December 2010 Archives
I'd like to join my co-blogger Kyle in wishing our readers a happy new year. It has been a roller coaster of a year, but we're not in the same place we were on January 1, 2010. While going forward we may not have the same unity of purpose that came at the end of the year from pushing for a discrete piece of legislation, the DREAM Act, there is new momentum and energy stemming from that push. And the new year will bring opportunity for new ideas and strategies. They will be necessary to counter new threats from increasingly anti-immigrant legislatures on the state and national level. But how many nativists went on hunger strike in 2010? How many marched over a thousand miles to raise awareness of their cause? How many were arrested in acts of civil disobedience which could lead to exile from their families and communities? I don't remember any. And that is why we will win.
So from Philadelphia on New Year's Eve, Happy New Year!
[Image: Rob Rudloff]
In my inbox tonight:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
December 30, 2010
Michelle Fei, 917.881.2638
Angela Fernandez, 646.734.4932
(Spanish & English)
Advocates Disappointed by New "Secure Communities" Agreement and Vow to Continue to Push for Full Rescission
New York, NY (Dec. 30, 2010) - Representatives of a wide coalition of advocates responded to news of Governor Paterson's revisions to the State's "Secure Communities" agreement with dissatisfaction and frustration over its lack of meaningful changes. They also declared that they will continue to push incoming Governor Cuomo to fully rescind the agreement based on the program's fundamental flaws.
"While we greatly appreciate that the Governor has listened to our concerns, the new agreement does not narrow the class of targeted immigrants as the State appears to think it does," said Angela Fernandez of the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, one of the more than 75 groups that has advocated with the Governor and elected officials to end the agreement. "We remain as adamantly opposed to Secure Communities because it is a costly program that undermines trust with the police, encourages racial profiling, and funnels immigrants into an unjust deportation system."
Further, advocates assert, ICE has repeatedly demonstrated its lack of accountability and transparency, making it an agency for which New York should not subject itself to liability. Examples cited by advocates include ICE's changing position on its classification of those targeted for deportation, priorities for deportation, and conflicting statements about the ability of localities to opt out of Secure Communities.
"Sadly, this new agreement is simply a reformulation of the flawed original that dramatically widened ICE's deportation dragnet," stated Michelle Fei of the Immigrant Defense Project, another coalition group member. "New York officials are still letting themselves get hoodwinked by ICE if they think this version is any improvement. We hope Governor-Elect Cuomo will do more to recognize that immigrants who have gone through the criminal justice system should not face deportation as an unfair second punishment."
With no public input, the Division of Criminal Justice Services had signed an agreement with ICE in May this year to bring Secure Communities to New York. Under the controversial program, law enforcement agencies in the State would be required to automatically forward to federal immigration databases the fingerprints of US citizens, undocumented immigrants, and lawful permanent residents alike. Those suspected of being deportable would be transferred directly into the detention and deportation system, separating them from their families and communities.
The New York State Working Group Against Deportation is a broad coalition of domestic violence, criminal justice, immigrant rights, family services, labor, faith-based, civil rights, and community-based organizations that aims to stop Secure Communities and other deportation programs.
Governor Paterson's press release can be found here.
- The DOMA Project works to raise awareness of how binational same-sex couples are often forced apart by anti-LGBT immigration laws and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
- David Bacon writes about the cynicism of the Obama administration's strategy of pressuring employers to fire undocumented workers in targeted workplace audits. By conducting these actions under the radar, Obama is able to maintain the strategy of "enforcement through attrition" while avoiding the embarrassing press of large workplace raids.
- Marisa Treviño explains the futility of the current narrow bipartisan focus on "border security" when insecurity in Mexico is rising, creating a steady stream of refugees from the drug violence there.
- And advocates for mentally-ill immigrant detainees scored a victory when a federal judge ordered the government to provide them with free attorneys. This makes sense, since under the current laws, a shoplifter gets a free attorney while countless mentally-incapacitated immigrants face permanent exile from their communities with no legal counsel.
In yesterday's post, I highlighted Gregory Rodriguez's recent Op-Ed as typifying some messaging flaws that many of us had hoped would bear short-term fruit with passage of the DREAM Act but which I fear may undermine long term goals of the immigrant rights movement. Rodriguez's Op-Ed called for a reevaluation of the concept of citizenship to include undocumented youth who had lived here since childhood and were therefore sufficiently loyal to the nation.
