Deporting Dissent: Tam Tran and the DREAM Act
Tam Tran bravely testified before Rep. Zoe Lofgren's panel (D-CA) and was covered on the front page of USA Today. Three days later, her family was detained by Immigration and Custom's Enforcement (ICE). Duke has already written a better post about Tam Tran then I will ever be able to write, so I'm going to write about this from the unique perspective that I bring.
First, ICE is the most frightening enforcement agency within the U.S.'s borders. ICE is accountable to no one and it has far too much power. Second, Tam Tran is a stateless individual like so many others on the earth, today. She can't go back to her country because she doesn't have a country to go back to. What is her place in the world? Is she worth nothing like so many others that weren't born within the borders of a prosperous country? Third, Congress need to pass the DREAM act. There are problems with it, sure, but I can't look in the faces of the many young migrants that have their hopes tied up in the DREAM act and tell them I don't support it. Migrants need a victory, and we'll fix the problems with the DREAM Act later.
It is with that in mind that I've taken a series of the best nine videos on the DREAM Act and dedicated them to nine senators that hold the fate of the legislation in their hands. Below is the video that I got from the Illinois Coalition on Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), which I've dedicated to Senator Mel Martinez.
Since Bush crony Julie Myers took over ICE, the agency has increasingly become known for its willingness to retaliate against immigrants who publicly discuss their situation in the United States. Arrests have been made after individuals spoke out on everything from immigration reform, to workplace rights, to the right to fair wages, to the right to report crimes without fear of retaliation.The clearest example I can think of is that of Elvira Arellano. She was left untouched for over a year when she took sanctuary in a Chicago church, but as soon as she decided to leave and speak out about the U.S. immigration policy, she was deported.
ICE will always say that the detentions and deportations are not politically motivated. Yet, in effect, there should be no doubt that they serve to silence dissent. Is that the kind of "America" people want to live in, where political dissent is thrown out of the country? ICE manages it's information like a dictatorship. The agency gives information to no one and is very selective about the information they do give. Couple ICE's lack of transparency with the enormous power they have and it's a recipe for abuse. Abuse that's hard to imagine occurring within the U.S.'s borders. The latest reports suggest ICE is now drugging migrants before they are deported.
This brings us back to Tam Tran, who's family was detained after her appearance on the front page of USA today. Rep. Zoe Lofgren accused federal officials of "witness intimidation". Anti-migrant advocates will say that Tam Tran, who was offered a spot in a Ph.D. program, should go back to her country. The problem is Tam Tran doesn't have a country. She is stateless. Her testimony before the judiciary committee says it better than I ever could.
I hate filling out forms, especially the ones that limit me to checking off boxes for categories I don’t even identity with. Place of birth? Germany. But I’m not German. Ethnicity? I’m Vietnamese, but I’ve never been to Vietnam. However, these forms never ask me where I was raised or educated. I was born in Germany, my parents are Vietnamese, but I have been American raised and educated for the past 18 years.We can look at Tam Tran's case as an exception, but it is not. We are no longer living in a world where citizenship can be the sole guarantor of rights. I could be considered stateless like Tam Tran, but I'm lucky enough to have a U.S. passport. As long as I am worth more because of my U.S. passport than my Guatemalan passport, everyone loses. Every problem that progressives care about, from racism to workers' rights, has it's root in this fundamental global inequity.
On application forms when I come across the question that asks for my citizenship, I rebelliously mark “other” and write in “the world.” But the truth is, I am culturally an American, and more specifically, I consider myself a Southern Californian. I grew up watching Speed Racer and Mighty Mouse every Saturday morning. But as of right now, my national identity is not American and even though I can’t be removed from American soil, I cannot become an American unless legislation changes
Graduation for many of my friends isn’t a rite of passage to becoming a responsible adult. Rather, it is the last phase in which they can feel a sense of belonging as an American.
That is the larger problem. But the immediate problem is the fear that 12 million migrants live through every day they live in the U.S. They need a victory. They need alleviation from that fear. And the solution with the most political capital right now is the DREAM Act. I turn back to the words of Tam Tran:
Without the D.R.E.A.M. Act, I have no prospect of overcoming my state of immigration limbo; I’ll forever be a perpetual foreigner in a country where I’ve always considered myself an American.There are problems with it, sure. XP wrote my favorite post on the green card draft and he's most recently voiced his opposition with an embedded video highlighting the techniques of military recruiters: "there's peer pressure and then there's military pressure". During better days, I would agree with XP, but I can no longer look in the people like Tam Tran in the eye and tell them my ideology should get in the way of alleviating their suffering.
Pass the DREAM Act now. We'll fight the green card draft later, with the help of the thousands of college students that benefit from it. I want to say that getting sent to Iraq with the certainty that your life is your own, is better than living every day with the prospect of having your life uprooted at any second, but the whole point is that I don't have the right to say that. Migrant youth have too much hope and activism locked up in the DREAM Act for me to tell them that it's wrong.
There are nine more videos where the one from above came from. Please look them over and give them to people you know living in the relevant states, and hopefully we can spread these virally. I got the senators names and numbers from Duke's Hot 19. Give these senators a call and tell them you support the DREAM Act.
-DUKE'S HOT 19 -
Murkowski (R-AK) 202-244-6665
Stevens (R-AK) 202224-3004
Pryor (D-AR) 202-224-2353
Martinez (R-FL) 202-224-3041
Inouye (D-HI) 202-224-3934
Brownback (R-KS) 202-224-6521
Landieu (D-LA) 202-224-5824
Collins (R-ME) 202-224-2523
Snowe (R-ME) 202-224-5344
Conrad (D-ND) 202-224-2043
Dorgan (D-ND) 202-224-2551
Dominici (R-NM) 202-224-6621
Voinovich (R-OH) 202-224-3353
Smith (R-OR) 202-224-3753
Graham (R-SC) 202-224-5972
Johnson (D-SD) 202-224-5842
Cornyn (R-TX) 202-224-2934
Rockefeller (D-VA) 202-224-6472
I've used Moe Train's punk-cover of La Bamba for all the videos because the song has a Creative Commons license, and I've used videos made by various individuals. I tried to get in touch with the filmmakers to ask for their permission, but they didn't get back to me and the pro-migrant call-ins start on Monday. If anyone has a problem with it, contact me using the form on the front page and I will take the corresponding video down. I also encourage people to RSVP to the facebook event "education not deportation" that is staging a national call in from Oct. 22-24. Over a 1000 people have already responded.
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The picture on the left is from the website of the Student Immigrant Movement (SIM), an migrant youth organization here in Massachusetts. SIM is a big part of why Massachusetts is relatively pro-migrant compared to everywhere else in the... Read More