Democrats Aren't Talking About Immigration
Matt Shaw
27 Apr

It doesn't get better if you don't address it. Derivative work, using 'Finish the Wall sign' by Gage Skidmore, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Iliana Pech Cruz is 23 years old. She’s lived in the United States since the age of four months. Next year, she may be forced to leave.

Ms Cruz is a Dreamer - someone who was brought to the U.S. undocumented as a child.

“Growing up, I always felt like I was from here,” she said, “I mean, I came here when I was four months old - I didn’t know anything but the culture here, the language, the history…”

Ms Cruz studies and works in Ohio, but she grew up in New Hampshire with her family in a small, two-bedroom apartment.

It wasn’t until she turned 16 that she learned the true nature of her immigration status, and it quickly became all-consuming, as she found herself stripped of the same chances her peers enjoyed.

“At that age […] you can get your license, you can start working.
“I couldn't have the same opportunities and the same essential wants or needs or dreams as my peers and as my friends because of my status. And it took a lot to really understand that,” she said.

At the moment, she’s given the ability to work and study freely by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) legislation brought in by former President Barack Obama.

But DACA has been in the Trump administration’s crosshairs since 2017, when an attempt to terminate the programme transformed into an extensive legal battle - one that is currently awaiting a verdict from the Supreme Court.

A demonstration in Los Angeles to protest President Trump's decision to rescind DACA. 5th September, 2017. Image via Flickr, taken by Molly Adams, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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For now, those who have previously registered for the programme can continue to apply for its protection, which must be renewed every two years, but no new applications are being considered until the Supreme Court’s ruling.

The decision is expected to arrive in the next few months, and the conservative justices, who make up the majority, appear to be leaning in favour of the Trump administration.

The termination of DACA is just one example of President Trump’s action against immigrants.

“I wouldn't want to pretend to do justice to all the turmoil that we've seen on the immigration front during the last nearly four years,” said Mary Fan, a professor at the University of Washington School of Law.

“We've had turmoil over travel bans, we've had a lot of rhetoric about building walls […] and this administration has had a move towards widening the net of who gets deported, and so striking fear in a deeper and wider sense across the nation,” she added.

Yet, despite the importance of the topic, it seems to have been almost completely forgotten in the 2020 race so far.

In 2016, it was one of the most pressing issues, and Donald Trump won with a campaign that centred on anti-immigration messages. 

This time around, Democratic candidates have largely remained quiet.

Ms Fan says it may simply be because of the sheer number of other important topics to discuss. Amid healthcare, the economy, gun control and more, immigration could have been placed at a lower priority.

Analysis of Joe Biden’s Twitter account shows that, since the beginning of 2019, he’s only Tweeted about DACA or Dreamers six times - and one of those Tweets was a Spanish translation of another.

For Ms Cruz, this is nothing new. “We live here but we live in the shadows,” she said, agreeing that she’d noticed the lack of discussion so far.

A protest in support of the Dream Act. 18th January, 2018. Image via Flickr, taken by Ignatian Solidarity Network, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Another reason for the relative quiet may be the prickly and controversial nature of immigration policy. It’s an issue that divides large numbers of Democratic voters, but unites swathes of Republicans.

It could be risky to focus on, especially as the election heats up and President Trump dedicates more time and resources to campaigning.

DACA recipients are unable to vote, meaning they’re left to watch as the current administration changes their lives and Democratic candidates pay it little attention.

But it isn’t just immigrants who feel the changes in attitude the president has sparked.

“Certainly, the unabashed racial referencing and fanning of suspicions and differences that we've seen over the course of the last four years has made people, regardless of their immigration status, who are minorities and perceived as such, feel fear and consternation,” said Ms Fan.

Ms Cruz said she can recount several instances of discrimination throughout her life, but feels the hatred has grown under the Trump administration.

“I've been blatantly told that I should go back to my own country,” she said, “I have been blatantly told that I don't deserve to be here and that I'm stealing jobs, and I'm robbing Americans of a wealthy economy, and that I'm a criminal, I'm a felon.”

These experiences are shared throughout the Dreamer community. After all, legal battles, policy decisions and jargon make it easy to get lost, but behind all of the smoke, there are people. Hundreds of thousands of people.

“I remember I was sitting at a little table writing a paper for a class that I had due later that night. It was probably at around maybe 10am. I had just grabbed breakfast and it was just a normal day,” said Ms Cruz, “my mum had asked me if I had checked the news, and I said no, so I immediately checked the news and I had seen that [President Trump] issued an end to our programme, and I remember I just stopped.

“I closed my laptop. I closed my assignments. I just sat there. And, although I was surrounded by friends […] I just still felt so alone.”

29th December, 2016. Image via Flickr, taken by Jürgen Stemper, licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

The limited discussion from Democratic candidates so far is indicative of a broader problem with politics and culture in the United States.

As with most societal issues, it devastatingly impacts the lives of vulnerable populations.

For Ms Cruz, her life in the U.S. hangs in the balance. With her permit expiring in 2021, she fears being told she can no longer live, work and study in the country she’s spent almost her entire life in.

“I don’t have anything to my name […] I don't have a plan. We don't have plans. Me and the other hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients don't have plans," she said.

