(Editor's Note: This is the first story in a two-part exploration of the DACA debate on a local level.)
Florence residents Ian Eales and Javier, as he prefers to be called, seem worlds apart on the surface.
Eales lives on the east end of Florence in a large, perfectly manicured home. Spoils of a successful life.
Javier and his wife Shirley live in a small apartment, sparsely furnished. They’re just starting out, on the way to a successful life, they hope.
Eales, a self-described conservative, hated Hillary Clinton.
“I don’t trust a single word that comes out of her mouth,” he said.
Of President Donald Trump, Javier stated, “I don’t think Trump knows what he’s doing. I think he’s going to be making a big war for everybody here.”
If the two were invited on a cable news channel, they would be separated on either side of the screen, encouraged to hash it out in front of millions of viewers.
In actuality, the similarities between the two men vastly outweigh their differences.
Regarding abortion, Eales stated, “I’m disgusted with the number of abortions performed in America,” while Javier said, “I don’t think it’s right to kill a baby.”
From welfare to the definition of gay marriage, the two share a cornucopia of beliefs that would be neatly categorized on a conservative checklist.
And, as it so happens, they were both illegal immigrants.
After Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) on Sept. 5, those similarities were put on hold as the debate over immigration raged nationwide, focusing on differences.
But the similarities, Javier and Eales hope, is what will ultimately lead to a permanent solution on immigration. To get to that solution, they believe, an erasure of the standard political monikers and tidy talking points need to be set aside.
DACA, an executive order created in June 2012 by former President Barack Obama, gave children illegally brought to the U.S. before their 16th birthday, and who have maintained a clean criminal record, the ability to gain a work permit, subject to renewal every two years.
The order, at least as written, does not give these children, known as Dreamers, any official amnesty; DACA is a temporary protection against deportation.
Javier is a DACA recipient. He was nine years old when he came to Oregon from Mexico. His uncle brought him, not by jumping a border fence or making a long trip in the sweltering desert, but by car.
Javier recalls, “It’s like I was driving from state to state.”
Javier doesn’t remember much about his time in Mexico.
Shirley said, “He’s told me stories where somebody got killed in the street before. I’m sorry … It’s traumatic.”
It was traumatic, but of his time in Mexico, Javier said, “I remember working out in the fields with my family.”
When he was in high school, Javier fell in love and had a child. This wasn’t an “anchor baby,” as some would accuse, but a momentary act of passion that is not foreign to any culture or race.
Abortion was never an option for Javier, so he had to start working in the logging industry, a job he still holds to this day.
At the time, he illegally obtained a social security number so he could remain employed.
“I didn’t want to do that,” Javier said. “I got a different name to work, to survive, for my family and myself.”
DACA was a relief for Javier, who was always afraid of being deported. He signed up immediately.
Eales is also an immigrant.
In 1981, he came to America from Canada on a work permit, but he overstayed. He applied for a new permit, “jumping through the hoops,” as he called it, but the process was long, and for years he was in a legal gray area.
“I stayed past the visa because this is America,” Eales said. “A good percentage of the world sees America as the hill on the city.”
He had a social security number from the visa and continued to keep paying his taxes, bouncing from job to job as a self-employed, independent contractor.
He was saved when, in 1986, Congress, under President Reagan, passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which gave amnesty to individuals who had been living in the U.S. before 1982.
Eales, who has since moved on to various successful careers in technology and sound, feels safe to openly speak of his past.
Javier, on the other hand, doesn’t feel he has that luxury.
When asked why he wants to be anonymous, Javier stated, “A lot of people out there could hurt me. That’s the life we’re living in right now. If you say my name, they might come here to my house and destroy my property. I’m scared.”
But the polls, and the people interviewed for this article, do not necessarily bear these feelings out.
When Eales was first asked to be interviewed for this article, he stated no one he knew, regardless of political affiliation, was against Dreamers.
A recent POLITICO/ Morning Consult poll surveyed 1,993 registered voters and found that 56 percent of Americans believe that Dreamers should receive a path to citizenship and 30 percent believed that Dreamers should be allowed to stay and work in the U.S.
Only 14 percent of Americans believed that Dreamers should be deported.
The Siuslaw News asked individuals who would be traditionally thought of as “conservative” about the subject, and support for Dreamers was unanimous.
Florence resident Jimmie Zinn said, “I cannot see how someone who, prior to the age of consent, was brought to this country illegally by their parents, can be considered a law breaker.”
“If a child is in the getaway car while dad robs a bank, it does not make him a bank robber,” Zinn continued. “Destroying someone’s life who grew up here, has lived honestly and productively for years, accomplishes nothing.”
Eales said, “It’s un-American to have somebody (deported) who’s been here and been productive and not any trouble. I think it’s stupid to stop, especially after we said we’d let them stay. It’s just wrong.”
DACA, and how it was implemented, is where the controversy really lies for them.
“I do not believe a president, any president, should have the authority to arbitrarily write new or obfuscate existing laws,” Zinn said. “Not Mr. Obama and not Mr. Trump. In creating DACA, this is just what Mr. Obama did. The constitution seems pretty clear that changes to existing law should be the purview of the Congress.”
The history of DACA shows the problems that Zinn spoke of.
In 2001, the DREAM Act was introduced by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT). The bipartisan bill called for conditional residency for alien minors, with a path to permanent residency if certain qualifications were met.
