November 18, 2018

The lie at the heart of the DACA repeal

Protesters gather to show support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in Los Angeles on Sept. 1. Photo by Kyle Grillot/Reuters

President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind DACA only makes sense if you remember Charlottesville.

You have to recall what the white supremacists who marched in that Virginia town chanted: “You will not replace us! You will not replace us!”

Sure, they lapsed into, “Jews will not replace us,” but DACA isn’t about being anti-Semitic, it’s about being anti-Them.

Trump’s order to phase out Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in six months would affect some 800,000 young people who were brought to this country as children when their parents crossed the border illegally. They had no more complicity in that action than a toddler strapped inside a getaway car is guilty of bank robbery. They’ve known no other country but the United States, where they went to school, found jobs (some 91 percent are employed) and made lives.

By canceling DACA, Trump would be uprooting these people and sending them back to countries they do not know, whose languages some of them do not even speak. And for what?

Despite what Trump’s ever-dwindling number of defenders claim, repealing DACA has nothing to do with whether President Barack Obama’s executive order was constitutional.

As others have pointed out, a guy concerned with our nation’s highest laws doesn’t pardon a guy like Joe Arpaio, indicted for subverting it. And if he really wanted Congress to exercise its rightful power in passing a law for the Dreamers, why give them a six-month deadline before phasing out DACA? Why not a year? Kicking it to Congress demonstrates Trump’s essential cowardice.

No, what Trump wants to do is make good on an applause line from his campaign rallies, promising his die-hard supporters that he would put an end to DACA. They’re not interested in a go-slow approach that would put the measure on more solid constitutional footing. They’re not interested in a compromise that would maximize the potential good these hundreds of thousands of Dreamers can bestow on America. They’re not interested in fairness, because how is it fair to punish someone for something they didn’t do?

So, what are they interested in? One clue can be found in the Breitbart story announcing Trump’s decision. Its headline is, “Open Borders, Corporate Interests Brace for End of DACA.” In other words, the only people who these Trump supporters think care about making sure these Americans stay in America are the “globalists.”

The story’s writer, John Binder, claims that with the Dreamers out, some 30,000 jobs will open up each month.

“Ending DACA could be a major stimulus for the 4.4 percent of unemployed Americans who will see more than 700,000 new job openings across the United States,” Binder writes.

That’s ludicrous, of course. It assumes none of the Dreamers are self-employed, that their roles can easily be filled by the ranks of the remaining unemployed — many of whom are far less well-educated, less well-trained, less motivated, far older or not even living in areas where the Dreamers work. Some 250 work for Apple — in what fantasy world are those jobs just ripe for the picking? But Breitbart knows that.

Shafting the Dreamers is not about the promise that an eager army of neglected (white) Americans will magically slip into the work shoes of the 700,000 gainfully employed Dreamers. It’s about the fear that these Americans are no longer needed at all. “You will not replace us!” The Charlottesville chant echoes in Trump’s shortsighted and cruel new action. See, he is saying, I won’t let them — these brown, line-hopping hordes — replace you.

It doesn’t matter that setting these Dreamers loose on America boosts the economy and will improve the future for us all, as every highly motivated group of immigrants, from Irish to Italians to Jews to Latinos, has done throughout American history. It’s not about reality, it’s about revenge. If you think you’re going to replace us, take this.

There’s a tragic coda to Breitbart’s gloating story. On the very same website is a story about Alonso Guillen, 31, a disc jockey in Lufkin, Texas. Four days after Hurricane Harvey submerged Houston, Guillen volunteered to pilot a rescue boat. He and two friends were en route to the boat when their truck struck a bridge and overturned, throwing the men into the raging current of Cypress Creek. Guillen drowned. According to his family, Guillen was a recipient of the DACA program — his parents brought him from Piedras Negras, Mexico, when he was a child. His father became a legal permanent resident. His mother, Rita Ruiz de Guillen, was in Mexico awaiting approval of her immigration application when she heard of her son’s death. When she tried to enter the United States to attend the funeral, immigration officials turned her back.

“I’ve lost a great son, you have no idea,” his mother told reporters. “I’m asking God to give me strength.”

There’s a word for Americans like Alonso Guillen.


ROB ESHMAN is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. Email him at You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism and @RobEshman.

Arpaio pardon is a travesty of justice

Then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump with Sheriff Joe Arpaio at a campaign rally in Marshalltown, Iowa, on Jan. 26, 2016. Photo b yBrian Snyder/Reuters

Since biblical times, reverence for the rule of law has fueled our community. When Moses was given the law on Mount Sinai and then presented it to our ancestors, a great tradition was born, one from which a profound adherence to justice has never wavered. President Donald J. Trump’s pardon of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio breaks from the basic tenets of democracy and the premise and promise of our nation’s history.

The president, of course, has the constitutional authority to issue such a pardon. But we argue that he cannot do so with moral impunity, and his actions must not be met with silence — again — on the part of Jewish communal institutions, which too frequently have chosen fiscal discretion over ethical valor.

This pardon, issued on the eve of a massive natural and human catastrophe, is but the latest in a series of assaults on civil liberties, civil rights and a free press. It is but another example of the president’s evident disregard for the rule of law and his willingness to reward political friends despite their history of attacks on our constitutional protections. Accordingly, when a symbol of racism is honored by this administration, which seems so intent on dividing rather than uniting our country, we raise our voices in protest, in the name of a Jewish community that is increasingly vocal in its criticism of this administration.

