Tonight, multiple lawmakers attending the State of the Union will be accompanied by people fighting to stay in the only country they’ve truly known as home. They are organizing, protesting and raising their voices in an effort to maintain one of the core ideals that the United States was founded upon. They’re fighting in the face of the most vitriolic division the country has faced since the civil rights struggle of the ‘60s, and Democratic lawmakers are placing them on the Congressional floor to show to the president who refuses to commit on a stance regarding their status.
They are also hostages by their own admission. The Dreamers affected by President Trump’s decision to end the DACA program last year are caught in a legislative dispute in which they ultimately have no voice. Yes, these thousands of now-unprotected illegal immigrants have protested, but the room in which decisions are made is inaccessible to them. Even the lawmakers on their side have a legislative barrier around them that keeps the Dreamers from being able to affect their own representation. Dreamers don’t get to cast their vote. Dreamers don’t get to choose who fights for them in the hallways that carry the most weight.
It’s an existence that no one envies. In less than two months’ time, these guests of honor, along with the multitude of others they will represent tonight, could be forced to leave their homes, deported back to lands about which they have little to no knowledge, even though there is overwhelming bipartisan support to let them stay. It has been documented time and time again that Democrats and Republicans alike want to install protections for DACA recipients, but both the stubbornness and indecision of the Trump administration as the immigration debate has played out has cracked that foundation.
The deal that most likely will be voted on will be one that forces Dreamers and immigration-rights groups to fight for their own protection while struggling with the fear that their fight could lead to future immigrants not being afforded the same opportunities. Speaking to Vox, activist Eduardo Samaniego condemned the provisions desired by the White House, stating Dreamers “should not stand for a deal that gives us dignity and peace in the country we call home but that also will deny potentially millions of families from reunifying with their loved ones.”
At the same time, Dreamers are weary, tired of the emotional struggle the begins every morning and ends every night. An existence dominated by anxiety over possible deportation has led some to be content that there is a deal that would offer them protection even as they acknowledge the fact that the U.S. political system has them in an existential trap. “I’m happy with the deal … It kinda sucks that we are being used as hostages, but so be it,” said an unidentified Dreamer.
Regardless of the side taken, Dreamers will harbor some level of guilt once everything is settled. Outside of a clean DACA bill that feels more unrealistic by the day, Dreamers will more than likely end up preserving their lives here at the expense of those who come after, and that burden is unimaginable to the people whose invitations they have accepted for tonight’s grand talking-to. They see all sides of the debate, yet aren’t able to have one themselves in the eyes of our democracy as it is currently structured. At least they’ll get to feel what it’s like to walk the outdated carpet and listen to a man promoting white nationalism through his rhetoric attempt to placate them. They’ll get to feel like Chuck Schumer, even though none of them can hold the office held by Chuck Schumer.
That’s okay, though. Trump, Schumer, Kamala Harris, Mitch McConnell and countless others won’t have to face what the Dreamers are experiencing.