Opinion: Ending DACA started new relationship between president and millennials

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Heather Newberry and HEATHER_NEWBERRY | The Daily Wildcat

Goli Bagheri, left, and David Archuleta, right, shout "the people, united, will never be divided" at the Tucsonans Against Racism Protest and Rally in downtown Tucson on Aug. 22. DACA is an issue that has impacted young people in a big way. 

On Sept. 5, millennials across the nation gasped collectively. President Donald Trump put into motion the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. This decision began a new era in the relationship between the president and young adults in America — a relationship that will have lasting effects on the U.S. political atmosphere.

Even before then, President Trump’s executive orders have generally been controversial. Almost immediately, he declared a border wall and a refugee ban. However, we haven’t really seen the effects of many of these orders. The wall has no funding, and the travel ban was successfully challenged twice.

These decisions did cause some righteous outrage. However, the seeming failure of so many of President Trump’s actions just added to the popular mindset that the current administration was just a gag. Millions of millennials watched late-night shows (often on their laptops the day after) to get their daily dose of impressions of the president and his crew sewn into poignant criticism that seemed more funny than disturbing. When it comes to millennial viewership, 58 percent of Stephen Colbert’s 3.26 million viewers were young adults, as well as 40 percent of Seth Meyer’s 1.52 million viewers.

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Of course, some executive actions did have immediate effects. Trump signed to leave the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He took various actions on environmental laws. He called to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. And, as always, he showed his support for one group but turned his back on them when talking to another. 

Outraged millennials protested his inconsistency and decisions, but so many of us still just thought of him as Donald Trump, a big joke. We tuned in every few hours to see if there was any more juice about the president (and there usually was). Trump was a reliable source of entertainment. The entertainment felt innocent; many of us were innocent. Then, the big joke ended.

Heather Newberry, HEATHER_NEWBERRY | The Daily Wildcat

Ana Hernandez, second from the left, begins a chant for the rest of the protesters participating in the pro-DACA protest on Sept. 5 in front of Old Main.

Ending DACA was the first of Trump’s decisions that personally touched a wide expanse of millennials.

On the day I read the news story, my mind didn’t buzz with the excitement of controversy as it usually did. It shifted directly to four DREAMers I know, three whom attend universities and one senior in high school. I felt like President Trump had personally come and pushed each one over while I stood at a distance watching it happen. I cried for them. Yet I still marvel at their incredible hope for the future.

There are almost 28,000 DREAMers in Arizona — a bit more than 1 percent of the population under the age of 34. According to an Arizona Board of Regents survey in December 2016, there are about 45 DREAMers who attend the UA. Many of us know at least one DREAMer. Some of us have DREAMers in our families. For some of us, they're our best friends. And some of us are DREAMers.

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Trump’s broken promise on this regard was not a source of entertainment but almost of betrayal. This decision taught many of us he has the ability to destabilize our lives and insert his influence into the futures of people we know. The light atmosphere by which I took his presidency was over.

It seems like other millennials feel this way, too. Despite Trump jokes making up a large part of the Emmy’s, ratings were tied for the lowest ever. Jimmy Fallon, generally an apolitical late-night host had a bump in ratings since the DACA decision, while politically charged hosts have experienced falling ratings. Millennials seemed to have responded to their new sense of political reality by denying the joke-culture around the president.

Heather Newberry, HEATHER_NEWBERRY | The Daily Wildcat

Protesters march on the UA Mall during the pro-DACA protest on Sept. 5. 

I don’t think this is going to turn millennials into an apolitical demographic, but rather one grounded in passion and purpose. We already saw demonstrations throughout the state and nation in response to the end of DACA. The difference between these and other demonstrations is that we have a connection to this issue. The demonstrations were not fueled by anger or astonishment as some previous ones, but a call for progress, a stand in solidarity and a showing of what we believe. This is evident in young people’s continued action. Students are working with Congressmen to create a new DREAM Act. One of these students is a DREAMer I knew from high school.

Ending DACA sent out a bolt of lightning that severed millennials' passive entertainer-viewer relationship with the president and created a new reality of political action motivated by long-term values. With this new mindset, I have faith that we will see the issue through and that our generation will not stop pushing until Congress comes out with a permanent solution for DREAMers.


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