Killing the American Dream

Will Trump's DACA "cruel, heartless, mean" decision be a turning point in his administration?

When I heard about Donald Trumps decision to end DACA, the program that lets young immigrants find a future in this country, I thought about David Campos.

Campos, a former SF supervisor who now chairs the San Francisco Democratic Party, is a graduate of Stanford and Harvard Law School. He  has worked as a lawyer for the SF school district, as an elected official, and now as a deputy county executive in Santa Clara County.

David Campos, a “dreamer” before that term was invented, graduated from Harvard Law School after entering the country without documents at 14

He’s also someone who arrived in this county without documentation, at age 14. He was, in 1985, a “dreamer,” although the term didn’t exist back then.

I’m sure Trump won’t look to Campos as an example of how an immigrant can live the American Dream — work hard, get an education, give back to the community — but the rest of us should.

And there are 800,000 young people just like him around the country today. 

“They had no say in how they got here,” Campos told me this evening. “That was not their decision. And imagine now saying to them that it doesn’t matter how hard you work, it doesn’t matter how much you try, we are taking away the opportunity to make something of yourself.”

That’s what really hit me: How can you tell a high school kid that they have no future? How can you tell someone to get up in the morning, as Campos did, get on the bus and go to school, do your homework, learn and work hard — when the government won’t give you a chance to use that education? When your only choice is to be ripped form your community, to go to another country that you left as a young kid, that you have no connection to? 

And it’s all, as Campos told me, because of the color of their skin.

“We are not talking about large numbers of European immigrant kids,” he said. “Trump didn’t say it outright, but this is done because of his racial animus.”

Protest at the federal building this afternoon. Photo by David Schnur

At least 1,000 people protested outside the Federal Building in San Francisco today. There will be more protests to come. The issue will come up in Congress, maybe. 

You can see the story of one Dreamer here, from a video project by Steve Talbot, and get a sense of what is at stake:

State and local government needs to step up. In Santa Clara, Campos told me, the county is funding a major outreach and ad campaign including billboards to tell immigrants that they are not alone and that help is available. The county is considering filing a lawsuit, and I’m sure San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera is looking at that, too.

“We can’t let Trump create an atmosphere of fear,” Campos noted.

In the meantime, San Francisco needs to seriously fund legal defense for immigrants, something that Mayor Ed Lee was only reluctantly willing to do and only on a limited basis. 

“I think when we look back,” Campos said, “today is going to be a turning point. This was such a cruel, heartless, mean decision.”

Stupid, too: The US is saying that some of the smartest, hardest working kids in the country are not welcome to stay here and build the economy. Mind boggling.

Video of the SF #DefendDACA protest in SF’s Civic Center by David Schnur.