At times, both parties rejected the bill, with Democrats filibustering the standalone law unless it was attached to broader immigration reform.
Many Republicans feared the bill would encourage illegal immigrants into the country, who would then force their children into the system.
Both sides of the aisle worked to change the bill for years, but it never passed. In 2012, Obama, frustrated with Congress’s inability to come to a consensus, made the DACA executive order.
In 2014, Obama looked to expand DACA’s enrollment, along with increasing border security. He indicated this was due to Congress’ inability to pass a comprehensive immigration plan.
Shortly after the planned expansion, 26 states sued, stating it would put undue burden on them. An injunction was placed upon the expansion, with appeals leading to the Supreme Court. The court was divided on the issue with a 4-4 vote, leaving the injunction in place.
In June 2017, 10 state attorney generals threatened to sue if Trump did not rescind DACA. The decision had to be made by Sept. 6, which led to Trump rescinding Obama’s executive order on Sept. 5.
Trump did not rescind the order immediately, giving it a six-month phase out in an apparent hope that Congress would come up with a more permanent solution.
Trump has also indicated that he would “revisit” DACA if Congress failed to reach a consensus.
One day after Trump’s decision, at least 15 states filed lawsuit against Trump’s action.
Placing the legal arguments of a president’s authority to make executive orders aside, the history of DACA demonstrates that the orders can easily become a political football.
In the case of Dreamers, their legal status will be in constant flux until congressional action is taken. But getting Congress to act can often seem like an impossibility.
“Unfortunately, it is obvious that Congress is no longer capable of doing anything constructive so it opens the door to just such abuses of power,” Zinn said. “If you believe a president should have such powers, then now you are going to have to live with what use the new guy makes of it.”
Eales was more direct:
“Congress is basically worthless, they’re so divided. Where is the Reagan/Tip O’Neill? You might disagree fundamentally on, for want of a better term, left or right, but the goal was to move us forward and compromise. That I just don’t see happening anymore. We’re just at loggerheads and I’m thoroughly disgusted with Congress.”
While Republican President Reagan and Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill were able to find bipartisan kinship during the 80’s, the current congressional climate is less than amiable.
Some of the problems with the current Congress is the nature of politics in America. For instance, conservatives are often accused of racism for not supporting the continuation of DACA.
Racism is alive and well in America, as seen recently with the Charlottesville marches and the recent hate-filled sign posted on Highway 101 in Florence, but outward racism and implicit bias are no strangers to any political persuasion.
Javier has seen racism first hand, particularly with some of his coworkers.
“They don’t say it to your face, but as soon as you turn your back, I can hear them sometimes,” he said. “They think they’re better than me. They say we take their jobs. One guy said that to me, “Why don’t you go back?”
But for every backhanded comment, there are moments of support as well.
“I am friends with people who voted for Trump,” Javier said, before explaining an interaction he had with one of his coworkers. “I asked him why, and he told me he’s mad at Hispanics because they think they don’t pay a lot of taxes like he does. And I told him, I pay taxes too. Yeah, there’s ones who don’t pay taxes, but there’s a lot of people here, Hispanic like me, who do.
“I got it through his head we’re not all the same,” he continued. “He thought all Hispanic people were here and not paying taxes, and that’s why he voted for Trump. But he likes Hispanic people. And I believe him. He’s not racist.”
The two are close now, with his friend bringing Javier lunch to him every day. In fact, when his friend was asked by management to leave Javier’s logging crew to work at a different site, he refused to go.
“I don’t want to do that,” Javier recalls his friend saying. “I want to go wherever you guys want to go.”
These interactions, Javier felt, can help heal divisions.
It’s something that Shirley saw as well.
“My dad worked with Javier,” she explained. “And he heard some other guys talking about ‘Mexicans this and Mexicans that.’ And he really put his foot down. Before that they were those closed-minded people. So, I think if people just take the time to get to know each other, you know, it would be different.”
Eales also believed that working and living with different cultures combats racism.
When Eales was asked why there’s so much focus on the Hispanic community when it comes to the DACA discussion, he joked, “Obviously, you want me to say race.”
“I don’t give a good g--damn what the color of your skin is,” he continued. “Ever since I was a kid I’ve had Chinese, Indian and Pakistani friends. I’ve hired people from China, people from Guatemala, people from Mexico, people from Iran, and even people from Chicago. It’s simply about ability.”
Eales believed that the focus on Hispanics, and the often-racist remarks thrown at them, would be null if it was a different population coming to America.
“If you had 1,000 people from south of the border, and if there were 300 million French Canadians coming in, then we would be complaining about the French Canadians. There’s obviously, for some people, the race issue, but I don’t have a single friend who has ever said that ‘Because they’re Mexicans, they shouldn’t be here,’” he said. “The economics distort the system.”
Those economic issues, from Javier’s perspective, are what motivated the racist arguments volleyed against him.
But time, conversation and understanding helped temper those arguments.
At least, temporarily.
The Dreamers are just an entry point into the larger war over immigration that encompasses issues of employment, education, political identity and global politics.
In Eales’ and Javier’s minds, if Americans don’t work to find broader solutions to these issues, the fundamental roots of racism will fester.
But to do that, some difficult questions have to be raised.
In Part II of this story, Javier, Shirley and Eales share their views on these broader issues.
Note: This is part 1 of a 2 part series. Find additional installments in the Special Series Archive, located here.