Dreamers knocked but no one answered at the White House Friday
A woman holds up a sign in support of DACA as Dreamers "knock" on Trump's front door Aug. 25. | AP

WASHINGTON–The “Dreamers” and their allies, including unionists, took their case and their cause to Donald Trump’s front door on August 25. But though they “knocked” verbally, no one seemed to be home.

Though the U.S. flag flew over the White House on a sunny breezy late afternoon, signifying the Republican president was in residence, he sent nobody out to answer the more than 100 people who campaigned for retention of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), the Obama-era initiative that lets the Dreamers stay in the U.S.

The lack of response did not surprise the group, led by Service Employees Local 32BJ regional President Jaime Contreras, a Navy veteran who would have been a “Dreamer” himself 29 years ago, escaping El Salvador’s civil war at age 30 and illegally entering the U.S., “because my parents didn’t want me to get killed.” He’s now a naturalized citizen.

Instead, the group, which included church members, Service Employees, AFSCME members, Casa de Maryland members, Latinos, Latinas, and Asian-Americans all demanded  Trump keep the Dreamers in the U.S., rather than kowtow to his white supremacist constituency and deport them.

Trump’s response? At almost precisely the same time, he pardoned Hispanic-hating former Maricopa County (Phoenix) Sheriff Joe Arpaio, convicted of criminal contempt of federal court and threatened with a six-month jail term for refusing to halt his department’s racial profiling of Latinos — documented and undocumented — and their incarceration in inhumane conditions in the Arizona desert.

Arpaio hog tied men and women in the 115 degree Arizona desert and shackled a woman even as she gave birth. He ordered his cops to stop anyone and everyone even if they only looked as if they might be Hispanic. And he continued his cruel and racist policies even after ordered to stop by the federal courts.

But it was Trump’s threat to DACA that brought the program’s supporters to the White House Friday, for the second time in 10 days.

“It’s a shame for me what Donald Trump and his white supremacists” have done, Contreras said, citing  the president’s searing support for the white supremacists, KKK members, neo-Nazis and other haters whose riot in Charlottesville, Va., on August 12 murdered one young white counterdemonstrator, Heather Heyer, and injured 19 other people.

“Donald Trump! Shame on you!” the D.C. crowd responded, while waving handmade signs that said, among other things, “Destroy Confederate statues, not DACA” and “No Ban. No Wall. No Raids.”

The Dreamers, and their parents, are among the people the haters in Charlottesville screamed about.

Back in D.C., rhythmically banging drums and cymbals, carrying signs and telling their stories, the Dreamers and their allies made it clear that if Trump, whose anti-Latino prejudices have been long-lasting and obvious, carries out his threats to deport the estimated 11 million undocumented people in the U.S., including the Dreamers, he and his political allies would face resistance in the streets and retribution at the polls.

“The whole world is watching and we are watching. We are angry and we are going to turn this into votes this year in Virginia,” where the governor’s seat is up for grabs, “and next year across the country,” Contreras told the crowd.

And as for the resistance in the streets, he added: “In our union, when we fight, we win.”

They also said they’d stay in the streets in front of the White House, with at least one speaker vowing a 24-hour 7-day a week vigil in Lafayette Square, site of the rally. “They want us to be afraid. They want us to stay home and not speak up,” she said. “We will speak up.”

In a sense, DACA cardholders have already partially won, but the struggle is not over, said cardholder Gracia Martinez. Trump had initially promised to evict everyone the day after he took office, but he’s stalled off on what to do about the DACA youths, whom their parents brought to the U.S. when they were too young to know — and who are now in the military, in jobs or in the armed services, as the program requires.

“It was because of the power of the people that we are still here today,” Martinez said. “We are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and teachers and yes, community organizers. The DACA papers have never defined us. They’re helpful, but we’ll fight tooth and nail to defend our democracy,” where public pressure has forced Trump to stall.

“If Donald Trump ends DACA, it’s another sign that white supremacists have taken over the White House — and we will not let that happen.”

Trump has yet to decide what to do about DACA. News reports the same day as the rally said Trump is “seriously considering” terminating it. And Attorney General Ken Paxton, R-Texas, threatens to challenge DACA in court if Trump doesn’t dump it by Sept. 5.

Meanwhile, six Republican representatives asked Trump the day before to keep DACA alive. They said the youthful beneficiaries did not willfully break the law, since their parents brought them here as children, and that as service members, in college or at work, they contribute to the economy. Trump did not respond to their letter.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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