Trump’s biggest insult to immigrants in his State of the Union
The president pulled an “All Lives Matter” on DREAMers.
By Dara Lind [email protected] Jan 30, 2018, 11:48pm EST
… Playing on the use of “DREAMers” to refer to the generation of immigrants who came to the US as children, most of whom are now in their 20s and 30s, he smirked that “Americans are dreamers too.”
Tonight, I am extending an open hand to work with members of both parties — Democrats and Republicans — to protect our citizens of every background, color, religion, and creed. My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans — to protect their safety, their families, their communities, and their right to the American Dream. Because Americans are dreamers too.
Miss that reference, and this passage is just standard Trumpian “America First” boilerplate: the idea that America has put immigrants ahead of its own citizens, and that Trump is showing love for Americans by calling for fewer immigrants to be allowed to join them.
But it’s in fact something more pointed: an attempt to reclaim the label of “dreamer” from the group that has used it for the last 17 years.
The DREAM Act — an acronym that stands for Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors, if you’re wondering — was first introduced in the Senate in 2001 to give legal status to unauthorized immigrants who arrived to the United States as children. The act gave the name to that generation of immigrants — the DREAMers. That moniker is what Trump sought to reclaim tonight.
This isn’t the first time that Trump has drawn the connection between Americans being “dreamers” and DREAMers as a group whose status in the US is an urgent policy issue. Trump used the line on the campaign trail, when he capped pleas to turn attention to poverty at home with “let our children be dreamers, too.” And he’s done it as president, in his official White House statement after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the end of the DACA program: “Above all else, we must remember that young Americans have dreams too.”
The DREAM Act has been around for 17 years. Congress never passed it. Instead, President Obama attempted to stick a band-aid on the problem by allowing DREAMers to get temporary work permits and deportation protections under DACA — protections that Trump is now slowly ripping away.
To say that “Americans are dreamers too” misses the point of all of that. It only makes sense under a misunderstanding of what DREAMers are actually asking for — a belief that they’re getting free college, for example — or under the zero-sum logic of status anxiety, in which any attention paid to a marginalized group must inherently mean that some other group must be losing ground.
For example, it’s just hateful paranoia for you Republicans to think that putting DACAites on the path to citizenship will eventually dilute your vote. Why do you think such bad thoughts? Are you bad?
It’s the same thing that happens when people respond to the slogan “Black Lives Matter” by saying that “All Lives Matter.” Technically, the statement is true and no one is disputing it. But to say it in this context, as a rebuttal, is to draw attention away from the discrepancy that the original statement was trying to point out: the reality that not everyone is equal, and furthermore, that the people speaking up lack some of the things that their critics take for granted. …
No one has ever told those Americans that they have no right to dream. And most likely, few of them, when they hear the term “DREAMers,” sees it as immigrants stealing dreams from native-born Americans. But to Donald Trump, the power to use positive language to label yourself isn’t a power that immigrants have either.
Trump has this crazy knack for getting his opponents so mad that they divulge their underlying thinking, which usually turns out to be an iSteve parody of them come to life.