Trump and the American Betrayal

Juan Cartagena

They came here as children. Ours is the only country they’ve ever known. They work. They study.

To this embarrassment-of-an-American-President, 800,000 dreams are dispensable. To the children of Mexico, who constitute the overwhelming majority of DACA recipients and those deported, this rejection is yet another American betrayal.

We need you, Mexicans, to work our railroads, our mines, our fields, says America. It’s the same old ballad of American capitalism.

At the turn of the 20th century America lured tens of thousands of Mexicans to come north and contribute to America’s economy. They came, established colonias, bought land, raised families, and made the American elite rich. But when the Great Depression hit they were subjected to a coerced migration back to Mexico. This mass deportation of at least one million Mexicans along with their American-born children—American citizens—started what Professors Francisco Balderrama and Raymond Rodriguez documented as the Decade of Betrayal.

Come back Bracero. Come back those of you who are American-born. We are at war.

World War II ushered in a booming economy which America used to again lure in Mexican labor. They returned. It wasn’t just work—they enlisted in our armed forces to fight in segregated units. They created new organizations to fight the Spanish version of Jim Crow. They stayed and used the tools honed by African-Americans to stop discrimination: the courts, the schools, the public square.

Come and take these jobs. No one else will.

American capital lured them to cross the border again and again. In the 21st century the bar to enter the American middle class rose with the knowledge economy and globalization but the agriculture, service and hospitality sectors still depended on exploitable labor. The children of Mexican workers crossed the same border and grabbed onto any opportunity to lay stakes in American soil.

Come, reveal yourself to the authorities, apply and if you’re lucky you can work legally, drive legally, and formally, not just informally, contribute to the American economy.

They too were lured, this time, by an American President that was forced to grant some form of temporary relief from deportation. Chided as the deporter-in-chief, President Obama finally exerted executive authority to assist these children by creating the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrival program. We collectively applauded the DREAMERs and their resolve.

They came. They applied. They were fierce. They belong.

Now, five years after DACA launched, the dream is a nightmare. Trump campaigned to secure the white, nativist vote by calling Mexicans, criminals, rapists, and bad hombres. He promised a wall and absurdly sold it to his dupes by claiming Mexico would subsidize it. He intentionally engaged in the racist stereotype of questioning the qualifications of a sitting federal judge only because the judge was Mexican-American. He undid any semblance of compassion in previous deportation priorities by essentially declaring that any undocumented person is deportable—and then greased the wheels of the private prison industry to detain them. He feigned ignorance of Ku Klux Klan leaders on the campaign trail and feigned outrage when the white supremacist forces he unleashed, and even employed, rallied for hate in Charlottesville.

And then came the tyrannical pardon of the America’s racist sheriff, Joe Arpaio, convicted of deliberately engaging in racist racial profiling against Latinos in Arizona.

Come and reapply, said 45. I have a soft spot for these kids, he said.


There are tens of thousands of immigrants from other countries that are living the nightmare of the Trump administration. Black immigrants are treated inhumanely in our American immigration system as well, documentation reveals. Yes, immigrants’ rights are multi-national, multi-racial. The lives of DACA recipients from all over the world are forever changed, and their potential for positive change here, in this country, might be lost.

But this is an American betrayal of our closest, most loyal neighbor. An American betrayal of Mexico and her sons and daughters. Trump lies. Trump deceives. Trump believes in white racial superiority. What else can explain this pivot? What else can explain this betrayal?

This article was published in the Huffington Post and you can read it here

Juan Cartagena, President and General Counsel of Latino Justice PRLDEF. To read the rest of Juan's columns Click Here

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