President Trump said Sunday he will not restore DACA—the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program—that protects hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants from deportation—unless lawmakers agree to expand the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and move to keep out thousands of children fleeing gang violence in Central America. We get response from Cesar Vargas, who is himself a DACA recipient. He’s the co-director of DREAM Action Coalition and New York state’s first openly undocumented attorney.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, we end today’s show with immigration news. President Trump said Sunday he will not restore DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, that protects hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants from deportation—unless lawmakers agree to expand the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and move to keep out thousands of children fleeing gang violence in Central America. Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called the proposal a “nonstarter,” tweeting, “@NancyPelosi & I told @POTUS we were open to reasonable border security alongside #DreamAct -his list goes so far beyond whats reasonable.”
AMY GOODMAN: In September, President Trump said the government would stop renewing applications for DACA, which gives nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants permission to live and work in the United States.
For more, we go to St. Louis, Missouri, where we’re joined by Cesar Vargas, who is himself a DACA recipient, co-director of DREAM Action Coalition and New York state’s first openly undocumented attorney.
Cesar Vargas, welcome to Democracy Now! Usually you’re in New York, but you’re giving a talk in St. Louis. Respond to what President Trump has now proposed.
CESAR VARGAS: Well, the White House immigration demands are troubling and simply dangerous. What this president is simply seeking, every opportunity on broadening how to deport, detain and target more immigrants. And the bottom line is, is that this administration is essentially seeking assistance in persecuting one group of immigrants in exchange to pledging to protect others. It is asking me to be complicit in deporting my own mother in exchange for a green card. And, you know, this demand, this deal, is dangerously fueling a narrative of good immigrant versus bad immigrant, and pitting better-educated, academically, immigrants against my own mother, against day laborers, against Central American children. And, you know, this toxic deal is simply one that we cannot accept, because it is essentially targeting immigrants in exchange for just simply, well, we’re going to protect other group of immigrants. And that’s simply something that we cannot do. That’s something that I cannot do, to have my own mother at the crosshairs of this deportation regime.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Cesar, a lot of attention has focused on the president’s insistence on Congress funding the entire wall that he wants to build, but other aspects of what he’s proposing, like drastic changes in the family reunification aspect of immigration law, that would dramatically change the nature of who comes into the country, could you talk about that, as well?
CESAR VARGAS: Oh, absolutely. And what we’re seeing is that this administration has always been targeting and demonizing undocumented immigrants, that, you know, immigrants are taking jobs. But what this administration is also doing is reflecting that nationalist, white supremacist agenda by Attorney General Jeff Sessions of targeting legal immigrants, as well. So, you know, he’s trying to cut legal immigration to ensure that the parents, the spouses, the—sometimes the children, of many immigrant families to come together. You know, that’s un-American. This nation is founded on basic principles of keeping families together, on ensuring that people can seek a better opportunity and live the American dream. And this president, again, is seeking every opportunity to target, detain and deport more immigrants, both undocumented and legal immigrants.
And, you know, this is something that is a very, very dangerous potential deal that we hope the Democrats can push aside. And I get some of young people whose DACA protection, which is deportation relief and work authorization, you know, it expires in a matter of a few weeks. And for me, my DACA expires in 2019, so I understand the urgency. But we cannot simply fall into this vicious cycle of, well, let’s help one group of immigrants, or let’s help the good immigrants, and let’s target and persecute bad immigrants. And that’s simply something that we cannot fall in trap into, especially by this administration, whose rhetoric has been divisive and dangerous when it comes to just simply every issue, not just on immigration.
AMY GOODMAN: And explain what you mean by this division of good immigrants and who the bad immigrants are.
CESAR VARGAS: Well, you know, for me, it’s easy for people to say, “Well, you know, these DREAMers, these DACA recipients, who are in college, who are in law school, who are lawyers, who are doctors, engineers, you know, those are the good immigrants,” according to what this administration has been saying. But that implies that, well, if these are the good immigrants, the desirable ones, we need to kick out the undesirable ones. We need to kick out the parents who brought these children here. We need to kick out the Central American children, who, many of them, are my clients. I’m representing many of them in immigration court. And this administration is saying, “Well, we need to stop them. We need to prevent them from coming here,” even though they’re escaping unspeakable violence from countries whose murder rates are the highest, more than even some war zones. They’re kicking out day laborers. So, you know, I think it’s pitting that division of the good immigrant versus bad immigrant.
And what this administration is doing is simply saying, “Cesar, I want you to be complicit in the targeting and persecution of those immigrants in exchange for a green card for you.” And for me, that’s simply something that I cannot accept, that’s simply that we should not accept. And that’s simply that the Democrats should be strong, and Republicans, as well, as we are seeing a bipartisan support, from both parties, from the American people, in general, for a solution, an immediate solution, and about taking the first steps to passing the DREAM Act or some type of legislation, and then let’s talk about a broader immigration reform. Let’s talk about border security. Let’s talk about ensuring that we keep our nation secure. And I think no one doubts that. But let’s start with something that would provide an immediate solution for young people, to ensure that they continue to go to school, they continue to go to college, and contribute to the country they call home.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: So, is your position that the DREAM Act should be dealt with separately and first, and then the more thorny issue, the more complex issue, of overall immigration reform?
CESAR VARGAS: This is something that the majority of the American people are requesting, right? Even two-thirds of Donald Trump’s supporters are also backing a path to citizenship for some of these DACA recipients and DREAMers. And I think this is something that we can do immediately. We already have bipartisan support. We have various, multiple legislation, like the Recognizing American Children Act by Congressman Curbelo. We have the SUCCEED Act by Senator Thom Tillis from North Carolina. We have the DREAM Act by Senator Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin. So, there’s a bipartisan effort already underway. And we should start by congressional action, and then let’s work with the administration.
You know, no one’s saying that we don’t want to work with the administration on this deal. But at the same time, we’re not going to fall into a trap into accepting something so toxic that’s going to persecute one group of immigrants in exchange of protecting others. And I think that’s something that we need to work to ensure that we can have a solution for many of these young people and ensure that we can contribute to the country we call home.
AMY GOODMAN: Cesar Vargas, we want to thank you for being with us, co-director of the DREAM Action Coalition, New York state’s first openly undocumented attorney.