Ruben Navarrette Jr.

Recent Articles

SAN DIEGO -- Immigrant advocates have always said that Dreamers deserve to have a voice in their own fate.

I definitely see the value in that -- now that a group of these undocumented young people have used their voices to shout down Nancy Pelosi.

Angry Dreamers called out the House Minority Leader Monday in her own back yard of San Francisco for meeting in private with President Trump and allegedly working out a deal to protect them from deportation. In exchange, Democrats would support something they have long voted for: border security, as long as a wall is off the table.

Early Tuesday morning, my cellphone rang. My father had been reading the newspaper when he came across an article about Pelosi’s nightmare run-in with the Dreamers. As a lifelong Democrat, he was confused.

“If Pelosi is trying to protect them and find a way for them to stay, why are they protesting her?” he asked.

I bet a lot of people -- in both parties -- are asking the same question.

I’ll tell you what I told my father. When you watch a video of the confrontation, it’s pretty clear that the Dreamers are worried that Pelosi -- who was visibly shaken by the incident -- is getting ready to sell them out in one of those back-room deals for which Washington is famous. They think she is a phony who doesn’t care one way or another what happens to them. They call her a liar, and they accuse her of not doing enough to give them legal status when she had the gavel.

Pelosi served as House speaker from 2007 to 2011, and intentionally kept comprehensive immigration reform off the agenda with an assist from her top lieutenant, Rahm Emanuel, a member of Congress until 2009 and now mayor of Chicago.

Emanuel -- who called immigration “the third rail” of American politics -- recognized that bringing the issue to the floor would split the Democratic coalition between Latinos who want legal status for the undocumented and white union members who worry this accommodation would increase competition for jobs. He was also concerned that forcing a vote on the issue would put in a tight spot those conservative white Democrats he had recruited to serve.

All the Dreamers know is that Pelosi and the Democratic Party betrayed them, and that they are now papering over that betrayal by using Trump as a boogeyman. They know that Pelosi could have spared them the frightening moment they’re facing now that Trump has rescinded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and left them vulnerable to deportation. They also know that the Democratic leader has no credibility on deportations, since she did nothing while the Obama administration racked up a record number of removals as the deporter in chief.

You have to hand it to these kids. They may not be legal U.S. residents, but they have proved to be excellent judges of character. Because of their precarious legal status, they also pay close attention to the immigration debate. So in this legislative version of Three-Card Monte, they’re not fooled by the Democrats’ sleight of hand and always seem to know where the target card is.

These young people have figured out something that still eludes many partisans on the pro-immigrant left: Democrats have not done right by the Dreamers. This was no oversight. It’s not that Democrats lacked the votes or had other legislative priorities. Instead, this was a deliberate calculation by the Democratic Party that it couldn’t afford to adopt the Dreamers and get branded the “amnesty” party. Put simply, Democrats could have led on immigration but they didn’t have the guts.

And it’s not just Pelosi and Emanuel who are guilty of playing games with this delicate issue. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer all failed the leadership test.

After I explained all this to my dad, he had a new appreciation for Dreamers. These rabble-rousers have a healthy skepticism that his generation of Latino Democrats lacked.

“So what you’re saying is that they’re smart,” he said.

Yes, that’s what I’m saying. That’s another reason to do everything we can to keep them in this country, the only home they have ever known. It’s also pretty solid evidence that conservatives are wrong if they think the Dreamers are Democrats in waiting. They’re up for grabs.

Ornery. Outspoken. Strong-willed. Independent-minded. With just a touch of entitlement.

What do they call people like that? Answer: Americans.

Ruben Navarrette’s email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com.

(c) 2017, The Washington Post Writers Group

SAN DIEGO -- Scheming. Backstabbing. Manipulating. Name calling. Political maneuvering.

When did the immigration debate become an episode of “The Apprentice”? You know the answer. It was when we made a reality television star president.

This season, tune in as Democratic congressional leaders -- who have a lot of time on their hands because they’re not busy coming up with a message to win back disaffected voters who abandoned their party -- teach President Trump the illusion of the deal.

When Democratic leaders Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi went to dinner at the White House, we might have guessed that machinations would be on the menu.

It’s always a toss-up between Democrats and Republicans as to which party has been more terrible on immigration. Democrats offer pretty words, but their actions -- i.e., mass deportations -- are often ugly. Republicans counter with ugly words, but their actions -- i.e., George W. Bush’s proposed legal status for the undocumented -- can be more attractive.

Now, as a result of the dinner, media reports say that Trump is inching closer to reaching a deal with Democrats that would protect as many as 800,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation. These are the folks who were dreaming if they thought Barack Obama had their backs. They were gullible enough to meander into a cynical trap, set by the previous administration, when they turned themselves into Immigration and Customs Enforcement in exchange for a two-year work permit and a temporary respite from deportation.

Trump recently upended the immigration debate by rescinding the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). But he doesn’t seem to have the stomach to deport hundreds of thousands of young people who are more American than many of the native-born.

Hence the talk of a deal with Democrats where the White House would support legislation to protect DACA recipients. In turn, Democrats would go along with more funding for border security on the condition that none of that money goes to pay for Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, which could cost as much as $25 billion.

This is a win-win for Democrats, who would love to stick it to the racist wing of the GOP by finding a way to keep the Dreamers in the only country they truly know and love. It’s also no big stretch for Democrats to go along with increased border funding. After all, they’re the real party of walls and fences and have been since Bill Clinton militarized the U.S.-Mexico border in 1994 through Operation Gatekeeper.

Even the rumor of a deal was enough to put Trump in a corner, forcing him to spend the next couple of days tweeting that there was no deal although there remained the potential of one. He also insisted that the wall was most certainly not off the table, and still very much part of his immigration plan.

