By Eva Paterson and Jayashri Srikantiah
This week, our hearts were broken when we heard Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions spew forth ugly venom about our undocumented family, friends, and neighbors in rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Rachel Maddow brilliantly connected the dots between this week’s announcement and the eugenics movement that led to the 1924 Immigration Act, which set up a strong preference for maintaining a white racial majority in this country and under which Asians were completely excluded from immigrating. Sessions has praised that long-ago-repealed act, stating:
In seven years we’ll have the highest percentage of Americans, non-native born, since the founding of the Republic. Some people think we’ve always had these numbers, and it’s not so, it’s very unusual, it’s a radical change. When the numbers reached about this high in 1924, the president and congress changed the policy, and it slowed down immigration significantly, we then assimilated through the 1965 and created really the solid middle class of America, with assimilated immigrants, and it was good for America. We passed a law that went far beyond what anybody realized in 1965, and we’re on a path to surge far past what the situation was in 1924.
For Sessions, Stephen Miller, and others in the Trump Administration, American means white American, and immigration policy exists to exclude those who do not fit that definition. As Jelani Cobb eloquently writes, Make America Great Again really means Make America White Again.
This unapologetic nod by the Trump Administration to at least maintain if not return to, a white supremacist centered society through efforts like the rescission of DACA does not just impact immigrants from Mexico as is commonly construed by media outlets when we hear Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Black immigrants also have a significant cause for alarm given Trump’s anti-immigrant policies. In 2013, there were 1.8 million African immigrants—doubling the number of African immigrants in 2000. Today, there are 3.8 million Black immigrants in the United States from the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa and Europe and they comprise about 10 percent of America’s foreign-born population. In New York, Black immigrants make up almost 30 percent of the total Black population in the state, while Florida is second on the list with more than 20 percent of its Black population being foreign, according to BAJI.
A recent report focusing on Black immigrants commissioned by BAJI and the New York University School of Law, states there are 565,000 Black undocumented immigrants. Among Black immigrants from the Caribbean, 16 percent are undocumented immigrants as are 13 percent of Black immigrants from Africa.
As such, DACA holds an important impact on Black immigrants as well. Under DACA, 87 percent of Black immigrant applications were approved, less than the 91 percent of all other immigrant applications approved. Thus repealing DACA, predominantly held out as a US-Mexico issue, will impact many more immigrant communities and should raise alarm for all of us.
Before we go further, we want to acknowledge the profound hurt and fear that Sessions’ announcement—and Trump’s other immigration policies—have caused. Americans who are part of our national fabric and part of our collective heart are suffering. We suffer with them and denounce Trump and Sessions’ immoral decision to rescind DACA.
The white supremacy and racism that undergird the xenophobic public policy of the Trump administration has historical roots. Like the eugenicists of the 1920s, the white supremacists who live among us today do not feel people of color are fully human. We are described as criminals and rapists feasting at the public trough. Policies like DACA—like those that seek to exclude African Americans from the vote or to over-incarcerate people of color—seek to exclude people of color from our national community.
There is plenty of historical precedent for the nativist and xenophobic beliefs that animate the Trump Administration’s anti-immigrant agenda—an agenda that is unabashedly anti-Muslim and anti-Mexican. From the Chinese exclusion laws to the Bracero program and beyond, immigration laws and policies have often reflected nativist and racist beliefs. The Trump Administration’s policies are the latest manifestation these beliefs, despite those policies being dressed up in rhetoric about the “rule of law” or a “broken immigration system.”
For those who seek to reinvigorate white supremacy and xenophobia, our message is simple. It is not going to happen. Many of us helped and continue to help, build this country—our country—and we are not going anywhere. There are more people of color in this country than ever.
We will continue to call out the rescission of DACA, the Muslim ban, enforcement targeting undocumented communities, the over-detention of immigrants, and other Trump policies for what they are: manifestations of racism. We direct your attention to information about the racist roots of current anti-immigration policy.
A Dreamer Describes Hearing the News That Trump Will End DACA
Bill Hing: Institutional Racism, ICE Raids, and Immigration Reform
Alex Ortiz is among roughly a million people who will be put in legal limbo if the Trump Administration succeeds in canceling the program.
Black and Muslim, some African immigrants feel the brunt of Trump’s immigration plans
Trump Ending DACA Affects Black Undocumented Immigrants, Too
Black Immigrant Communities Reeling From DACA Reversal
Eva Paterson (@EvaPaterson) is Co-founder and President of the Equal Justice Society. Jayashri Srikantiah (@JSJayashri) is a member of the Equal Justice Society board of directors, and also Professor of Law and Director of Stanford Law School’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic.