Tomorrow marks the one week anniversary of the New Haven march against the revocation of DACA. This was the anti-Trump march, the anti-deportation march, the anti-xenophobia march. This was a march of opposition.
And besides the sorrow that New Haven felt at hearing undocumented immigrants take the stage and relate their fears of deportation, there was also a roiling anger in the air, an anger you could taste. At the time of the march, I chalked this fury up to the xenophobia in the Trump administration’s decision.
But there is a deeper reason for our fury.
To put this into perspective, I am a deep believer in the American ideal. I trust in the American bargain — if you work hard and play by the rules, you can get ahead. This idea is the undercurrent of our conscience as a people. It unites us as Yalies, and it unites us as Americans. It’s an ideal worth protecting.
That ideal is how I like to think I ended up at Yale. While I certainly benefited from the privileges my school offered me, I am a very proud product of the New York public school system. My parents were never rich, and so the only guiding compass I had at my disposal was hard work and self-respect. I suspect that’s how a lot of us ended up here.
But while we are all products of our own efforts, we are also working within a well-defined and institutionally insulated sociopolitical system. For example, we have a code of laws which we must abide by, labor unions to address workers’ grievances and governmental agencies to address everything from environmental regulations to business malpractice to name a few. Unfortunately, this system has not always harmonized with the American ideal.
And so part of believing in the American ideal means working toward building trust in our institutions, not being complacent in their dissolution. The Supreme Court, our public school systems, organized labor, the press, organized religion — all of these institutions have been and still are seriously flawed. But the evolution of our country is centered on expanding what these institutions represent — who “we the people” really are.
Despite their flaws, these institutions act as our protection. And in a political landscape increasingly defined by polarization and executive impulsiveness, these establishments act as our most powerful recourse. So the better way to respond to distrust in American institutions is to change the composition of their foundations, not to eliminate their foundations entirely.
For institutions make the American ideal possible.
So — if not for xenophobia — why does the Trump administration’s decision to revoke the DACA legislation hit home for so many of us? I reject the fantasy that we’re angry because we’re “all descendants of immigrants.” Our anger isn’t that simplistic. That’s not why it’s personal.
Don’t get me wrong: throwing 800,000 people onto the deportation radar is detestable and a cause for outrage by any standard. But I think we’re angry about the implications of the President’s decision, not only about the effects of his decision. When we come to America, we buy a stake in the bargain of the West. We invest in the notion that the American ideal is our ideal.
It’s what sustains us.
What the revocation of DACA truly did was send a message to undocumented immigrants that our institutions will refuse to protect them. Without a legislative safe harbor, these men and women are left without the recourse that our establishments guarantee. They are no longer part of “we the people” in the eyes of the leader of the free world.
I said earlier that the DACA march was a march of opposition. But it wasn’t. Not entirely. The DACA march was also a march of unity and a march of protection.
And so, when the Trump Administration decides to rescind DACA, we are incensed because this is an affront to our way of life, a rebuke of our institutions — and a shameful betrayal of our American ideal.
Sammy Landino is a first year in Hopper College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .