Devon Chenelle | University of Notre Dame
At the heart of this conflict lies a disagreement on immigration’s value, and whether the government should encourage or reprimand it. DACA’s opponents cite the putative increases in crime, decreases in wages, and cultural changes they attribute to immigration in their demands for the bill’s repeal. Despite unison denunciations from authorities in academia and the media, such sentiments are common. 26 states sued Washington over DACA’s implementation, and the House of Representatives symbolically defunded the program in 2013. It was thus a characteristically politically astute move when Trump declared he would repeal DACA on “day one.”
Given xenophobes’ importance to Trump’s triumph, it may seem inevitable he will satisfy those elements by destroying DACA. However, we have recourse to perhaps the only source capable of changing the Donald’s mind - his own words.
Trump’s rhetoric itself makes the most compelling case against repeal, for if he repeals DACA, he will contradict the only sentiment more central to his campaign than racial prejudice: rabid nationalism. From the beginning, Trump declared “‘America First’ will be the major and overriding theme” of his presidency. A repeal of DACA and the chilling signal it would send about American immigration policy constitutes a decision that is not “America First,” but “America Worst.” Any decision to discourage immigration and expel newcomers from this country ought be odious to any serious about an America First policy, for immigration buoys our economy, rejuvenates our society, and enriches our culture.
It is a hackneyed but true cliche that this country was built by immigrants. The West was won – and Texas conquered – by Americans’ westward migration, the great American metropolises were built through the 19th century's waves of European migration and the intercontinental railroad connecting that frontier with those cities was built by largely Chinese immigrants. As it was built with immigrants’ sweat, America was preserved by their blood. 25% of Union soldiers during the Civil War were immigrants, and hundreds of thousands of Americans became naturalized citizens through service in the World Wars.
Immigrants continue to build up, and die for, this country. A new immigrant group, the Polish, dominate Chicago’s construction market, and the first casualty of the Iraq War, Jose Gutierrez, was a Guatemalan immigrant without citizenship.Immigrants contribute to this country not only physical labor and martial service, but also academic brilliance and industrial innovation. America has the world’s finest research and most powerful companies. It has immigrants to thank for both. Americans have won a staggering 364 Nobel Prizes, hundreds more than any other citizenry. 2016 was another banner year for America, with 6 laureates in Chemistry, Physics, Economics, and Literature. However, with the exception of Bob Dylan, not a single winner was born in America. This is nothing new.
Over a hundred of America’s Nobel Prizes were won by foreign-born citizens, more than any other national contingent except the English and Germans.Perhaps immigrants’ greatest economic contribution is the most quintessentially American. Immigrants are more entrepreneurial, that American ideal, than the average American. Tech giants Google, Yahoo, YouTube, eBay all had immigrants involved in their creation.
South African immigrant Elon Musk, a tycoon who has guaranteed American dominance in the futures of solar power and space travel, demonstrates America’s continued aura to foreigners when he says America is “the greatest force for good of any country that’s ever been.” Any viable political vision of America’s future must assume and rely on immigration.
To anyone sincere when they proclaim “America First!,” the case for immigration is undeniable. In order to maintain our technological and commercial superiority, to fill our armies and build our roads, we must send the world a message: continue sending your huddled masses!