I’m going to be intentionally vague about where and under what circumstances I met this young woman, because she’s already in danger. The Department of Homeland Security has ordered her to report to their offices, and on the advice of pro bono legal counsel, she is not going. DHS will have to come and get her, which as the immigration battles heat up, they are very likely to do.
She was brought to this country as an infant, doesn’t know the country of her birth and has no connections there. She was an A student in high school, and is currently working for a non-profit and trying to save money to go to college. In her limited free time, she volunteers with a program that supports vulnerable children.
Just as we don’t agree on the bedrock reality of most things in our country, progressive and conservative voters don’t agree on the value of lives like this one. Progressives would say, and President Obama said with his DACA program, that young people like this are part of the current and future vitality of our economy. They are what sets us apart from aging societies like Japan with their more stagnant economies. Conservatives would say that this young woman is alien to American and its way of life, a drain on the system, someone who denies hard working Americans their full benefits and rights.
As I spoke with this young woman, I didn’t feel the weight of a theoretical argument. I felt ashamed — of Trump and Bannon and Miller and Sessions, and of everyone who voted to give them the extraordinary power of executive action. I’m a firm believer that the power of the immigrant story is part of our founding DNA. The future of America isn’t, in my view, xenophobic white guys and their supporters. We’re headed down a dark and very distorted path, one that is fundamentally contrary to our hard won democracy.
I can give money to the ACLU, which I do. Other than that, I don’t know what to do — other than feel ashamed — when DHS comes for her.