Jimmy Kimmel

Jimmy Kimmel Live/YouTube

Jimmy Kimmel under fire for his ‘MAGA vs. DACA’ segment

Critics say Kimmel exploited DACA recipients on his show.


Tess Cagle


Posted on Feb 2, 2018   Updated on May 22, 2021, 2:15 am CDT

Jimmy Kimmel probably had noble intentions when he brought DACA opponents face-to-face with a real-life family of Dreamers in a segment on his show on Tuesday.

At least, I want to believe that Kimmel hoped that by showing these conservatives an actual person who would benefit from passing the DREAM Act—a person whose life would be ruined if she was deported because of Trump’s DACA repealment and no path to citizenship—he would change their minds.

But that wasn’t what happened Tuesday night, unfortunately. Instead, a woman and her daughter were mercilessly attacked by six strangers on national TV.

“There’s almost 700,000 people called dreamers in the United States,” Kimmel said at the beginning of the segment. “These are young adults who are brought to this country as children; many of them could face deportation if DACA isn’t renewed. The deadline for DACA is March 5.”

Kimmel said he believes the vast majority of Americans support DACA and that it has only recently become a polarizing issue because of the wall President Trump plans to build.

“So we found some Americans who are very adamant, they do not support DACA, and I introduced them to a real family whose future relies on it, to see if we could bring people together by bringing them face to face,” he said.

The segment was titled “MAGA vs. DACA,” and first, Kimmel briefly interviewed a handful of conservatives of various ethnicities and genders who were all against DACA. Then he introduced them to Esmeralda, a Dreamer who arrived in the U.S. from Mexico City when she was a 2-year-old and who now has a daughter of her own.

The opponents weren’t more kind once they met Esmeralda. The segment turned into a yelling match, with Kimmel trying to make points about why Esmeralda was worthy to be in the United States—she has a job, her daughter is a U.S. citizen, her fiance is about to be deployed, etc.—as if the general inhumanity of shipping off a woman to a country she’s never known isn’t reason enough.

By the end of the debate, only one of the opponents said she would make an exception for this family. The rest did not change their mind; the experiment failed.

While many viewers on Twitter applauded Kimmel for trying, others expressed their discomfort watching the segment and said it felt more like Kimmel was exploiting the family for views than he was making any sort of positive change in their life.


With DACA set to end in March, advocates have become more desperate to change the minds of its opponents. It’s important, however, to advocate in a way that doesn’t exploit our country’s most vulnerable population just for the sake of “going viral.”

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*First Published: Feb 2, 2018, 1:31 pm CST