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Trump v. MLK: The Rising American Demos Supports All Dreamers

Katherine Culliton-González

This year, as we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King and honor his achievements, we must continue to resist all forms of racism and support a fully inclusive democracy.

Since the election of a candidate who ran on a platform of racism, we have been fighting his immigration agenda, which is clearly a white supremacist agenda. On January 13, 2017, Demos issued a report with LatinoJustice PRLDEF predicting Trump’s mass deportation agenda and assault on immigrant families and communities, and provided tools for state and local jurisdictions to legally and morally resist his racially discriminatory policies and agenda. Since then, the rising American demos has rejected his agenda by going to the airports and the streets to protest, to the courts to enforce fundamental constitutional rights, and to state and local legislatures to enact sanctuary policies.

Trump’s recent comments against immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti and Africa are indeed shocking—and we must never fail to be shocked by such vile, racist comments—but remember, they are not inconsistent with his policies. As I wrote last week, for the first time in recent history, he has been actively de-legalizing people, and the not-so-hidden secret is that the 1 million people being stripped of their legal status through retraction of DACA and TPS are black and brown immigrants.

And as I wrote after the neo-Nazi violence in Charlottesville last August, Trump’s immigration policy is intimately tied with an anti-black, confederate agenda. We must never forget that among all the immigrants from places Trump despises are the people who built this country. The United States was built on stealing the people of Africa and forcing them into slavery, the vestiges of which are still with us. Trump’s ugly rhetoric against Latino immigrants has now come to include Haitians and Africans; then again, his campaign always included hateful language against the #BlackLivesMatter movement, against Muslim Americans, against Chinese people, and against Latinos, while favoring white Europeans.

Just a few months ago, the voters of Virginia rejected that agenda when they voted against the Trumpian candidate who supported confederate monuments, voter suppression laws, and the criminalization of black and brown communities through unconstitutional state policing of immigrants. This was followed shortly with voters in Alabama achieving a stunning victory against the Trump agenda—after which Demos called for the meaningful policy changes that black and brown voters who carried Democrats to victory have been waiting for. We must begin to dismantle white supremacy by enacting policies that end voter suppression, mass incarceration, and mass deportation. Racism does not benefit anyone but those at the very top of the old American power structure, and it harms everyone else.

We hope that we are at a turning point. We hope we have hit rock bottom with tolerance of white supremacy. This means that in the fight for immigrants’ rights and the urgent need to protect the DREAMers, we follow their strong and visionary lead by not negotiating with racism. We support a clean DREAM Act that doesn’t exclude or harm any other immigrants. It’s that simple.

The high ideals of inclusive democracy we espouse and fight for every day will never be realized until we root out anti-black racism in every policy, and today the most obvious of places where racism must be remedied is in American immigration policy. Trump’s most recent racist remarks make it clear that we must stand by our position that Congressional leaders—Democrats and Republicans alike—must insist on a clean DREAM Act with TPS and without conceding a border wall, increased family separation and deportations, or barriers to the path to citizenship for any other immigrants, no matter their country of origin.

As we honor Dr. King today, we must remember that after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act—his first great and lasting legislative achievement—the first statute that had to be immediately revised was the old immigration code. Until the civil rights movement, federal immigration law intentionally and directly discriminated on the basis of national origin. This is what Trump is calling for, but any laws based upon negotiating with such intentional and direct discrimination would be illegal. This is because after the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Congress then passed the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, which made national origin discrimination and a country-based quota system clearly illegal. Dr. King was also an “internationalist,” who knew that after the former slaves’ uprising, Haiti was actually the first democracy in the Americas. Haitians then came and fought with Simón Bolivar, who led the Latin American revolution against European imperialism, in support of the revolution that founded the United States, with our fine ideals of democracy. Like Dr. King and all the brave men and women who fought and won against racism, giving us the legal and moral tools we rely on today, the new American demos will fight to dismantle white supremacy and build a democracy that includes us all.