The Future of Undocumented Students after the Trump Administration: Crisis in Neoliberalism and Possible Outcomes for Undocumented Students.

AuthorElias, Edwin

There is growing media attention around undocumented youth and the challenges they face in obtaining equal access to higher education. In 2016, hopes of immigration reform in the event of a Hillary Clinton presidency were dashed with the surprise victory of Donald Trump. Large swathes of the population did not take Trump seriously and underestimated the power of his pseudopopulist rhetoric, which rested on the pillars of xenophobia, Islamophobia, and heteropatriarchy. On the campaign trail, Trump blamed undocumented immigrants for the dire economic conditions of those impacted by neoliberal policies. President Trump's promise to deport millions of undocumented immigrants faced national opposition, especially insofar as his efforts impacted recipients of Deferred Action for Early Childhood Arrivals (DACA), also known as DREAMers. (1) Terminating DACA or deporting undocumented students was a difficult promise to follow through on in part because DREAMers have come to play an unwitting role in representing the intersection of American values, neoliberalism, and racial order.

The election of Trump signaled a crisis for neoliberalism as the dominant ideological and economic modus operandi. (2) Working-class and middle-class Americans whose economic security was destroyed by neoliberal policies were encouraged by Trump and other Republicans to direct their anger at immigrants rather than root economic causes. Cornel West (2017), among others, argued that Trump's election signaled the end of neoliberalism and that Trump's election "was enabled by the neoliberal policies of the Clintons and Obama that overlooked the plight of our most vulnerable citizens." West correctly places blame on the failure of both Democrats and Republicans--who together adhere to neoliberal principles--to address the economic stability of the middle and working classes.

The aim of this paper is to assess the future of undocumented youth in higher education during a time of ideological crisis in a divided country. The manner in which DREAMers were dealt with by the former administration will provide some insight into whether neoliberalism will remain as the dominant socioeconomic ideological apparatus. Their success despite facing insurmountable obstacles is exemplary of the problems of anachronistic immigration policies (Massey 6c Pren 2012). However, political and media advocates have utilized their struggle to highlight the deservingness of those who have come to be called neoliberal citizens. Their entrance, although small, in the labor market as highly skilled professionals can fill a growing need for highly educated workers in the United States, making them more acceptable according to neoliberal rhetoric. Despite their perilous status in the Trump era, undocumented youth were not without agency. I argue that it is unlikely they will continue to accept the legitimizing role they currently play in the neoliberal economy, because it is a role that excludes their families and communities.

Crisis in Neoliberalism? Structural and Ideological Challenges

Since the economic recession of 2008, neoliberalism is often viewed as the primary culprit of growing economic apartheid and instability on a global scale. In the United States, windfall profits from finance capital have not improved the economic conditions of most Americans, leading to increased skepticism among the general public of the efficacy of neoliberal policies. The disillusionment of neoliberalism is most striking among American youth ages 18 to 29 who reject both capitalism (51 percent) and socialism (59 percent) as capable of improving their life chances (Della Volpe & Jacobs 2016). This economic disillusionment and frustration played a key role in the 2016 presidential election. Hillary Clinton symbolized the continuation of the Obama administration's social and economic neoliberal agenda. Donald Trump pursued a pseudopopulist agenda filled with xenophobia and hate, but he recognized the frustration of many working-class individuals that were victims of neoliberalism, in this case their displeasure with the enactment of NAFTA. Trump's unexpected victory came amid the rise of nationalist agendas throughout Western Europe and the United States. Pursuing a nationalist interest comes into conflict with the goals of neoliberalism, which aims to decrease the influence of the state on global capital.

