Wednesday, September 6, 2017


By Dominique Paul Noth

President Obama in Milwaukee five years ago -- what he and
we dreamed about immigration and the Dreamers.
-- Photo by Dominique Paul Noth
A long memory can sometimes be a curse.  Trump’s Tuesday combination play on DACA – rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, then  delaying the full weight for six months to give a messed-up Congress a chance to get its act together,  though it hasn’t all year, and then saying he will revisit if Congress doesn’t – was also a reminder of how tragically we have traveled backwards.  

The US has horribly moved from overly optimistic hope into morass and cynicism.

The recent events raised memories of what I wrote as editor of the Milwaukee Labor Press  more than four years ago, for a newspaper now defunct largely because of the gouges taken out of union strength and solidarity by Gov. Scott Walker. I looked it up and was dumbstruck at how prescient, if overly hopeful, I and perhaps the nation were about the progress of immigration. 

It was then I headlined that optimism, though with a warning:  Do Immigration Steps Rescue or Merely Reveal GOP?  Even while critical of Obama, the story stands as an important signpost of what America dreamed in early 2013 and what depth it is descending into today:

February, 2013 -- If you listened to President Obama’s impassioned call for “common sense comprehensive immigration reform” January 29, you can’t be blamed for hearing an echo.  He made much the same speech when he was running for re-election and, in fact, though now fleshed out, in earlier presentations throughout his first four years. 

It isn’t Obama who has budged in 2013.  It’s the opposition, not from moral drive but self-preservation.  All along he has seen the issue more clearly -- willing to bring others along on the details but a  superior politician and analyst of the American psyche, seeking ways to combine what he wants, what the country needs and what the voters will come around to agreeing with. {Editor’s Note: So I dreamed then, remember?}

What makes overdue immigration reform possible now are the self-centered politics of once obstructionist Republicans and reluctant Democrats.  He now has a bipartisan group of eight senators and a House committee working on similar immigration regulation.   Some are true believers. Some are doing the politically expedient.  Consider those GOP senators like Rubio and Graham who have spun back and forth on this issue, failing to inhale the proper political winds.  John McCain is now back in the fold, contradicting his own dervish reversal when he ran for president or fought off a right-wing primary challenge in Arizona.

No one should fool themselves that this is a done deal.  It’s just that the atmospherics are better.  The Republicans cannot permanently be a major political party until they address the growing Latino community.  Democratic political insiders wonder if their own party is being foolish to risk a devastating advantage for the opposition  by moving to solve this crucial lingering problem and helping the GOP look good.  But in doing so willingly, the Democrats are again spelling out the differences between the two sides.

At least Obama has been there from the start.  But, to the dismay of the most progressive Latino activists, he has to put emphasis on something necessary but fast becoming the least central issue in comprehensive reform – security of the US-Mexican border. The deal on the table sends more boots on the ground and even drones to a region where illegal human traffic has shrunk to near nothing under Obama’s watch, a combination of tighter security, higher hostility to Latinos and fewer jobs in America.

No vast numbers of undocumented further clog the path to citizenship of the millions already working and raising families here.   But it’s wrong to use such apprehension to demonize a central fabric of the US community or claim the border must be locked tighter than a drum before any scrupulous path to citizenship can be allowed.

It’s worrisome how Obama must stress Mexican border security to give Republicans a reason to act sane. [Editor’s Note: They sure didn’t and still have the same hangup.]  Yet there are many other porous borders while this one, where we’re spending vast money, is largely dormant except for drugs. There are bigger people problems, such as greedy middlemen from Europe to Asia – many moving traffic through Canada and the Caribbean in both directions if you talk to the human slavery coalitions. 

Yet we still focus on penalizing families who have worked hard for decades in this country because they jumped the fence to save years in waiting or – no different than the homeowner duped by some shady roof contractor – believed the promises of a better life from businesses bussing them to rural jobs.

As politically savvy as it may be, given the insistence on border security before intelligence, this aspect of the outline has already raised the first doubts from the left in the immigration debate. Right-wingers insist that Southwest officials (many who would never agree to any path to citizenship) must first verify border security . . .

Cynically, the system will remain out of balance if Congress bends to Republican fears just to get the votes. But the true common sense will indeed be what the Tea Party fears would happen – speeding the process, because that is the right thing.  Let’s not pretend that sending 12 million people to the back of a cumbersome crooked line is better than putting humanity and fairness at the front. It’s not even fiscally intelligent because the citizenship route combines fines, back taxes and further contributions to the taxpayer coffers, and the quicker the better for the economy.

Frankly, undocumented workers are not the key concern of citizens, though their treatment is intrinsically tied to our view of a political party. It is the fading right-wing whites who are most agitated. . . . 

Well, they still are. And now they have a president who plays into those fears – and a Congress being asked to show some sanity in the middle of those fears.  No question, our country has retrogressed in four years.

Where will we be, if we are allowed to be, in another few years?

About the author:  Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He also created its Friday Weekend section and ran Sunday TV Screen magazine and Lively Arts as he became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and Internet and consumer news. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  His award-winning theater reviews appear at

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