How ridiculous. This country has just suffered a mass shooting perpetrated by an American gunman who killed 58 people and wounded 489 others, and President Trump is continuing to push his narrative that undocumented immigrants are a national security threat, threatening to deport nearly 700,000 “dreamers” who didn’t commit any violent crimes.
I thought about this irony after recently interviewing Bruno Villegas, a Harvard college student who is a “dreamer” – one of the young immigrants brought to this country as infants by their undocumented parents.
Like most other dreamers, Bruno left his native country, Peru, as a child, and has almost no memory of the place. Bruno told me his parents took him to Southern California when he was 6, and he only learned many years later that his family didn’t have immigration documents.
When I asked him what he will do if he’s deported, he said, “I don’t know Peru. It’s a country that I barely remember.”
Bruno, who is majoring in social studies and plans to pursue a law degree, told me that “I like to consider myself an American. I know that’s hard, because the government doesn’t want to recognize me as such. But this is the country that I know, and where I want to stay.”
Other dreamers studying at Harvard include Jin Park, who is majoring in molecular and cellular biology, and Laura Veira Ramirez, who was born in Colombia and plans to major in chemistry.
They all enrolled in former President Barack Obama’s DACA program that provided them with temporary legal status. Trump is now threatening to deport all dreamers in five months unless Congress accepts a draconian anti-immigration package that he has submitted for legislative approval.
Trouble is, Trump’s proposal is a giant “poison pill,” loaded down with impossible-to-meet demands designed to make the other side look responsible for its failure.
In exchange for legalizing the dreamers, Trump is demanding that Congress makes U.S. taxpayers pay for the border wall – yes, the one that Trump promised would be paid by Mexico – and other extreme measures demanded by the Republican xenophobes.
In effect, Trump is sabotaging his proposal to legalize the dreamers by mixing it with an anti-immigration package that he says is essential to guarantee America’s safety. In response to Democrats’ charges that he has reneged on his promise to propose “reasonable” border security measures as part of a bipartisan deal to regularize the dreamers, Trump tweeted on Oct. 10 that “Democrats don’t want secure borders, they don’t care about safety for U.S.A.”
On Oct. 11, he again cited the need to protect America from “crime producing borders,” and renewed his calls for the border wall with Mexico. Yet he is silent about the need to change gun laws and protect Americans from U.S.-born mass shooters.
In fact, the worst mass shootings in American history were committed by Americans. Stephen Paddock, the mass murderer who carried out the recent attack in Las Vegas, was born and raised in the United States.
So was Omar Saddiqui Mateen, the man who shot and killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016. The same goes for Seung-Hui Cho, the student who shot dead 32 people at the Virginia Tech campus in 2007, and for Adam Lanza, who gunned down 20 children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. While 9/11 was the work of foreign terrorists, none of them entered the United States by sneaking illegally across the Mexican border.
If Trump really wants to protect Americans, he should do something to change gun laws and prevent nuts like Paddock from acquiring an arsenal of 47 guns. Investigators say these weapons were acquired legally, including bump stocks, which allow gun owners to convert semi-automatic weapons into de facto machine guns.
Who is more dangerous, the dreamers who are pursuing degrees at Harvard and community colleges across the country, or the people who buy 47 guns with devices to convert them into machine guns? The answer is clear, but Trump’s propaganda machine has managed to fool many into believing – against all evidence – that the biggest threat to Americans’ safety comes from “crime producing borders.”
Andres Oppenheimer is a Latin America correspondent for the Miami Herald. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.