Deporting Dissent: Tam Tran and the DREAM Act

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When anti-migrant advocates speak up, they get called racists.  When pro-migrant advocates speak up, they get deported.  Is there even a contest?

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. 
ICE's job is enforcement, but it's actions show that it is working as an engine of political intimidation as well.  ICE isn't only enforcing the law, it is fighting a political battle as well.  If a migrant speaks up, ICE will find a way to deport that migrant.  Think Progress has listed some of the many times in which this is the case:

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.
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.
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.

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
Warner(R-VA) 202-224-2023
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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» A Crushed DREAM and Hopeful Youth from Citizen Orange

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


XP said:

Thanks Kyle. We all have our choices. I appreciate the fact that you addressed my concerns about the bill. Others remained silent, pretending those concerns never existed therefore making it seem the only people who are against this bill are you nativists. People should really look at both sides of the issue, not the made up created by the right wing fringe. This is not nowhere near amnesty. You many not feel comfortable looking people in the eyes, but as an advocate, you do have the responsibility to let see all of the facts and let them decide if this is beneficial or not. If we are only painting it with pretty flowers, then we are no better than the ones we are criticizing - the nativists.

duke1676 said:

"Duke has already written a better post about Tam Tran then I will ever be able to write."

I wouldn't be quite so sure about that ...looks to me like you did a pretty damn good job yourself there ...but gracias por the compliment...much appreciated. ...great video BTW

duke1676 said:

I was about to start working on a piece addressing this issue to have ready before this coming week, but since XP and Kyle have started discussing it here, I might as well just jump in.

The military component of the DREAM act is as close to a deal-breaker as anything yet introduced under the guise of immigration reform. It's mired in cynicism and intended, as XP so eloquently stated in his posts, to further exploit in the worst possible way those who have been marginalized to such an extent, that in desperation they would willingly sacrifice everything…even their lives.

It is a fact that most of the support for this bill coming from the Republican right is based entirely upon the military component. And it is also correct that the military itself has lobbied for its passage.

And this creates, as have all the other immigration reform proposals thus far, a great crisis of conscience for anyone who actually cares about real reform and the people it's intended to help. How much evil are we willing to accept in compromise in order to achieve some good?

But unlike past bills, with their mix of restrictive policies, harsh enforcement, exploitive guestworker program, etc. this bill goes even further. It actually asks us to accept something that runs absolutely contrary to our core belief system .. it asks us to allow young men and women to be used as cannon fodder in an immoral war in return for acceptance into society. … and when framed as such our choice appears to be obvious…. the facts that have been presented against this bill based upon this crisis of conscience are irrefutable and cannot be denied.

If placed upon a scale, the current statistics clearly show that the costs paid, would far outweigh the benefits. XP is right that given the current miserable state of education in predominately Latino schools, and a drop-out rate of over 50% amongst undocumented children (22.4% for all Latinos, 14% for native-born Latinos) there is a hopelessness that will make the prospect of military service, even in a time of war, an attractive alternative to a life of low-paying jobs, living in the shadows, and exploitation.

But here is where things turn not so black and white as I see it. There are other factors that must be considered also…and where the promise of Dream comes in.

Do the drop out rates cause the hopelessness…or does the hopelessness cause the dropout rates? It sounds flippant …but it's a crucial question.

For almost all other groups in society, the acquisition of an education brings with it the potential a better life. (I say potential because for many it is by no means a guarantee …but we do know without an education there is not even that potential). But for the undocumented, even this potential does not exist. Given their status, no matter how well they perform academically under the current system, they have no real tangible opportunities. This devaluing of education I believe plays a crucial role perpetuating the poor academic performance we see in undocumented youth. We see a similar problem in much of the economically impoverished population in general, where a mix of neglect and lack of tangible opportunities make education, particularly free public education, a meaningless commodity for many.

So this must be added to the scale when weighing our decision.

Would the prospect that with an education comes not only legal status but opportunities long denied, have a long term positive effect on educational performance?

I think the answer would of course be yes. Would DREAM overnight change failing schools into success stories, or overcome years of government and societal neglect…of course not. But it would for the first time make an education pay off for a population that has not really benefited from one before. This would be an enormous paradigm shift.

So although under the current system DREAM beneficiaries would initially skew more towards the military option …what happens two, three, five, ten years out? I am hopeful that we would see many more high school graduates, many more community college students and hopefully many more college grads.