OPINION
Democrats Aren't Talking About Immigration
Matt Shaw
27 Apr

It doesn't get better if you don't address it. Derivative work, using 'Finish the Wall sign' by Gage Skidmore, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Iliana Pech Cruz is 23 years old. She’s lived in the United States since the age of four months. Next year, she may be forced to leave.

Ms Cruz is a Dreamer - someone who was brought to the U.S. undocumented as a child.

“Growing up, I always felt like I was from here,” she said, “I mean, I came here when I was four months old - I didn’t know anything but the culture here, the language, the history…”

Ms Cruz studies and works in Ohio, but she grew up in New Hampshire with her family in a small, two-bedroom apartment.

It wasn’t until she turned 16 that she learned the true nature of her immigration status, and it quickly became all-consuming, as she found herself stripped of the same chances her peers enjoyed.

“At that age […] you can get your license, you can start working.
“I couldn't have the same opportunities and the same essential wants or needs or dreams as my peers and as my friends because of my status. And it took a lot to really understand that,” she said.

At the moment, she’s given the ability to work and study freely by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) legislation brought in by former President Barack Obama.

But DACA has been in the Trump administration’s crosshairs since 2017, when an attempt to terminate the programme transformed into an extensive legal battle - one that is currently awaiting a verdict from the Supreme Court.

A demonstration in Los Angeles to protest President Trump's decision to rescind DACA. 5th September, 2017. Image via Flickr, taken by Molly Adams, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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Thanks for subscribing to The Locus!
Something went wrong. Sorry about that.

For now, those who have previously registered for the programme can continue to apply for its protection, which must be renewed every two years, but no new applications are being considered until the Supreme Court’s ruling.

The decision is expected to arrive in the next few months, and the conservative justices, who make up the majority, appear to be leaning in favour of the Trump administration.

The termination of DACA is just one example of President Trump’s action against immigrants.

“I wouldn't want to pretend to do justice to all the turmoil that we've seen on the immigration front during the last nearly four years,” said Mary Fan, a professor at the University of Washington School of Law.

“We've had turmoil over travel bans, we've had a lot of rhetoric about building walls […] and this administration has had a move towards widening the net of who gets deported, and so striking fear in a deeper and wider sense across the nation,” she added.

Yet, despite the importance of the topic, it seems to have been almost completely forgotten in the 2020 race so far.

In 2016, it was one of the most pressing issues, and Donald Trump won with a campaign that centred on anti-immigration messages. 

This time around, Democratic candidates have largely remained quiet.

Ms Fan says it may simply be because of the sheer number of other important topics to discuss. Amid healthcare, the economy, gun control and more, immigration could have been placed at a lower priority.

Analysis of Joe Biden’s Twitter account shows that, since the beginning of 2019, he’s only Tweeted about DACA or Dreamers six times - and one of those Tweets was a Spanish translation of another.

For Ms Cruz, this is nothing new. “We live here but we live in the shadows,” she said, agreeing that she’d noticed the lack of discussion so far.

A protest in support of the Dream Act. 18th January, 2018. Image via Flickr, taken by Ignatian Solidarity Network, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Another reason for the relative quiet may be the prickly and controversial nature of immigration policy. It’s an issue that divides large numbers of Democratic voters, but unites swathes of Republicans.

It could be risky to focus on, especially as the election heats up and President Trump dedicates more time and resources to campaigning.

DACA recipients are unable to vote, meaning they’re left to watch as the current administration changes their lives and Democratic candidates pay it little attention.

But it isn’t just immigrants who feel the changes in attitude the president has sparked.

“Certainly, the unabashed racial referencing and fanning of suspicions and differences that we've seen over the course of the last four years has made people, regardless of their immigration status, who are minorities and perceived as such, feel fear and consternation,” said Ms Fan.

Ms Cruz said she can recount several instances of discrimination throughout her life, but feels the hatred has grown under the Trump administration.

“I've been blatantly told that I should go back to my own country,” she said, “I have been blatantly told that I don't deserve to be here and that I'm stealing jobs, and I'm robbing Americans of a wealthy economy, and that I'm a criminal, I'm a felon.”

These experiences are shared throughout the Dreamer community. After all, legal battles, policy decisions and jargon make it easy to get lost, but behind all of the smoke, there are people. Hundreds of thousands of people.

“I remember I was sitting at a little table writing a paper for a class that I had due later that night. It was probably at around maybe 10am. I had just grabbed breakfast and it was just a normal day,” said Ms Cruz, “my mum had asked me if I had checked the news, and I said no, so I immediately checked the news and I had seen that [President Trump] issued an end to our programme, and I remember I just stopped.

“I closed my laptop. I closed my assignments. I just sat there. And, although I was surrounded by friends […] I just still felt so alone.”

29th December, 2016. Image via Flickr, taken by Jürgen Stemper, licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

The limited discussion from Democratic candidates so far is indicative of a broader problem with politics and culture in the United States.

As with most societal issues, it devastatingly impacts the lives of vulnerable populations.

For Ms Cruz, her life in the U.S. hangs in the balance. With her permit expiring in 2021, she fears being told she can no longer live, work and study in the country she’s spent almost her entire life in.

“I don’t have anything to my name […] I don't have a plan. We don't have plans. Me and the other hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients don't have plans," she said.

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