I can distill Rodriguez's premises with which I take issue to two:
- "I understand that we can't simply open our borders to all. . . . This country, like any other, has the right -- and the need -- to police its borders."
- "[L]ove of nation is a necessary requirement for making a country a better place to live . . . when push comes to shove, I think nations should require their citizens to choose one loyalty over all others."
Today I wanted to identify these assumptions and begin to think about what assumptions they in turn are based upon, why I believe they are problematic, and what might be more fruitful alternatives. I won't pretend to finish this analysis today, only to begin.
To do so, it is helpful to look at a couple of blog posts from Newsweek and the Economist that made the rounds today.
Mickey Kaus, who blogs at Newsweek, has a knack for hiding conservative arguments in liberal clothing in service of his goal of keeping
brown people immigrants out of America. Yesterday, Kaus conceded that he doesn't believe income inequality is a problem, but he nevertheless finds it useful to bludgeon President Obama with over his supposedly lax immigration policies.
In full concern troll mode, Kaus wrote:
Even experts who claim illlegal immigration is good for Americans overall admit that it's not good for Americans at the bottom. In other words, it's not good for income equality.
Odd, then that Obama, in his "war on inequality," hasn't made a big effort to prevent illegal immigration--or at least to prevent illegal immigrration from returning with renewed force should the economy recover.
Yet Kaus's analysis of income inequality excludes all poor people outside of the U.S. It's as though people not physically present in the U.S. don't even exist. This is an assumption commonly made by American pundits--what surprised me was to see someone call Kaus out on this, which a correspondent for the Economist ("W.W.") did:
Gregory Rodriguez's Op-Ed today in the LA Times is characteristic of much of this year's pro-DREAM Act messaging in that it doesn't challenge many basic principles of the current immigration and citizenship regime. I had hoped, along with many others, that the DREAM Act targeted such an egregious injustice and the beneficiaries were so sympathetic that the bill could be carried into law on the strength of its intuitive power without disturbing the legal system that keeps Dreamers undocumented. The DREAM Act could then have been a foothold for reforming the system, as newly empowered and legalized Dreamers led their communities to a broader victory.
It was a close call, but in the end, the system was too strong for this strategy to succeed in 2010. Instead, Dreamers, other undocumented activists, and allies may need to do the hard work of challenging the system itself, which means deconstructing the ideas about citizenship, identity, community, and loyalty that the immigration regime is based on. This runs counter to much established DREAM Act messaging, which has often adopted themes of patriotism, assimilation, and loyalty that have also been effectively used by nativists to justify exclusionary immigration and citizenship laws.
Perhaps the current ideological trajectory for DREAM is the right one after all, and just requires persistence, patience, and more effective electoral organizing. But such a path to the DREAM Act would be a hollow victory if it strengthened the "us vs. them" immigration narrative and undermined the prospect of legalization for all.
I'll leave for now as a thought exercise to the reader to identify the assumptions on which Rodriguez bases his argument for the DREAM Act and alternative ideas which might lead to better long-term results. I'm also open to the possibility that alternative messaging would be unrealistic and counterproductive. Please share any insights in comments to this post. From his Op-Ed:
I started blogging after the DREAM Act vote, but ended up taking more time for my family as the holidays approached and for the next week I'll try to completely disconnect myself from a computer as I spend time, as our family has done for generations, now, in the Bay Islands of Honduras. On January 5, 2011, I should be back and more ready then ever to use this space to make change.
Before blogging and the news cycle picks up again after the holidays and the only message the mainstream media remembers about the politics of immigration is "Obama championed DREAM Act, GOP killed it," there is still some space for an alternative version of events. And if one Dreamer's version is any indication, Dreamers themselves may not be on board with Obama's story of how things happened.
I hope that President Obama will listen to Dreamers instead of using them as a campaign prop. Here is an excerpt from DREAMer to President Obama: Thanks but no thanks
While Obama in recent months has supported the DREAM Act and putting his whole cabinet to work in gaining the votes necessary to pass it, Obama was deporting DREAMers' families through his anti immigrant and hypocritical policies. Even after the DREAM Act was blocked by Republicans the administration stated that Dreamers will continue to be deported by Obama's administration. Was his support for Dreamers strictly a political move to gain approval among latino voters? Obama's anti immigration stance was very clear to us earlier this year when Arizona passed legislation that legalized racial profiling and funneled families into the private prisons who lobbied and funded the legislation. Obama also resisted in challenging Arizona's SB 1070 until he was pressured by civil rights organizations across the country.
