Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Dreamers’ Nightmare: Trump Rescinds DACA

President Donald J. Trump has rescinded the Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which was issued by an executive order by former President Obama in 2012. DACA deals with roughly 800,000 illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children by their parents allowing them to live and work legally. The measure is a temporary one designed to give this population status until Congress passes a legislative solution for their peculiar situation.

The “Dreamers,” as they are known, are people who have grown up to become contributing members of society. They are students, workers, and entrepreneurs. The U.S. economy will be adversely affected if by the end of six months, which is the timeframe set to phase out DACA, would be deported.

Zuckerberg of Facebook, Bezos of Amazon, Cook of Apple, Robbins of Cisco, Nadella of Microsoft, Kelly of Visa are among the 400 business leaders who cautioned against ending DACA and called for protecting the Dreamers. “Our economy would lose $460.3 billion from the national GDP and $24.6 billion in Social Security and Medicare tax contributions” they have reminded.

Immigration reform is a political Football that has been punted time and again for the last few decades. Currently, there are around 12 million undocumented residents who live and work in the U.S. This vital population is needed to do the jobs Americans aren't willing to do. The simple equation is that if there was no need for them, there would not be any economic incentive for them to risk their lives by making the treacherous journey crossing the southern border.

Blame Game

Arguments suggesting that this population is causing undue economic burden are unfounded. Not to turn this into an economic discussion, but the current %4.4 is as low as any economist would hope for. Actually, the Federal Reserve can tolerate a rate as low as %4.8 without increasing the interest rate to avoid unsustainable inflation rates. Some of those 12 million undocumented immigrants find businesses that are willing to operate within that %4.4 dead-zone. Within that margin unskilled workers find employment.

The economic argument can get complicated really quick with inflation consideration and shifting demand for highly skilled workers. The undocumented population is blamed as some Americans find themselves unemployed. It's not because of the undocumented as much as they need to acquire new skills employers are seeking in their workers. Because of these factors and a multitude others, we find that unemployment is more complex to be put squarely on illegal immigrants. In fact, latest figures put their contribution at $11 billion a year toward the U.S. economy.

If the economic impact is not the catalyst for Trump’s decision then it must be that such a decision will advance the Republican party's agenda helping them solidify the gains they won in last November’s election. The Republican party currently controls the White House, the House and Senate. One would think that phasing out DACA will help those Republicans fighting tight races in the upcoming midterm elections of 2018; no, that's not it.

A dozen House Legislators who represent districts with a high concentration of Hispanic populations are opposing Trump on his DACA termination decision. Six of those 12, wrote a letter asking him to leave DACA in place. The Dreamers act (DACA) is a temporary fix for an unacceptable situation that inflicted suffering upon children of illegal immigrants. Congress is now under pressure to push the issue up their already packed legislative agenda. By any measure, passing any meaningful immigration reform will require more than 6 months. It was during the Reagan presidency in 1986 when the last meaningful immigration policy was passed, although it did not address the root causes of the illegal immigration. And now, at this juncture, immigration reform has become a pressing issue for Congress to address; let the legislative wrangling begin!

Some Republican Representatives took it upon themselves to expedite the legislative process. Republican Representative (Rep) Curbelo has filed an amendment to the anticipated spending bill to keep DACA intact. And Rep. Coffman (Republican - Colorado) is attempting to force a vote on his bill extending DACA work permits by soliciting the support of the 194 House Democrats and a few more Republicans. He is using a procedural process that is usually used by the minority to force the majority to bring bills to the floor for a vote. The “discharge petition” procedure he’s using needs a total of 218 signatures to force a vote. A very daring track to take. Numerous other procedural options are being considered to keep DACA in place for the time being. This is not to speak of the Democratic party that is looking into their options to help the Dreams.

Some 20 State Attorney Generals sent President Trump urging him to keep DACA in place. Attorney Generals have the option to resort to legal actions asking the courts to intervene. Although the courts have shot down another executive order expanded DACA called the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), which was yet another Obama issued an executive order in 2014. DAPA protects undocumented parents from deportation for the purpose of holding the integrity of the Dreamers’ family unit. Not a very encouraging outcome for the Dreamers.

Perhaps peaceful protests will prove to be effective. Dreamers and supporters of America’s values and history have already mobilized protesting Trump’s decision. A simple question here: what would the economic and social impact be if these 800,000 or so dreamers organized to stay at home for a week? I venture to say the nation will feel the void they typical fill.

This is a country of immigrants. This is a country that is built on trust. This is a country that always finds a way to do what is right. These Dreamers have trusted the promises given by the American government. They registered when asked. They shared their personal information as required. Because of that, they are now more vulnerable to deportation once their status runs out than other undocumented immigrants. No doubt about it, there is a pressing need for immigration reform. We need to be mindful that illegal immigrants, legal newcomers, and citizens all share the ethos of living the American dream. As a country, we must honor the promises we made to them. After All, this is not a legal question - it's a moral one.

original article published, 10 Sep 2017, on 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Is Trump walking the US back to social strife and inequality?

