Free advice for Trump: Don't touch the Dreamers
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President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpForget the spin: Five unrefuted Mueller Report revelations Lara Trump: Merkel admitting migrants 'one of the worst things that ever happened to Germany' Financial satisfaction hits record high: survey MORE plans to immediately deport 2 to 3 million undocumented immigrants.

The logistical nightmare of executing on this promise should not be underestimated. Yet there is one group of immigrants that is particularly vulnerable to Trump: the Dreamers.

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Some 840,000 people have signed up for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), President Obama's program that shields from deportation undocumented kids brought to this country as minors. The Dreamers have enthusiastically embraced DACA to normalize their lives and gain access to driver's licenses and temporary work permits, which have opened doors to opportunity and full integration into American society.

Their personal information is now part of a government database. Should Trump's most virulent anti-immigrant advisers, such as Kris Kobach and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), go after immigrants, Dreamers are the easy target.

But Trump would be making a strategic mistake. As both Democrats and Republicans learned over the last few years, Dreamers are fierce. They embody the best of American political activism: smart strategies tied to effective tactics. The Dream Act, killed by Republicans in 2010, only came up for a vote in the first place because of a sustained, successful campaign by Dreamers and their allies.

And even Obama was successfully persuaded not to accept the Republican-led House obliteration of the Senate's comprehensive immigration bill as the end of the road. DACA was the result of mounting, intense pressure on the Obama administration to find a solution and do the right thing — to not just speak about American values, but act on them.

But DACA was always a temporary measure, a stopgap until Congress could muster the courage to act on comprehensive immigration reform. While former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) could have pushed through a vote for the Senate immigration bill, he chose instead political survival over pro-growth legislation that was perfectly aligned with the GOP's historical core values.

And this is a pattern. President George W. Bush tried to fulfill his immigration reform campaign promise, only to be stymied by Republican senators in 2007.

Whereas in 1980 both GOP candidates for the presidency, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, agreed on the need to legalize upstanding undocumented immigrants, their party has now become the official home of the anti-immigrant right.

Gone is the "shining city on the hill" with doors open to welcome immigrants, as has been the custom in this country since colonial times.

Instead we're left with Trump's "beautiful" wall.

With Trump's election, we now have the full rejection of Reagan's vision. The new Republican Party of Steve Bannon, Trump's new White House chief of strategy, has embraced the logic of ethnic cleansing: round them up, jail them or kick them out.

The Dreamers occupy a special place among American Latinos. They've become Latino icons: A vast group of smart, prepared and determined advocates with steely determination and a righteous cause. Even Latinos who have no personal or familial connection to undocumented immigrants admire their work and applaud their success in achieving DACA.

It's entirely possible that Trump, after his campaign that promised mass deportations and a giant wall, has given up on American Latinos. Based on polling that accurately sampled Latinos, Trump suffered the lowest level of Hispanic electoral support of any Republican in recorded history.

Per polling firm Latino Decisions:

Nationally, Clinton received a record-high 79 percent to 18 percent for Trump, with 3 percent voting for one of the third-party candidates. This 61 percent gap is the largest we have recorded at Latino Decisions, outpacing the 2012 Obama advantage over Romney, at 75 to 23 percent.

But things could get worse for Republicans. The demographic composition of the electorate is constantly evolving in ways that will further impact the GOP's ability to win a national majority. One inescapable reality is that there will be more Latino voters in 2018 and again in 2020.

Young Latinos now engaging in the political process have never faced a president in the White House with Trump's focused mission to deport as many people as possible. Activists who felt that they should have pressured Obama even more than they were already pressuring him on this issue will now face an implacable enemy in the Oval Office: a man elected to undertake mass expulsions.

How will this new dynamic impact the Latino vote? We can only speculate about the future, but it's probably safe to assume that more Latinos will connect with the democratic process, unified by the clear and present danger of Trump's stated immigration policies.

What no Democrat could do, Trump may achieve in grand style: the mass activation of Latino voters as a bloc, unified and finally voting. Let's not forget that some political observers are celebrating the big turnout of Latinos in 2016 — even though, once again, turnout was only around 50 percent of eligible voters.

In other words, with the right motivation, the Latino vote will grow, big-league.

Attacking Dreamers could be just the spark that ignites a massive Hispanic backlash not just against Trump, but against all Republicans who passively or actively attack them and other immigrant groups.

Espuelas is a Washington-based political journalist working in digital, broadcast and print media. He hosts the popular podcast "Espuelas." Follow him on Twitter @EspuelasVox.


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