after failed attempts during the Bush and Obama administrations to pass comprehensive immigration reform called the DREAM Act), these children are “foreigners” in documentation only. They have been raised in America; their memories are in America; they’ve gone to American schools; they’ve sat through American history classes.
Their productivity is so impressive, it has been estimated that the repeal of DACA could cost the US economy more than $400bn over the next decade.
Far from being some fantasy tale, the DACA repeal is a real-life nightmare for roughly 800,0000 undocumented patriots, who will be forced back to their parents’ countries of origin, or be branded illegals if Congress does not act.
There is no moral to this story, but rather lessons that we are learning too late. First, take a demagogue at his word. When a presidential candidate bluntly lays out his disdain for undocumented immigrants, assume that when in power he will pour efforts into driving them away – no matter how young, innocent, or productive many may be.
Second, structural institutions exist for a reason. While the contents of DACA would make for good legislation, executive orders are not legislation. Obama’s decision to bypass Congress and sign a “deportation waiver” on his own meant that Dreamers were always going to be vulnerable to this kind of repeal.
Comprehensive immigration reform is no easy feat, but compromise must be found between the two political parties, in order to provide status and security to society’s most vulnerable members.
Lastly, judge actions, not words. The only silver lining of the repeal is that the Republican majorities in the House and the Senate now have the opportunity to put DACA protections into law. Since Trump has deflected immigration reform to Congress – appeasing his own base with the repeal – the fate of DACA is now in their hands.
Republicans in Congress, who have been openly resistant to the President since he took office, have the chance to show the Dreamers that theirs remains the party of Lincoln and Reagan, and that it has not become the party of Trump.
Confirming DACA protections wouldn’t equate to a “happily ever after” for Dreamers, but in the real world, it’s often enough to simply do the right thing.