For immigrants, Trump’s ‘s**thole’ comments distract from talks on DACA deal

"We know what we're dealing with: a racist administration."

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 05: Activists from RefuseFascism.org project anti-Trump administration messages onto the side of the Metropolitan Detention Center, where many undocumented people are jailed, in a seven city action after President Trump ordered an end to DACA on September 5, 2017 in Los Angeles, United States. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 05: Activists from RefuseFascism.org project anti-Trump administration messages onto the side of the Metropolitan Detention Center, where many undocumented people are jailed, in a seven city action after President Trump ordered an end to DACA on September 5, 2017 in Los Angeles, United States. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump met with a bipartisan group of senators Thursday, provocatively saying the United States should decline to admit immigrants from Haiti and African countries, or as he described them, “shithole countries.” For various good reasons, the horror has been so great that the media has spent countless hours debating the merits of the president’s comments, forcing legal departments to mull over decency laws.

Into Friday, the news cycle appeared to forget that the meeting was about immigration. But not immigrants. They are past the president’s racist comments. They have known Trump’s intentions since he described some Mexicans as “rapists“, “criminals,” “drug dealers,” and “bad hombres.”

Now, immigrants just want the national debate and Congress to turn back to them. They hope that Congress will act on a measure offering permanent legal immigration protections through a must-pass spending bill to prevent a government shutdown on January 19.

“It’s very clear where [Trump’s] intentions are,” Jonathan Jayes-Green, Co-Founder and Director of the activist group Undocublack Network, said on a press call Friday. “We just need action. We need to pass a clean DREAM Act. Most Americans are on our side.”

“We know what we’re dealing with: a racist administration,” Cristina Jimenez, Executive Director and Co-Founder of the advocacy group United We Dream, said on the same press call Friday. “This is why in this moment we don’t lose focus to push back explicitly against the attack against the Black community…and people of color. It’s a moment of moral reckoning for this country.”

For some immigrants, the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program last September made clear that the Trump administration wants to put them at risk of deportation. The Obama-era DACA program provides temporary work authorization and deportation relief in two-year increments to certain immigrants brought to the country as children. After he phased out DACA, Trump said he would give Congress until March 5, 2018 to find a permanent solution for this group of immigrants. At the time, the White House gave some beneficiaries whose DACA statuses expire before the March date one final chance to renew their statuses.

But since Trump ended the DACA program in September, an average of 122 people have lost their DACA statuses. That’s because roughly 22,000 eligible DACA recipients were unable to successfully renew their DACA, some due to Hurricanes Irma and Harvey which affected hard-hit Texas and Florida. But after March 5, 2018, it’s expected that many more immigrants facing a DACA expiration would have to quit their jobs and be afraid that federal immigration authorities could knock on their doors.

“We heard yesterday from Donald Trump what he said was raw and unfiltered racism, which drove his presidential campaign and has been behind all his policies,” Jimenez said. She criticized the president for upholding policies and executive orders that have sought to exclude immigrants who have working legally for decades; to ban people from Muslim-majority countries abroad; and to terminate the DACA program.

For that reason, immigrants are putting pressure on congressional lawmakers who have been working together to include an immigration plan that includes permanent, legal protections for certain immigrants as part of a larger spending bill package. Democratic lawmakers are needed to help pass any spending bills to prevent a government shutdown. But Republican lawmakers and the president have added harsh elements that include border security enhancements and cuts to various legal immigration programs, making it hard to bargain with Democrats over the terms of a “clean” immigration bill.