There are approximately 5,000 to 10,000 Filipinos currently residing in the United States who will have to defend their right to remain in the country like never before. This is due to President Donald Trump’s controversial decision to annul the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Firmly rooted in the US since they were considered minors, the “Dreamers” as the DACA aspirants are called, may not be Americans technically speaking. But when skeptical or suspicious others ask who they are, the Dreamers have every other right to call themselves “Americans” for the vast majority of them have been honest, hard-working or studying, law-abiding individuals in the United States.
An empathetic mind cannot blame the Filipino Dreamers for commiserating with Filipino American writer Carlos Bulosan and his experiences as he related them in his Depression-era novel “America Is in the Heart.” Bulosan wrote in the novel, “I feel like a criminal running away from a crime I did not commit. And this crime is that I am a Filipino in America.” It is a disgrace that any Filipino would have to call to mind this sentiment in 21st century America.
Bulosan’s real-world experiences convinced him that America, both physically and culturally, was virulently and rabidly racist against Filipino immigrants---not to mention against other Asian immigrants---during his time. While there has been great progress in race relations since the Great Depression, much of the racial politics of today is not that far of a cry from that of Bulosan’s milieu.
Repeatedly making it a point to be an apologist for white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and other anti-immigrant movements, President Donald Trump---who Ta-Nehisi Coates has called America’s “First White President”---has twisted the facts on the immigration issue. In a campaign of sheer intellectual dishonesty, Trump has bolstered his “America First” credentials with his obtuse supporters by espousing what he asserts is an unsparing truth: that non-Caucasian immigrants---particularly from right across the border in Mexico---have abused their stay in the United States at the expense of primarily white Americans. Overlaying Trump’s xenophobic perception of reality is a burgeoning racist narrative that reflects the fraught nature of life in America for immigrants.
We as Americans have not yet been able to flesh out the idea of a post-racial era which was supposed to have begun with the election of the first African-American president, Barack Obama, in 2008. We have not reached a post-racial ethos any more than we have made peace with North Korea. Racism, both in its blatant and subtle forms and expressions, is alive and unfortunately well in 21st century America. Donald Trump has exploited this atmosphere of racial resentment to strengthen and solidify his support among his followers who are hardly the definition of diverse thinking.
In is within this framework of racism that Trump has influenced his followers into supporting the revocation of the DACA program. The Dreamers did not sign up for being unfairly stigmatized in a country where it was thought that anyone who was willing to study or work hard, obey the laws of the land, and be proud to be Americans---in all intents and purposes if not legally---would be welcome.
The Dreamers instead find themselves having to justify their place in an ever-changing, increasingly-chaotic America that is seeing an upturn in racist rhetoric and the abasement of immigrants for political purposes. More of the world around us is having less regard for the status of non-European immigrants, not least of all for the Dreamers and the American values they devotedly adhere to. Better to be safe by deporting Dreamers and other immigrants than be sorry by letting them stay and “disrupt society” the anti-immigrant insurrectionists cry out.
For both Filipino and non-Filipino Dreamers time is running out. Using nativist arguments as a means to drive out immigrants, Trump has given the US Congress only a few months in which to develop a new DACA program that will allow the Dreamers to remain in the US without fear of deportation. In face of the increased risks of displacement, the Dreamers will be on pins and needles until a final decision is made.
Their worry is that a negative decision will be made by self-serving politicians with no or little consideration for extenuating moral circumstances.