There was never a time when soldiers of conscience were able to win by waving roses alone in the face of their well-armed enemies. Yet, violence is an ineffective tool and an oxymoron. Waging war for peace is a lame justification bloodthirsty hawks might claim. In the eternal war between good and evil, today’s battle is liberals and conservatives with universal moral values versus white supremacist. This battleline became clearer when President Trump sanctioned bigotry and racism. In his response, Trump was dismissive of a white supremacist murder of Heather Heyers in Charlottesville, VA as he plowed his vehicle into a group of peaceful counter protesters. He went further by equating both sides: racist protesters with anti white supremacist counter protesters, insisting that “there is blame on both sides.”

What is worse is that the killer had adopted terrorist tools lifted from ISIS’s playbook turning his car into a weapon. A troubling development when the leader of the free world is as dismissive of such killing in a similar manner as Bin Laden, Zawahiri, Baghday and others terrorist leaders. This is a very dangerous precedent putting Trump on par with terrorist logic and rhetorical maneuvers. There is no justification Mr. President! 

If it were an oversight, then let it be known that there is no wisdom in neutrality in the face of hate; lest one sides with bigotry and injustice. Deplorable as that may seem, the political fallout never caught up to the collective outrage over this incident. Those who orbit the Trump sphere were unconvincing and slow to react. Muffled calls by Republican leaders for Trump to unequivocally denounce racism including Sen John McCain and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan seem to have enticed Trump to “correct” course days after the violence that killed Heyers and injured 19. Unfortunately, he discounted those statement of condemnation of white supremacist in an off the cuff morally ambiguous comments a mere 24hrs later. No one with an iota of moral courage dared to defy his/her boss from within the administration except for Gary Cohn, a Trump advisor who resigned in protest. What does that say about the rest of the Trump administration? 

A very telling silence, one that implicitly supports racism. Racists were emboldened to organizing last Friday under the “Patriot Prayer” march in San Francisco a group that supports Trump. In doing so, they are dismissing the sacrifice of those who fought Nazis in WWII, the leaders of conscience who marched in peaceful protests against racism throughout the civil rights era, and countless Americans who walked-the-walk demanding equality on behalf the downtrodden, disadvantaged and disenfranchised. Where is the moral high ground that America aspires to take? Presidents are expected to lead the nation to the path of unity and healing. Trump’s inability to read and follow the map of ethical and moral justice is terrifying. President George W. Bush’s first address in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9-11 was from a Washington, DC mosque. He made clear that Muslim-Americans are patriots and should not be blamed for the terrorist attacks. Trump’s words are not an issue of political party affiliation, not a communication mishap, nor is it a political snafu. This is premeditated and much more sinister. His next two major decisions confirm that: Banning transgender persons from the military and pardoning sheriff Arpaio. 

President Trump’s directive to reverse the Obama era policy of giving transgender individuals the same rights and assigning the same responsibilities as any others who vowed voluntarily to serve and possibly die in defense of the nation and its values. The same values that Trump is currently eroding by restoring discrimination and gender inequality in the military. The LGBTQ community has been fighting and making small and steady progress leading up to a recruitment equality within the military. They had to win the support of a critical mass of the American population to apply upward pressure for change culminating in former President Obama directive to the military to accept members of the LGBTQ community into the military applying the same qualification and restriction imposed on any other individuals.  Equality is achieved only when everyone is on the same footing and is afforded the same opportunities without any restrictions unrelated to function and mission. 

As for Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona, he was pardoned by Trump from a conviction of violating a court order to end his illegal, unholy crusade of racially profiling Latinos. "He's done a great job for the people of Arizona. He's very strong on borders, very strong on illegal immigration," Trump said of Arpaio. The same Arpaio who is the subject of reported abuse of his authority and unconventional violation of inmates. The list of complaints rivals the criminal RAP sheet of some of the criminals he imprisoned. Joe’s racial discrimination knows no bounds. In 2012, Arpaio held a news conference to persuade the public of Obama ineligibility to hold the presidency due to lack of qualification. The U.S. president must be born in on American soil. Sheriff Joe argued that Obama wasn’t born the U.S. and therefore doesn’t meet the requirement to hold the office. A major conspiracy theory of the “Birther Movement,” which he and Trump were two of its leading voices. Arpaio and Trump go way back “Sheriff Joe was very unfairly treated by the Obama administration," Trump confirmed. 

Both decisions were announced on Friday evening which is typically when any administration wants limited coverage of its announcement. But this Friday provided Trump with additional cover as the focus of the nation is shifting toward Hurricane Harvey and the destruction in Texas where it made landfall. The White House announcements were buried in the news.  

The timing of the announcements was not the only interesting thing about them, a more important observation is the common denominator. Both announcements specifically oppose obama policies and  are both filtered through a racial lense. Fanning the flames of racism must not be lost on congress. Senators and Representatives on the Hill are an equal and balancing branch of government. They must hold their own in the face of racism. A different approach to the political norm is in order. Collectively, they must rise above short term gains replacing it with America’s long term greater good. The current bully sitting behind the Resolute desk in the Oval Office is bound by the limits of the office. Those limits are set by the American people. Those who are willing to take to the streets must, in addition, priorities political pressure on their elected officials. Compelling them to advance the people’s will in the House and Senate. Congress must take the moral high ground otherwise they would allow for a new culture of nepotism, kowtowing and political corruption. The American people will not stand for that on the long run. If for nothing else but selfish gains and self-preservation, congress must act with urgency to help the nation heal or you will be voted out. 

My latest article, "Is Trump walking the US back to social strife and inequality? link to published version on