One thing is very clear to DREAMers across the nation, that Obama is not a friend but another politician and a target for this movement. Obama we are undocumented and unafraid how about you? Will you tremble when we come in hundreds to your doorstep and see the lives you have helped destroy? will your guilt lead you to make amends for your violations against the families that walked and talked for you in your election?
Dreamer Hector Lopez was deported earlier this year to Mexico. He'd been brought to the U.S. as an infant and hadn't known he had no legal status until he was arrested this year by immigration agents. He came back across the border in an act of desperation and was detained upon reentry. He applied for asylum, but was only released recently through the efforts of advocate Ralph Isenberg. He was reunited with his family in Portland yesterday.
I keep watching for evidence of a policy shift from DHS on their current practice of locking up and deporting DREAM Act-eligible youth, and wondering when President Obama's actions will catch up to his words of support for Dreamers. Hector was arrested in August, after Julia Preston reported in the New York Times that the administration had stopped deporting Dreamers. John Morton, head of ICE, claimed in the article:
In a world of limited resources, our time is better spent on someone who is here unlawfully and is committing crimes in the neighborhood . . . As opposed to someone who came to this country as a juvenile and spent the vast majority of their life here.
Evidently ICE has decided that Morton's statement represented a vague aspirational observation that wasn't translatable into concrete policy or practice. Or, less charitably, it was a lie.
While it's true that, in limited cases, ICE has exercised favorable discretion to allow Dreamers to stay in the U.S., in the majority of cases, Dreamers in removal proceedings have been treated no differently than anyone else. Even in those few instances where the agency has chosen not to deport, ICE has only been swayed after intense organizing from supporters and activists has resulted in national media attention and support from politicians. It's unfortunate that Preston's story from this summer seems to have become the conventional wisdom--it was even cited in a recent decision (pdf, FN38) by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in support of a legal argument--because it simply isn't the case that ICE has adopted a policy to stop deporting Dreamers.
Hector was a Dreamer and he was deported just like thousands of other undocumented youth this year who didn't have access to the network of Dreamers and allies that have held off ICE in a handful of cases. President Obama's words in support of Dreamers ring hollow in the face of his agencies' coordinated efforts to deport as many DREAM-eligible youth as possible. I hope that Hector's release from detention represents a change in policy in how DHS processes Dreamers, but I fear otherwise.
Hector's story as told in the Oregonian represents one happy (and possibly temporary) outcome out of thousands of stories of heartbreak and family separation this Christmas:
Hector Lopez of Milwaukie walked off a Southwest Airlines flight Christmas Eve into his mother's arms at Portland International Airport, returning from a four-month deportation odyssey to Mexico even though he did not know until he was arrested that he is not a U.S. citizen or legal resident.
His mother, Sara Flores, and his 15-year-old brother, Luis, grabbed Lopez and hugged him tightly as they cried together; still and video photographers captured the scene as dozens of arriving passengers swirled around the reunion. Friends brought signs and balloons.
This Christmas Eve come two reminders of the suffering that migrants in the U.S. currently endure. Each shows us the distance we still have to travel, the imagination, courage, love, and tenacity still required of us in this struggle. Each reminds us that the suffering of migrants is a small subset of the suffering of the disenfranchised who remain in their home countries.
First, via Jaya Ramji-Nogales at IntLawGrrls, comes a new report from the Women's Refugee Commission on the harsh impact on families that ICE enforcement actions can have. The intersection of immigration enforcement and state and local child custody rules leaves a dangerous gap through which immigrant children fall. Too often, the result is that the U.S. government doesn't just take a parent's freedom, but also takes their child. Baby theft from indigent immigrant parents wasn't just something Americans did in Guatemala and other poor countries in recent years, it is happening now to immigrants in the U.S.
Jaya breaks it down:
To start, when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) apprehend undocumented immigrants, their protocols are insufficient to identify parents and prioritize them for release. Indeed, the guidance for agents who encounter juveniles during fugitive operations directs officers to contact child welfare services, which can complicate parents rights. In any case, there are no procedures to ensure that parents can make care arrangements for their children before they are detained.