What Arpaio did was to engage in evil and anarchy. He used his position of authority as sheriff toward unconstitutional, racially discriminatory ends. The Phoenix New Times reported that, for the past two decades, many judges have criticized Arpaio’s practices as being “unconstitutional and abusive” and in violation of a range of antidiscrimination laws.   Arpaio’s racial preferences happened to disfavor Latinos who, irrespective of whether they were suspected of committing a crime, were detained in what Arpaio called “concentration camps.” Arpaio’s sinister conduct and the president’s sanctioning of that conduct erode the very foundation of our Constitution.

This travesty of justice and its implications for our democracy should send shivers up and down the spine of every American Jew. 

This is not a subtle point. The president of the United States blessed a sheriff’s refusal to accept that the Constitution required him to keep his racial prejudices and categorizations at bay and, further, blessed that sheriff’s refusal to accept the legitimacy of a court order. A sheriff endangered and harmed the very people he was entrusted to protect, and this year he was found guilty of contempt of court. And for this, Trump called Arpaio “a great American patriot” and rewarded him with a presidential pardon. Republicans and Democrats alike certainly can agree that a person in a position of authority who, as Arpaio has done, degrades and humiliates inmates, places inmates in subhuman conditions of extreme heat and extreme cold without adequate supplies of water and food, and is racially biased as he executes his job, is anything but a patriot. Alas, he is a criminal. And by pardoning such a criminal, the president has abused his power, thereby promoting division, bigotry and cronyism.

This travesty of justice and its implications for our democracy should send shivers up and down the spine of every American Jew. 

In addition, this pardon sets a dangerous precedent for other reasons. It could frustrate the investigations of the president and his administration that are now underway, if witnesses and persons of interest believe they need not cooperate because the president could absolve them of criminal culpability by pardoning them. It could keep the American people from knowing the extent of possible abuses of power and obstructions of justice. Although James Madison wrote that abuse of the authority to pardon would be grounds for impeachment, we fear the opposite — that this president could use it to preserve himself in office.

It must offend our core values as Americans and as Jews that this president has evidently bartered fundamental constitutional rights and protections for personal political gain.

The pardon Trump issued — late on a Friday afternoon as Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas — usurps a system that protects all of us. Left unprotested and unchecked, this pardon threatens to wash away our history, to undermine our democracy, to upend due process and to erode the rule of law.  And, as Jews, this disregard of the rule of law should bear special meaning.

The Hebrew prophets warned against the absolute rule and rapacity of kings. The people ignored them in the name of political convenience, and suffered the consequences. We refuse to ignore this travesty of a pardon, which is no less than an attack on justice itself.

JANICE KAMENIR-REZNIK is co-chair of Jews United for Democracy and Justice (JUDJ); and MEL LEVINE, a former congressman, and ZEV YAROSLAVSKY, a former Los Angeles County supervisor, are members of the executive committee of JUDJ, a grass-roots movement of citizens dedicated to the principles of Torah, justice and democracy.

Jewish groups condemn Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio

Joe Arpaio listening as Donald Trump, then a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, speaks to the press prior to a rally in Marshalltown, Iowa, on Jan. 26, 2016. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Jewish groups condemned President Donald Trump’s pardon of former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio.

The White House announced Arpaio’s pardon on Friday night.

Arpaio, 85, was sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona for 24 years, losing a reelection bid in November 2016. He was found guilty in a Justice Department investigation for racially profiling Latinos and convicted on July 31 of criminal contempt for disobeying a federal judge’s order on detaining individuals suspected of being in the U.S. illegally.

At the time of the pardon he had not yet been sentenced, but had faced up to six months in jail.

“President Trump’s pardon of Sheriff Arpaio is shameful,” said American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris in a statement. “It undermines our judicial system and, ignoring the rule of law, endorses the egregious maltreatment and racial profiling of individuals in our country. Public humiliation of detainees was an Arpaio specialty.”

Arpaio proudly compared his open-air tent city jails for suspected illegal immigrants to concentration camps, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

“President Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio defies explanation and flies in the face of American values. We stand today with the Latino community, who have been the primary targets of Arpaio’s bigotry and feel the president’s decision to pardon him particularly acutely,” Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL CEO, said in a statement.

“This pardon leads us to question where President Trump stands on the rule of law. Arpaio willfully defied a court order for racially profiling Latinos and now is getting away with it – a very dangerous precedent. The pardon will foster divisions in our country at a time when we need healing. No doubt anti-immigrant extremists will celebrate this decision, but it is a sad day for Americans who care about justice, equality and strengthening our social fabric,” he said.

Noah Feldman, a professor of constitutional and international law at Harvard University, wrote last week that while Trump has the power to issue the Arpaio pardon, the action nonetheless sets a dangerous precedent.

“In the end, the only legally binding check on law enforcement is the authority of the judiciary to say what the law is — and be listened to by the cops on the streets,” Feldman wrote in Bloomberg View. “If the president blocks the courts from making the sheriff follow the law, then the president is breaking the basic structure of the legal order.”

The White House statement announcing the pardon said: “Throughout his time as Sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration.”

Trump also tweeted an announcement of the pardon: “I am pleased to inform you that I have just granted a full Pardon to 85 year old American patriot Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He kept Arizona safe!”