Richard Connor: Disrupting D.C. is good, disrupting DACA is bad

A reader sent me a thoughtful and reasoned letter outlining his reasons for voting for and continuing to support President Donald Trump.

He pointed out that he has read recent columns of mine that have been critical of Trump, who I believe is unfit to be president and who continues to make poor decisions. The writer said that among his hopes for Trump is that he will be a “disrupter” in Washington and lessen the federal government’s intrusion “into the everyday life of the citizens.”

I responded to the letter, saying I have long hoped for just that kind of politician – someone who could get elected and actually make government more efficient and more responsive.

Trump is a “disrupter,” all right. The problem is he is disrupting without fixing anything. In fact, he’s making things worse. His recent decision to to rescind DACA is a prime example. DACA is the acronym for “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” which is a program instituted by President Barack Obama to protect from deportation an estimated 800,000 individuals who were born in another country and illegally brought to the U.S. as children.

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These people, often referred to as “Dreamers,” range in age from pre-teens to folks in their 20s who are working in skilled jobs. Apple and Facebook, among other companies, have joined the fight against Trump’s decision, saying they have workers protected by DACA who are significant to their operations. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said deporting Dreamers would be “contrary to fundamental American principles and the best interests of our country.”

Trump and other opponents of DACA contend that Obama exceeded his authority by implementing an immigration policy that legally falls within the jurisdiction of Congress. In rescinding the Obama policy, Trump gave Congress six months to decide if it wants to adopt legislation exempting the “Dreamers” from deportation.

From day one, of course, hostility toward immigrants was a defining theme of Trump’s campaign and his anti-immigrant bent has infected the early months of his presidency. This is disturbing in many ways, not the least of which is that it shows a reckless disregard for the important work and contributions of immigrants in this country.

As Texans, we only have to look around us to see how much work is done by immigrants, some who are legal residents of our country and some who are not. These people work in skilled jobs and also work in areas such as ranching and farming, where it is difficult to find labor. They make significant contributions to our economy.

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None of that matters to the many Trump supporters – not including, I should say, the person who wrote to me about my anti-Trump columns – who see his election as the key to halting or at least limiting immigration. I’m talking about those who see America changing – racially, ethnically and culturally – and don’t like the change.

In a New Yorker magazine column dated Sept. 5, staff writer Jelani Cobb argues that Trump’s “make America great again” slogan was in fact a euphemism for “make America white again.” He writes:

“In this view, the real target is the world created by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which eliminated the racialist immigration quotas that were set by the Immigration Act of 1924, also known as the Johnson-Reed Act. Johnson-Reed was born of familiar concerns: a fear that the nation was endangered by a tide of questionable newcomers, many of whom held secret allegiances to hostile foreign forces. Writers such as Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard agitated public fears that whites – a category that was far less inclusive than our current understanding of it – were on the verge of being outnumbered. Those fears, as Linda Gordon, a history professor at New York University, notes in her new book, The Second Coming of the KKK, formed the basis for the populist resentments that eventually shaped the politics of the era. Gordon writes of William Simmons, the architect of the Ku Klux Klan’s revival in the nineteen-twenties, that by ‘engendering and exploiting fear, he would warn that ‘degenerative’ forces were destroying the American way of life. These were not only black people but also Jews, Catholics and immigrants.’”

The last sentence resonates with me. As an Irish Catholic, I grew up hearing older generations in my family talk about religious and ethnic prejudice they experienced. The stories always struck me as overstatement, but they ring true in light of the anti-immigrant rhetoric that permeates today’s politics.

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No one can stop the changes that are taking place in this country – and no one should want to. It has been said often enough to be a cliché, but it’s true: We are a country of immigrants. The constant introduction and absorption of new cultures, new points of view and new ideas about what it takes to, yes, make America great are part and parcel of our survival and growth as the greatest nation on earth.

It would be cruel, self-defeating and horrendously un-American to round up and deport young people who through no choice of their own entered the country illegally but have spent their lives here, pursued the American Dream and know no other home.

This is not who we are, and certainly not who we are “supposed” to be. One can only imagine the fear that dominates the lives of immigrants and their children as our government contemplates the atrocity of uprooting them and sending them away.

Richard Connor is president and publisher of the Fort Worth Business Press. Contact him at