Once undocumented parents are detained, it becomes extremely difficult to communicate with their children and the child welfare system due to limitations on telephone access and frequent distant transfers of immigration detainees. Not only does this pose serious obstacles to ensuring safe care for immigrants' children, it may contribute directly to termination of parental rights. For example, the child welfare system's family reunification plan may require regular phone calls and contact visits that are all but impossible for detained parents. Detained parents are also often unable to participate in family court proceedings, either because child welfare services cannot locate them so they do not receive notice of the hearing or because they are unable to be present at the hearing.
Finally, when undocumented parents are deported, the dearth of information provided by ICE about the timing of deportation can make reunification very difficult. Parents are often notified of their deportation at the very last minute -- too late to make travel arrangements for their children -- or ICE changes travel plans after parents have already purchased expensive, nonrefundable tickets for their children to accompany them. This and the other failures of coordination between immigration and child welfare systems described above result in the long-term and in some cases permanent separation of families, inflicting serious psychological trauma on the citizen children of undocumented immigrants.
Second, the Economist has a piece on the heartbreaking challenges undocumented farmworkers in California face today. The article follows poor indigenous families from Mexico who have relocated to the fields of California, following the "Okies" generations ago.
One family left Oaxaca after their oldest son died because they couldn't afford to pay a doctor after he became ill after a flood. They have been robbed by coyotes, chased and beaten by border patrol, exploited by employers, poisoned by pesticides, harassed by police, and threatened by neighbors. They faced these obstacles so their other children could have a future, so their children could survive childhood.
This is the dark side of the American Dream, the one most Americans prefer to ignore and forget. But pretending not to see migrants and their problems doesn't mean they don't exist. It does mean that all Americans are responsible for this moral monstrosity--voters, elected officials, consumers, and taxpayers all have a hand in maintaining this perverse systemic injustice. Building the border wall higher and sturdier won't make the poor and their problems disappear, either, whether inside or outside the U.S. It only underscores our culpability and the hypocrisy of our willful blindness.
The Economist correspondent reminds us of the globalization of poverty and the connectedness of all human beings by ending the report in this way:
People like the Vegas will always keep coming, no matter the fences that go up on the border and the helicopters that circle above. For they are like the Joads. As Steinbeck wrote: "How can you frighten a man whose hunger is not only in his own cramped stomach but in the wretched bellies of his children? You can't scare him--he has known a fear beyond every other."
I've seen two general reactions from pro-migrant bloggers, Tweeters, Dreamers, and politicos online since the DREAM Act was blocked in the Senate last week by anti-immigrant politicians.
One group believes the vote highlighted the fundamental divide between Democrats and Republicans on immigration policy. On this reading, Democrats are good and fight for the immigrant community, while Republicans are bad and fight to deport immigrants. Democrats want to enact legislation to bring immigrants out of the shadows, while Republicans prefer the status quo of early morning home raids, photos of Latinos in shackles and orange jumpsuits, and small children crying because their parents have been hauled off to the deportation gulag. President Obama, as the leader of the Democratic Party, wants immigrants to succeed and wants to legalize undocumented immigrants. Proponents of this view believe any attempt to add complexity to this narrative risks muddying the political calculus. You need more Democrats in office in order to pass immigration reform, and to do that, voters must reward Democrats and punish Republicans. Keep it simple or risk defeat.
The second group believes that both major parties share blame for terrorizing immigrant communities and keeping families in a legal twilight. True, the Republican party has been taken over by nativists and has turned its back on the growing Latino electorate. But Democrats never made any significant push to pass pro-migrant legislation while they held large majorities in both houses of Congress; instead, they snuck in votes on the DREAM Act only as the legislative session wound down. Meanwhile, a $600 million border enforcement bill breezed through Congress with strong support from both parties. Democrats in Congress never even introduced the comprehensive immigration reform bill they had long promised the community, instead engaging in a drawn-out procedural sleight of hand designed to fool constituents into thinking something was happening. Key Democrats voted against the DREAM Act in the Senate, dooming it for the foreseeable future. Democratic leadership never made passage of the bill a priority, never engaging in the armtwisting and horsetrading that led to success on other bills. President Obama directed ICE to deport immigrants in record numbers in what was either a futile effort to win Republican support for comprehensive immigration reform or a cynical strategy to keep nativists off his back so other policy priorities could move forward.
