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Under No Circumstances Should Border Wall Funding Be Part of a DREAM Act

Last week, Trump ended Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that protected eligible undocumented youth from deportation and provided them with renewable U.S. work permits. The White House announced that it plans to delay the program’s termination for six months, giving Congress an opportunity to enshrine DACA into law. But, there’s a catch. Earlier this week, House Republicans told Politico they are willing to make DACA law only in exchange for border wall funding. The Left’s response should be a firm and unwavering no.

Efforts to couch border militarization and inhumane immigration enforcement under the guise of a reform bill aren’t new. Over the past several decades, immigration policies under every presidential administration have systematically militarized the southern border, contributing to the deaths of thousands of immigrants and the criminalization of millions of others. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) not only legalized millions of migrants but also imposed sanctions on employers who knowingly hired undocumented workers and allocated more funds to Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS). That led to the hiring of more Border Patrol personnel, the construction of new Border Patrol stations, checkpoints, and detention centers, and an influx of new equipment at the border — including helicopters, night-vision scopes, night vision goggles, and surveillance systems. In short, the tradeoff for legalizing some immigrants was the creation of a war zone at the border. Indeed, since then, 187 billion dollars have been spent on border security and immigration enforcement.

The last legislative attempt at immigration reform, the 2013 Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, created a rift in immigrant activist circles. The Senate Bill, which never passed a House vote, offered a path to citizenship for the majority of undocumented immigrants while also building the “most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall.” While some advocates claimed that the lives and livelihoods of the 11 million immigrants already in the United States should be prioritized, others denounced the bill as unjust and inhumane and argued that it would put migrants’ lives at risk.

This same debate is taking place today. Legislators have made it clear that, in the next six months, they will “see if we can do a deal where we secure our border and . . . give the DREAM Act kids what they deserve which is to stay in the country they call home.” While this may sound like a smart political move to some, we cannot offer up the lives of other migrants as collateral damage in the name of reaching a compromise.

Trump’s border wall will create more dangerous crossing conditions for migrants — especially for women — and lead to more deaths along the border. It also will adversely affect the environment and indigenous communities whose traditional lands are split between Mexico and the United States. What’s more, research shows that it doesn’t even work: building walls and militarizing the border doesn’t stop the flow of migration but rather serves only to push border crossers into more remote and dangerous places, leading to more death and human suffering.

We must denounce any bill that sees some migrants as more disposable than others. We cannot allow legislators to use the rescission of DACA to promote their own white supremacist, anti-immigrant, xenophobic border militarization agenda. Increased border security and immigration enforcement efforts kill people, tear families apart, and strip migrants of their human and civil rights. Under no circumstances should border wall funding be part of a DREAM Act. On this we cannot compromise.

Header image via NACLA.

Durham, NC

Barbara is a doctoral student at The University of North Carolina interested in im/migration and migrant activism and organizing.

Barbara is a doctoral student at The University of North Carolina interested in im/migration and migrant activism and organizing.

Read more about Barbara

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