Nobody puts Donny in a corner.

The restrictionists on the right-wing wasted no time blasting Trump as “Amnesty Don.” Even the nativist writer Ann Coulter, a stalwart Trumpista, appeared to call for his impeachment, while Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, insisted that any deal would destroy Trump’s GOP base.

So, in what may have been an attempt to calm his critics, Trump tweeted Friday that he would not support “chain migration” -- which means he opposes the emphasis on family reunification that has guided immigration policy for the last five decades.

What Trump does seem more committed to than ever before is helping Congress find a way to allow the Dreamers to stay in the United States. As he tweeted Thursday, while taking fire from conservatives: “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!”

He added: “They have been in our country for many years through no fault of their own -- brought in by parents at young age.”

We can’t be sure what was said in private over dinner. But, at this point, it doesn’t matter. The drama has moved into the open, and the politics are shaking out in very interesting ways.

Trump might well wind up being pushed to the center on immigration, at least regarding the Dreamers. He may decide that the hard-liners are too hard-hearted for him, and end up doing more deals with his old friends “Chuck” and “Nancy.”

That would leave Republican leaders out in the cold and inflame Trump’s supporters.

But on the positive side, what a great season this could turn out to be. The ratings would be yyyuge.

Ruben Navarrette’s email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com.

(c) 2017, The Washington Post Writers Group

SAN DIEGO -- The national dialogue over immigration remains the most dishonest debate in America.

Politicians in both parties routinely lie to their constituents. Liberals promise on the campaign trail to go soft on immigrants and then, once in office, hammer them to placate union members. Conservatives promise to get tough on illegal immigration when they’re courting nativists only to go easy on it once they take power in order to please business.

The right lies when it claims that the Republican Party isn’t pandering to racists; the left lies when it insists that the Democrats aren’t holding on to a wedge issue. And both sides lie about immigrants; liberals paint them all as givers while conservatives depict them as takers.

Now the immigration lies have seeped into the public debate over the government program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which the Obama administration created five years ago to give young undocumented immigrants a temporary reprieve from deportation and which was recently revoked by the Trump administration.

Speaking of lies, you’ll find plenty surrounding President Trump’s decision to rescind DACA in the first place.

Even though I opposed DACA as inadequate and warned of its flaws soon after its enactment in 2012, the Trumpistas -- with help from allies in conservative media -- appear to be pulling a fast one. It’s unclear that Trump actually had the authority to kill DACA, at least not the way he did.

The standard issue GOP talking points are that President Obama’s executive action was unconstitutional (even though no court has issued such a ruling) and that Obama couldn’t just unilaterally nullify immigration law (even though DACA is not a law but simply a change in policy by the Department of Homeland Security, and even though a president who deported 3 million people cannot be accused of failing to enforce immigration law).

It appears the Republicans haven’t completely thought out this line of argument.

For one thing, are we to believe the same party that -- after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 -- wildly expanded executive power and put on the Supreme Court two justices to defend that expansion (John Roberts and Samuel Alito) is now complaining that a Democratic president exceeded his own executive authority?

For another, if the GOP is correct that Obama didn’t have the power to create DACA, then from where does Trump draw the power to end DACA? In both cases, we’re talking about a chief executive attempting to set enforcement priorities for apprehending and deporting illegal immigrants.

The moment that the administration made the announcement to end DACA, Team Trump essentially conceded that Obama had the power to launch it in the first place.

That was a smart concession to make. There’s a simple reason why no court ever declared DACA unconstitutional. It’s because -- despite all the smoke and spin from the right -- it’s likely that the program was lawful all along.

A different program -- Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA), which was aimed at the parents of U.S.-born children -- was successfully challenged in court. But DACA is not DAPA.

More importantly, in that case, United States v. Texas, U.S. district judge Andrew Hanen ducked the issue of whether either program was constitutional.

DACA’s critics also insist that Obama overstepped his bounds because a president doesn’t have the power to make laws.

But this wasn’t a case of Obama making his own law. It was merely an instance of a president doing what he is empowered to do by the Constitution: executing the law. In this case, that meant deciding who gets deported and when.

You see, Republicans are defending a Constitution they apparently haven’t read. The legislative branch makes the laws but the executive branch decides how and when those laws are enforced. In this case, that means deciding who gets deported and who doesn’t, and in six months, who gets deported again.

The GOP can’t have it both ways. Either a president -- any president -- has the power to stop and restart deportations or he doesn’t. Which is it?

If you don’t like DACA, and you’re glad that Trump killed it, that’s fine. But don’t lie about the program or its recipients to make yourself feel better about your position.

This just amounts to more deception. And the immigration debate has enough of that already.

Ruben Navarrette’s email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com.

(c) 2017, The Washington Post Writers Group

About
Ruben Navarrette is a fresh and increasingly important voice in the national political debate. His twice-weekly column offers new thinking on many of the major issues of the day, especially on thorny questions involving ethnicity and national origin. His column is syndicated worldwide by The Washington Post Writers Group. Navarrette draws on both his knowledge of policy and politics and his life experiences to provide meaningful and hard-hitting commentary. He is a widely sought speaker on Latino affairs, has worked as a substitute teacher in classes from kindergarten to high school, and has hosted radio talk shows.
Books
A Darker Shade of Crimson: Odyssey of a Harvard Chicano (1993)
Contributer to Chicken Soup for the Writer's Soul (2000), of the best-selling "Chicken Soup for the Soul" series.
Awards
2004 2nd place in the National Headliner Awards
2006 3rd place in the National Headliners Awards presented by the Press Club of Atlantic City
2002 & 2003, the Dallas Observer named him Best Columnist at a Daily Newspaper
Links