I am glad that Dreamers, through tough organizing and advocacy, were able to push Congress to at least vote on an immigration bill so individual politicians could be held accountable to voters. But I fall into the second school of thought on the partisan question. If Democrats want to be known as the pro-migrant political party, they have to actually be the pro-migrant party. Words matter less than actions.
True allies wouldn't target immigrant communities the way Democrats in Congress and the White House have done since Obama came into office. Another reason to make sure Democrats are real allies is because otherwise, they act as a massive clog to action.
When Democrats get the same credit for not doing anything to change the status quo as they would for actually passing laws, they are likely to do nothing because of:
President Obama publicly committed today to passing the DREAM Act in 2011. He called the recent vote blocking the bill in the Senate his "biggest disappointment." White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said that grassroots activism will be essential to getting the DREAM Act passed.
Hearing these comments, I had to scratch my head. I have seen a lot of grassroots activism around the DREAM Act over the last couple years. Some of the most intense organizing has come from communities fighting to keep individual Dreamers from being deported ... by President Obama's immigration enforcement agency, ICE.
I have consulted on several such cases, and represented Dreamers directly in a few. In nearly every case I've seen, ICE fought tooth and nail to keep Dreamers locked up and get them deported. ICE attorneys often took harsh litigating positions with the goal of moving Dreamers out of the country as quickly as possible. ICE deportation officers often shut down requests to release Dreamers to pursue removal defense outside of detention.
ICE wouldn't budge on Steve Li's case last month, refusing to release him from detention even after his case got national attention and support from Dreamers around the country. He would likely be in Peru right now if Senator Feinstein hadn't introduced a private bill in the Senate, which put an automatic hold on Li's deportation.
In other cases, ICE refused to back down until a case got national media attention and the support of Senators.
Mark Farrales is detained right now in California, waiting to be deported. He came to the U.S. when he was 10 after his father was shot by gunmen in the Philippines. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and was working on his doctoral dissertation when he was arrested by ICE.
The reactions this week by mainstream progressives to the Senate's failure to move the DREAM Act forward on Saturday shed light on the motivations of different groups in speaking out about this issue.
Markos Moulitsas' immediate reaction was to condemn Senator Jon Tester for being "morally bankrupt" and an "asshole" and "the Democrat I will most be happy to see go down in defeat" in 2012.
Markos was a big supporter of Tester, who raised a good chunk of money from the Netroots to win in a close election in 2006. Tester will have a tough campaign in 2012, and it just got a whole lot tougher by making a personal enemy out of one of the progressive blogosphere's most influential voices. This was a response likely to have some impact given the target and Markos's history of support for Tester. It was an effective response because Markos actually seems to care whether the DREAM Act passes or fails.
On the other hand, Organizing For America's reaction was to email supporters to ask them to call John Boehner and Mitch McConnell and tell them "to stop playing politics with immigration reform."
This is not likely to be an effective response. The tactic looks about as well-conceived as the DSCC's cunning plan during the Minnesota Senate recount last year to ask Al Franken supporters to sign a petition to his opponent Norm Coleman to concede the election to Franken, one of Adam Green's "Profiles in Bad Online Organizing."
OFA's response has much in common with the Democrats' broader strategy for passing comprehensive immigration reform--both are designed to promote the appearance of activity rather than to achieve any concrete policy objective. The thing is, these strategies can easily backfire. No one likes a fake friend, and it is easy enough to spot someone who is just going through the motions. OFA does itself no favors by angling for the Latino vote in such a transparently cynical way.
Just as President Obama does himself no favors by perpetually renewing his commitment to immigration reform while ratcheting deportations to historic highs.
How uninformed does he think voters are?
Wayne Cornelius's take on the failure of the Obama immigration strategy was on point:
The larger problem is that the entire Obama immigration policy strategy was based on a high-risk gamble that winning credibility on border and interior enforcement among members of Congress would buy the political space needed to enact comprehensive immigration reform.
This strategy was fundamentally misconceived because Republicans in Congress have found tough immigration stances to be reliably effective in mobilizing their base, and because the Great Recession heightened public anxiety and anger about immigration.
Why would you intentionally adopt immigration policies--like the abominable racial profiling Secure Communities and 287g programs--that energize your opponents' base unless you were profoundly detached from the affected communities?
