Nashville NAACP Branch President Keith Caldwell, left and Clarksville NAACP Branch President Jimmie M. Garland, Sr.

By Clint Confehr

The President’s offer — money for the border in exchange for Dreamers’ relief — isn’t what NAACP branch presidents in Tennessee noticed about his speech Saturday. They’re dismayed he didn’t address furloughed federal workers.

“It’s shameful that he would hold Americans hostage, have hundreds of thousands of people not get paid for their labor, and use Dreamers as a bargaining chip for a wall that he really doesn’t want as much as he wants the fight,” said Rev. Keith Caldwell, president of Nashville’s NAACP Branch.

“It’s a diversion, a distraction from the chaos of his administration,” Caldwell said.

Gloria Sweet-Love, president of the Tennessee Conference of the NAACP, endorsed Caldwell’s observations.

Dreamers, Caldwell said, “had no decision in coming here. Their aspirations are to go to college and make a life. It’s like a shadow looming over their lives.”

Trump offered to give Dreamers a three-year extension of their Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status. He also offered to extend Temporary Protective Status for three years. He’d revoked those opportunities created by President Obama.

A point in Trump’s speech that attracted media criticism is a plan “to allow Central American minors to apply for asylum in their home countries.” Critics asked: Would applications identify targets for oppressive Central American governments?

Murfreesboro Branch President Katie Wilson says furloughed federal workers “should be able to receive their pay for the work they do.”

Harrell Carter, the NAACP branch president in Jackson, agreed.

“It is sad he missed the opportunity to address the furloughed federal workers. Like many, they are living pay check to paycheck… Furloughed federal workers must deal with more days and maybe weeks without a paycheck.”

President Obama created a path to citizenship for Dreamers, Carter said. “Trump took that away. Now he’s willing to put a three year moratorium on something that had been already in law.

“The president caused this crisis,” Carter said of the partial government shutdown. “He’s a wrecking ball.

“This is who we have. What’s holding us back are racist policies throughout our government…” Carter said.

“It reflects what’s going on with our state government … with the state Health Department trying to impose a vetting process” of drug testing people applying for subsidized housing, he said. “They found a rate of drug use that’s lower than the rest of the population.”

NAACP Clarksville Branch President Jimmie M. Garland Sr., Middle Tennessee vice president for the state conference, didn’t watch Trump’s speech, “because everything he says is divisive and I don’t believe in divisive rhetoric.”

Noting the Martin Luther King weekend, Garland said, “I like to think positive. A lot of things have changed for the better, however … a lot of things have stayed the same. If America is ever going to come to true greatness, it will have to be because we are a united nation … we’re not there yet.”

Sweet-Love said, “It’s fear ignorance and greed, and with that we have a mess.”

Clint Confehr

Clint Confehr — an American journalist since 1972 — first wrote for The Tennessee Tribune in 1999. His news writing and photography in South Central Tennessee and the Nashville Metropolitan Statistical...