Additionally we must weigh in the fact that the most current version of DREAM extends protections to primary and secondary school students. Simply put, this means not as many children will be subjected to detention and deportation. The added benefit being that if you in fact stayed in school, rather than dropping out …you keep your status.

Lastly in weighing the decision comes the matter of political practicalities. The bill will now be introduced as "stand alone legislation" as opposed to an amendment. This means that the bill itself can and will be amended. One change that has been proposed is the addition of a "technical or vocational" school component along with the traditional college path. This would of course also make a vast difference in the nature of the bill, especially for those currently at the greatest risk of being tapped for military recruitment. So the amendment process will need to be watch carefully.

So as I see it, when I weigh the obvious benefits of the bill (the high school graduates who will currently benefit, those who have already graduated college and receive immediate status, those up to the age of thirty who can go back to school to qualify, the children protected from deportation) and add in the potential benefit of turning the relationship between education and undocumented children on it’s head and finally make education pay off for them and the broader community. I have to choose DREAM.

It is not because I have discounted the glaring negative aspects of this bill, but because I believe that they can and will be mitigated over a relatively short span of time. ….and if they are, the whole idea of forming a permanent green card army blows up in the faces of those who concocted the scheme in he first place. It's not an easy decision, but it is the one I've made.

duke1676 said:

I knew I'd forget something.

The bill also has a tasty little tidbit that might limit the military's ability to fully exploit it:

Sec 3303, (1) (d)
"the alien, at the time of application, has been admitted to an institution of higher
education in the United States, or has earned a high school diploma or obtained a general education development certificate in the United States"

between the 30 year old age cap, and the ability to qualify for the six year conditional status with a GED many previous high school dropouts do you think will be flocking to the nearest GED class to get a conditional card. I would think that would be a favored choice over joining the military long as people know that choice is available ... but that's where community outreach and education come in ...I think we can say we need some sort of a movement of the people to get the word out.

kyledeb Author Profile Page said:

Thanks for the words, XP, and Duke. I can safely say this is the best conversation that Citizen Orange has every been privy to.

Trust me, XP, when I look in the eyes of migrants I tell them to oppose the DREAM Act because no one should have to sell their souls to the military like that. But what advocates are seeing time and time again is that almost anything is better than the status quo for migrants. They'll take almost any penalty to get out of this paralyzing fear.

I opposed the last push for comprehensive immigration reform, because of all that was being given up, but I now see that I was doing so in my own interests an not in the immediate interests of migrants.

Duke, beautiful stuff. That's all I have to say. This is my new battle cry.

"Support the DREAM Act, Now! Oppose the Green Card Draft, Later!"

kyledeb Author Profile Page said:

By the way I took your comment and I put it up in a new post, Duke. I hope that's alright.

kyledeb said:

I cross-posted this post on Daily Kos and Blue Mass. Group.

Hector said:

But just how representative is Tam Tran among those who would utilize the Dream Act? Will she be merely a drop in the bucket because of mass fraud? I don't think the bill's backers care, but it's not a possibility that should be ignored.

kyledeb said:

This is the first anti-migrant comment that I've received in Citizen Orange. It caused quite a dilemma for me.

What kind of blog am I going to make this? A "sanctuary space" for proven migrant advocates, or a place that I tackle anti-migrant viewpoints like these.

The statistics are widely quoted. 64,000 migrants in the U.S. illegally graduate from high school every year. All these students have ever known is the U.S. in many cases. That's not a drop in the bucket, thats 64,000 future leaders of the U.S. that are being relegated to the shadows.

"Mass fraud"? What are you talking about? The only frauds are anti-migrant U.S. citizens that pretend they don't save money off of the goods they consumed produced by migrant labor. I won't even get into that, further.

Either way, I'm engaging in hopes that we arrive at a solution. If you're just here to spout anti-migrant hate, I'll allow it but I won't engage.

Michaelle said:

First of all the bill was not passed,it died before it became effective and a lot of us are suffering because of that.We can't go forward we're at a stop and nobody cares to give a helping hand.I didn't come here illegally,I have papers permitting to come in but not stay,but the point is we came to have a better future than we could have had back home.We came here young and now most of us are adults,we can't work or continue school,what are we to do?I grew up here finished high school but I guess that doesn't matter.There's no need to talk about a bill that's no longer going in front of the senate

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This page contains a single entry by kyledeb published on October 20, 2007 12:22 AM.

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