The Obama administration has continued the Bush II-era border fortification project and also significantly toughened interior enforcement, pushing spending on all forms of immigration enforcement to unprecedented levels. But with the failure of the Dream Act, and the negligible probability of enacting any larger legalization program in the next Congress, President Obama is left with nothing but the stick.
His immigration legacy may well turn out to be a step-level increase in immigration enforcement and spending, with no progress on anything unrelated to pursuing the undocumented - even high-achieving students brought to this country as children. To those of us who worked hard in his presidential campaign, that is a bitter pill.
It's also not a smart strategy if you want people who support pro-migrant immigration policy to vote for you.
So far, it looks like Obama cares less about winning over those voters than he does about not pissing off nativist Tea Party voters. And as long as he has groups like OFA helping him carry out this misguided strategy, he is unlikely to change course.
A small disclaimer before I begin: my voice, as always, is a small one among giants, particularly the giants of the migrant youth movement. I agree with my co-blogger, Dave, when he says "Let DREAMers lead, allies must follow." A big part of why I don't feel the need to blog anymore, is because I don't feel my voice is really needed with DREAMers speaking so loudly for themselves, these days. Still, I'm hopeful that my humble thoughts will be useful to some. As always I welcome thoughts and critiques, and am always open to changing my mind.
There's been lot's of proclamations about never forgetting the Senators who voted against the DREAM Act on Dec. 18, 2010, but not a lot of clarity about exactly who to hold accountable. Some people are saying Republicans blocked the DREAM Act, others are going hard after Democrats who blocked the DREAM Act. I even made a slight mistake. In referencing the five Democrats and 36 Republicans who blocked the DREAM Act, I neglected to mention the one Democrat and three Republicans who didn't even feel the DREAM Act was worth showing up for to vote on. I don't know what's a greater form of disrespect, voting against us, or not even considering us worthy of showing up to vote for. Even worse, all of the Senators who failed to show up to vote all publicly stated at some point or another that they would vote against us.
What follows is my analysis of exactly who to hold accountable in 2012 and why. I will try to narrow down the list of 45 Senators who stood against us to a select group that I think we have the most power to influence going into 2012.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pulled two unexpected developments out of his pocket this fall: he became a champion of the DREAM Act in Congress, and he secured victory over his opponent by a margin that no one had foreseen. I propose that these two events were related, but not in an obvious way.
Nativism Causes the Nevada Tea Party to Self-destruct
Politicians and pundits speculated that Harry Reid owed his victory over Tea Party candidate Sharon Angle in November because Latino voters were energized. Angle had run a series of anti-immigrant, anti-Latino ads which won her notoriety for running one of the most racist campaigns of the election season. One ad prompted the View's Joy Behar to taunt Angle to come to the Bronx in one of the election season's more memorable TV moments.
In the ads, Angle alleged that Harry Reid was "the best friend an illegal alien ever had." In one ad, she went after DREAMers directly, claiming that "Harry Reid is fighting for a program that would give preferred college tuition rates to none other than illegal aliens." This specific ad was almost certainly created in response to Reid's highly public effort to pass the DREAM Act shortly before the ad was run.
The narrative that emerged during the late stages of the campaign from both the left and the right was that Harry Reid had pandered to--or responded to--Latino voters in Nevada by announcing his intent to attach the DREAM Act to the defense authorization bill in September. Reid knew that by promoting a bill that would legalize hundreds of thousands of undocumented youth brought to the U.S. as children, he would mobilize Latino voters who could provide the margin of victory he needed against Angle. So he made a public statement of intent to bring the DREAM Act forward, knowing it would polarize the Senate and inject immigration politics into the Senate race in Nevada.
In retrospect, it was a brilliant plan. Staging a public push for the DREAM Act, which many voters had never heard of before September, was like waving a red flag in front of a bull for Angle and her Tea Party supporters, driving them to embarrassing outbursts of nativism. It seemed they couldn't help themselves. Rachel Maddow called the anti-DREAM Act spot the "most overtly racist ad of this campaign season."
These explicitly anti-Latino attacks in turn mobilized a previously disaffected Latino electorate in Nevada which had been upset with Democratic leadership for ignoring immigration reform. Latino voters came out in force and voted for Reid by a high margin--between 68% and 90% depending on the source. Reid won by 5.6%, mobilizing Latino voters to turnout in record numbers against all predictions.
