One of the more memorable lines from President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union speech was a simple defense of his nationalist-oriented approach to immigration policy.
“Americans are dreamers, too,” Trump said, demanding that any deal to legalize the beneficiaries of the soon-to-expire Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) amnesty prioritize the safety and economic opportunity of American citizens. The four-word quip was an instant favorite among Republicans and immigration hawks.
Many DACA recipients, on the other hand, hated it.
DACA beneficiaries — commonly known as “Dreamers” — watching the address from California were generally indignant that Trump would deign to associate illegal immigration with crime, violence and economic harm against native-born Americans. But, as the San Diego Union-Tribune reports, some were particularly apoplectic over Trump’s “dreamers, too” line.
“Oh no he did not!” 29-year-old DACA recipient Fernanda Madrigal was quoted as saying. “Stop taking our message!”
“That’s like saying all lives matter,” Dulce Garcia, a DACA recipient and immigration attorney, reportedly said, referring to the controversial retort to the Black Lives Matter movement.
DACA recipients’ Democratic allies on Capitol Hill also got in on the act, denouncing Trump’s “dreamers” quip as divisive and bigoted.
“Really stoking the fires, from my perspective, of bigotry,” said Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez on New Jersey, according to Politico.
Why did DACA recipients and their supporters revile that one specific line in an 80-minute speech? As the pro-DACA, pro-open-borders news website Vox explains, Trump’s invocation of “dreamers” co-opted a term that has become shorthand for illegal immigrants with a unique “shared” experience.
“They’re called DREAMers because the distinction that’s marked their lives is that they learned too late that they wouldn’t have the same opportunity as other Americans to pursue those dreams: to get college scholarships, launch careers, live fearlessly,” writes Vox immigration reporter Dara Lind.
Therefore, Trump’s use of the word “dreamers” to describe all Americans supposedly negated the struggles of the young illegal immigrants who have come to be known as capital-D Dreamers. As alluded to by DACA recipient Garcia, Trump’s use of “dreamers” in his State of the Union address was on par with saying “All lives matter,” a serious crime against woke activism.
That perspective is not likely shared by American voters, a wide majority of whom approved of Trump’s immigration rhetoric Tuesday night. A CBS news poll found that early three-quarters — 72 percent — of people who viewed the address favored Trump’s immigration framework, which would legalize 1.8 million Dreamers in exchange for tighter limits on extended-family migration, an end to the diversity visa lottery, and a wall along the southwest border.
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