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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.
Can we just talk about how utterly sickening this is to watch? Because I am livid at how people like Kimmel seem to be so at ease to be able to pimp out the pain and suffering of DACA recipients against their opponents. The power imbalance is staggering. https://t.co/fFGL2RvbRY— San (@sansdn) February 2, 2018
This is the problem with liberals -- they think that if they simply got the sympathy of conservatives who chant for the deportation of parents, things would change. It's as if they willfully ignore that the U.S's legacy is to abuse and cleanse W/PoC from the land.— San (@sansdn) February 2, 2018
That woman was in near tears in trying to explain how she is not "illegal", which basically means she was trying her hardest to prove her humanity to those she owes absolutely nothing to. It was those dirty fuckers who kept shifting goalposts.— San (@sansdn) February 2, 2018
Liberals should just fuck off.
This was good to see done, but it bothers me that no facts came out. Every time someone tells me I should leave and come back, it's not 10 years to get a green card, it's 10 years to start applying for a visa, another 8 on average to get it, and then 5-10 to get the green card.— Rohit Sodhia (@RohitSodhia) January 31, 2018
Jimmy, it was hard to watch that poor young family being ganged up on by that group of people. I get you were trying to make a point, but was it at their expense? That could not have felt good for them. The whole thing breaks my heart, but it should have been one on one.— Angel Collins (@jonsmom24) January 31, 2018
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.”
Tess Cagle is a reporter who focuses on politics, lifestyle, and streaming entertainment. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Texas Monthly, the Austin American-Statesman, Damn Joan, and Community Impact Newspaper. She’s also a portrait, events, and live music photographer in Central Texas.