Perhaps it was Reid's plan all along to pull out the DREAM Act late in the campaign to construct the "Latino firewall" that by some accounts saved his job. But maybe there is more to the story.
It's been hard for me to set fingers to keyboard to organize my thoughts about yesterday's Senate vote blocking the DREAM Act. I have a lot of thoughts and emotions swirling around inside right now. Even before the vote, I felt stymied--anxious about the bill's prospects, angry at the obstinate ignorance displayed by opponents, and frustrated at my own feelings of powerlessness.
If there is any cause for optimism in this dark moment, it is that the DREAM movement has now come into its own. Dreamers will never again be token poster children held up to support someone else's agenda--the enforcement first, legalization later agenda unsuccessfully promoted by President Obama, Democrats, and national advocacy groups.
That agenda failed, the plans that others made for Dreamers failed, and at the end of it all, advocacy groups and politicians jumped on board the DREAM Act bandwagon because it was the only legislative vehicle that was moving, the only one that had even left the factory. And the primary reason the DREAM Act got as far as it did this legislative session was because of the activism of Dreamers: the hunger strikes, the 1500-mile Trail of Dreams march, the acts of civil disobedience targeting key legislators, the Dreamers coming out to journalists, and hundreds of other actions around the country planned and executed by Dreamers themselves.
As we look for a way forward, it is important to think about what has worked and hasn't worked so far. With this in mind, I want to address a few key groups.
To my fellow pro-migrant allies and advocates:
Above are Renata and Ada repping the Student Immigrant Movement, which I am a proud member of, but see this post from United We Dream for more reflections from the leaders of the migrant youth movement.
By now you've probably heard that the DREAM Act was blocked in the U.S. Senate by five Democrats and 36 Republicans. Before I continue I want to be clear about what happened:
Everywhere I look mainstream media who up until this point as all but ignored the migrant youth movement is writing headlines like "DREAM Act Defeated", "DREAM Act Fails", or "DREAM Act Dies." The DREAM Act did not fail, the U.S. Senate failed the DREAM Act. Only in very recent times has a passing vote of 216-198 in the U.S. House and a vote of 55-41 in the U.S. Senate meant failure. I'm not going to get sidetracked into a diatribe about filibuster abuse in the U.S. Senate, right now. I just wanted to tell everyone who feels the same emptiness in their stomach that I do, right now, that you didn't fail, the broken procedures of the U.S. Senate failed you.
At the same time, for those of us that are committed to real business of making change in this world, we know that we're not dealing with the world as we'd like it to be, but with the world as it is. In the world as it is, we needed 60 votes out of 100 in the undemocratic U.S. Senate in order to emancipate of hundreds of thousands of young undocumented Americans. We all knew we needed 60 votes, and we didn't get them. There will be plenty of time to analyze why we didn't get those 60 votes, but right now I just wanted to lay out some steps I think those of us in the movement should be taking. I say all of the following first acknowledging my own 24-year-old inexperience and shortcomings in these matters.
We welcome back guest poster Mark as he deconstructs some of the nativists' cherished arguments against the DREAM Act. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has filed for cloture on the DREAM Act and the Senate will vote on it tomorrow.
"Illegal is illegal, and the "the law is the law" are two of the more common phrases that the anti-immigrant crowd likes to spew as the say-all/end-all reasoning, when it comes to a conversation about reforming the broken immigration system. Just look at any online article concerning the issue of immigration, scroll to the bottom, read the comments page, and sure enough there it is! (most of the times in ALL CAPS with a gazillion exclamation points, just to add that extra emphasis in pretending their argument is practical). Of course the only problem is that it isn't much of an argument at all. At best, it's a blatant fallacy in reasoning. Anyone having taken a basic logic class should be able to understand that concept.
So even when it's dressed up a bit:
"If such actions were not illegal, then they would not be prohibited by the law."
...only equals out to:
"X is true. The evidence for that claim is that X is true."
It's an unsound argument at best, which is most certainly NOT rationally persuasive.
Of course irrationality seems to be the rage these days, as it seems rational thought is something that's hard to come by. I can just imagine what else these rationality-inept anti-immigrant comment posters must say or post elsewhere. "Ice cream is ice cream. Yes I said it: ICE CREAM is ICE CREAM, damn it!!!!!!!!!!! Therefore I'm right and I win the argument."
Seriously now, really...that's what their position is based on? Two i-words: illogicality and ignorance.