In the last weeks, Trump has increased his theatrics to new heights to force taxpayers to build him a monument to racism along the southern border, and give his deportation force billions of dollars to build more detention camps and hunt down immigrant communities.
As his targets, we are alarmed.
Nearly a million young people were protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, but Trump killed it and put our futures at risk. He has also come to the southern border, used our towns as backdrops for outright lies and has sent soldiers to patrol our streets while keeping 15,000 children in cages.
Now, some pundits and policymakers are suggesting that the American people should pay Trump and his deportation force upwards of $25 billion dollars in ransom in exchange for protections for immigrant youth or other groups who Trump himself has victimized.
While Washington veterans may view this as a political puzzle to be solved, we know it to be a hostage situation and we are the hostages.
Until Trump killed the DACA program, immigrant youth were working, going to school, living our lives and contributing to our families and communities. The same is true for the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who have benefited from the Temporary Protected Status Program that Trump has been killing one community at a time. Over a million people who were living in safety and are now living in danger because of Trump.
If that wasn’t enough, the world has been shocked to the core at Trump’s inhumane decisions to tear families apart at the border, steal their children, and keep them in cages where they languish while their parents are deported thousands of miles away.
In addition, Trump is manufacturing a crisis in some of the safest, most vibrant communities of our nation to fulfill a campaign promise based on hate and fear. Southern border communities know firsthand that there is no national security emergency at the border; the only crisis we see in our communities is one stemming from excessive, unchecked militarization - and a humanitarian tragedy of Trump’s own making.
Walls and hyper-militarization don’t make us safer, but do hurt the 15 million people who call the southern border region home, do endanger wildlife and the environment, and are a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars.
The idea of paying a ransom to Trump to solve problems that he himself created is based on the false idea that the hostage taker would let their victims go, unharmed. In this case, it is based on a belief that deep inside of Donald TrumpDonald TrumpUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Trump sues NYT, Mary Trump over story on tax history McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling MORE there is a shred of compassion waiting to come alive.
As leaders with organizations representing both immigrant youth and southern border communities, we disagree.
For the White House, the pain felt by our communities is intentional; it was created as leverage for Trump to demand billions for his harmful wall and everything that lies in the shadow of that wall, including a deportation force that is coming after us.
After Trump killed the DACA program, he baited the hopes of millions by offering to sign any bill to protect us. But as negotiations began, he reneged, and said that he would only protect immigrant youth if his deportation force was paid in cash and our parents and communities were put on the chopping block. At every turn, the White House demanded more, and now, with a new Democratic majority, Trump is demanding more than ever before.
From the time of the presidential campaign, to the leaked photos of Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin BannonHouse panel probing Jan. 6 attack seeks Trump records Has Trump beaten the system? Trump discussed pardoning Ghislaine Maxwell: book MORE’s infamous whiteboard, and through our own experience of watching neighbors disappear, kids being tear gassed and kept in cages, we know that the White House is intent on mass deportation and the hyper-militarization of our southern border communities.
The fact is that the nation is opposed to the Trump anti-immigrant vision and opposed to spending billions of dollars to build his Monument to Racism. Instead, the majority of Americans want Congress to pass legislation creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
The White House knows this and it is why they are appearing increasingly desperate in their theatrics.
Immigrant youth, border communities and the soul of our democracy are in grave danger now. Experience shows that immigrant communities will be put in even more danger as the White House demands an ever increasing set of measures to hurt us.
It is time for principled opposition, not for offers of billions to pay off our hostage taker. Congress should say no to Trump’s wall, defund the deportation force and pass a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants now.
Cristina Jimenez is Executive Director and Co-Founder of United We Dream and Andrea Guerrero is Executive Director of Alliance San Diego and Co-Chair of the Southern Border Communities Coalition.