I’m not going to hold President Donald Trump’s draft-dodging grandfather who got deported from present-day Germany against him.
Similarly, it’s not fair to claim Trump is a racist by citing his father’s arrest at a KKK riot in New York in 1927. You can judge Trump’s racism based on his very own words and actions.
In the same vein, I’m not interested in punishing Robert Sagastume, a graduate student at Washington University, for his mother’s decision to reunite her family. Sagastume will graduate with two master’s degrees from the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University next month. His mother brought him to America from Honduras in 2001, when he was 12, to reunite with her other children in Kansas City, whom they had not seen in six to seven years.
Sagastume and his mom entered legally on tourist visas. His mother got her green card and filed on his behalf. Then attacks on 9/11 changed immigration policies, and Sagastume’s application fell through the cracks.
He had no idea.
He was a top student in high school, a member of the National Honor Society, and won a full-ride scholarship to college. That’s when he learned the truth about his status.
“I cried so much,” he said. “I felt all my dreams of going to college had been torn apart.”
His family told him to take landscaping jobs and hide in the shadows.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program gave him a chance to regain his life. After a thorough application process, he got DACA protection in 2012, becoming a so-called “Dreamer.” After 15 years of living undocumented, it allowed him to get a driver’s license, a credit card, bank account, apartment and internship. He married a U.S. citizen in 2015 and has a green card now.
His dream is to help others and continue contributing to his country.
Eduardo, who also lives in the St. Louis area, knows this journey. (We are identifying him only by his middle name, since DACA’s status is in limbo.) His parents brought him from Mexico legally when he was 6 years old. They overstayed a visa, and Eduardo became undocumented. He worked hard and lived cautiously. His family paid his way through college, where he graduated cum laude with an engineering degree.
But without legal status, he could not apply for jobs. For three years, he worked as a cook in his parents’ restaurant.
DACA changed his life: He was finally able to get a job in his field. He has reapplied for DACA every two years, as required by law.
The night he heard that Trump rescinded the program, his heart broke.
“I remember crying myself to sleep that night,” he said. “I live in perpetual fear of what’s happening.”
The Supreme Court will ultimately decide whether Trump’s decision to shut down the federal program protecting nearly 800,000 Dreamers was appropriate. But there’s a more fundamental moral question at stake for the rest of us: Is it fair to destroy the lives of so many people, who had no choice when their parents brought or kept them here as children?
If you would object to the government throwing you in prison for a crime your mother or father committed, it’s intellectually dishonest to want to deport Dreamers.
We shouldn’t hold the president accountable for the questionable immigration past of his grandfather or the Department of Justice investigations into his father’s unwillingness to rent to black tenants.
Let’s set aside that the president’s close adviser, Stephen Miller, was busy sending Brietbart hundreds of emails promoting white supremacist propaganda before he began crafting the administration’s immigration policies. It’s probably just a coincidence that he’s the same guy who wanted to tear babies from their (nonwhite) parents at the southern border.
The story of what makes us American is intensely personal. The Trump family history reveals how complicated and contested these narratives can be.
Of course, it’s bad public policy for the president to hold 800,000 people hostage over his own mommy and daddy issues.
It’s certainly not his fault that his current wife, Melania, was granted an “Einstein” visa -- typically awarded to Nobel winners and prominent scientists -- after her nude cover shoot as a model.
Good for her for using whatever technicalities identified her as a genius and got her on the path to citizenship. And if “chain migration” helped her bring her immigrant parents to America, too, well, good for them.
Eduardo and Robert’s mothers know what it’s like to want to keep your family together.