In his first days in office, Trump continued the neoliberal agenda of deregulation, tax cuts, and anti-unionism and catered to finance capital. Global capital accepted Trump with massive gains in the stock market (Fletcher 2017). Trump's vast business holdings across the globe situated his interest in maintaining the major tenets of neoliberal globalization. His populist and anti-globalization rhetoric was not reflected in his cabinet appointments or his larger economic agenda. Robinson (2014, Robinson & Barrera 2012) agrees with West that Trump's presidency signaled a crisis of neoliberalism, and a shift from a Gramscian passive revolution to what he terms twenty-first-century fascism. According to Gramsci (1971), a passive revolution is what appears to be a great political transformation that resonates with the masses, but does not lead to major changes in society. Within a passive revolution, counterhegemonic forces are silenced or pacified through cooptation and small reforms. The end result is that "the dominant group co-opts sectors of the social movements by making moderate reforms without fundamentally transforming the structures of society. Thus the dominant class brings those movements into a game of perpetual compromise" (Gonzales 2014, 123). Under Obama, the neoliberal passive revolution involved using the language of multiculturalism while imposing the interests and agendas of dominant groups. With regard to immigration, DACA was a small reform that masked Obama's expansion of the immigration security apparatus. The inability to continue this passive revolution created an opening for the entrance of right-wing twenty-first-century fascism to gain mainstream appeal, and led to the eventual election of Trump.

Although twenty-first-century neofascism shares similar characteristics with fascism in the twentieth century, this version is distinct in several ways (Robinson & Barrera 2012). First, neofascism in the United States should be viewed as a dictatorship that serves the interests of global capital, not of national capital interests (Robinson 2014, Robinson & Barrera 2012). Capital under neoliberalism has been waging a war against the working class and mobilizations seeking structural change. The war against immigrants is a clear example of the application of increased nationalism and xenophobia to justify the escalation of law enforcement under the pretext of protecting the population. The continued criminalization of undocumented immigrants alongside the militarization of the border increases the already omnipresent threat of deportation for undocumented immigrants. Increasing the strength of the immigration police state maintains their labor as hyper-exploitable and easily disposable through its detention and deportation regime.

Trump's extreme racism and nationalistic rhetoric was veiled under the auspices of a much more intense version of neoliberalism. What differentiates the previous administration from the passive neoliberal revolution is the use of the state to intensify symbolic, legal, and physical violence against the have-nots (the poor, immigrants, Muslims, communities of color) of neoliberalism. This appeases a large sector of US society that fears an imminent demographic shift and perceives an erosion of Anglo culture. It must be noted, however, that Trump's base had a higher median income ($70,000) than the rest of the United States, which means that contrary to popular opinion, they are not primarily working-class whites (Silver 2016). Their disillusionment with globalization and migration should therefore be primarily viewed through the interconnection of race and class.

Within this structural crisis, we must take into account the massive immigration police state apparatus and the role it plays in relation to race within the current historic economic juncture. The growth of this immigration police state apparatus can be attributed to the conflation of immigration and terrorism after September 11,2001, which Nicholas De Genova (2007, 2010) has termed the homeland security state. (3) The increased role of the homeland security state is most striking in its dependence on criminalizing both undocumented migrants and legal migrants. Today, the national security state has been updated with a new enemy composed of "[a] ragtag collection of transnational phenomena, including drug smuggling, undocumented migration, arms dealing, sex trafficking, and other sorts of 'organized crime,' including international terrorism" (De Genova 2007,422). The homeland security state seeks to control immigrant labor through traditional forms of governance, the executive branch, and the bureaucracy that work together with the various institutions of law enforcement (DHS, military, police). Gonzales contextualizes the homeland security state and its specific role in the global economy: it "is a particular reconfiguration, which is a response to class and racial polarization brought about by the organic crisis of global capitalism and race relations over the last thirty years" (Gonzales 2014,167). Within immigration reform, both De Genova (2007) and Gonzales (2014) argue that the discourse of any immigration reform is geared to perpetuate the good/bad immigrant binary that supports the growing presence of the homeland security state.

Trump's coded and openly racist language unleashed ultraracist movements in the United States. (4) Analyzing how race was utilized during Trump's presidency provides us with insight into the future or reordering of neoliberalism. Crises in...

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