Pro-Migrant Priorities for 2011: The Struggle Continues

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Another year has passed and guess what?  People still hate migrants.  People have hated migrants for millenia, and they probably will hate migrants for millenia more (if society lasts that long).  It's cynical to write that out, but at the same time, when I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders, it helps to ease my anxiety when I meditate on this.  To understand that the struggle will always go on forces you to hold fast to the things that matter, today, and to keep yourself healthy for the struggle, tomorrow. 

I hope everyone was able to rest, relax, and spend time with loved ones over the holidays.  I want to express gratitude to my co-blogger Dave for sacrificing his time during the holidays to keep content fresh, here.  I continue to be privileged with the opportunity to escape the harsh New England winter to bask in the Land of Eternal Spring here in Central America.  I'll be returning to Boston late next week.  I have yet to find or know a more beautiful country on this earth than Guatemala, and I fight for the day when, emancipated from inhumane and unjust immigration laws, my undocumented brothers and sisters in the U.S. can witness this beauty alongside of me.  You never leave my thoughts and prayers. 

What follows is an outline of the pro-migrant strategy I'm going to try and pursue in the coming year.  These are just initial thoughts, subject to change, and input is always welcome, here.  I've discussed this over the phone with several people already, and I thought it would be good to write it out for reference.
Despite the statements of the Deporter-In-Chief, Barack Obama, and the whisperings of a possible Republican DREAM Act, the sad truth is that we probably will not have a chance at passing anything like the DREAM Act until at least after the 2012 elections.  I don't see it happening long as nativists like Lamar Smith (R-TX) control the U.S. immigration policy agenda in the House.  If there's anything that being a part of the migrant youth movement has taught me, it's that anything is possible, and I'd love to be proven wrong on this, but right now it wouldn't be responsible of me to suggest another strong push for the DREAM Act. 

Without a chance at any real pro-migrant action in Congress, our only hope at any real pro-migrant gains at the federal level, in my opinion, is through administrative relief from the Obama administration.  I'll write more, later, on what I think that administrative relief should look like, but for now I just want to report, sadly, that even that doesn't look very likely at the moment.  Everyone I've spoken to with knowledge of the way the Obama administration thinks tells me that the Obama administration doesn't have the appetite for any sort of administrative relief for migrants.  The public statements of Obama and his administration seem to indicate the same thing. 

I have more faith on administrative relief than on the DREAM act, though, that the pro-migrant movement has the power to force a chance at real pro-migrant action, and we have to start exercising that power early and often.  The main reason for this is that the pro-migrant vote, because of the electoral map, has more of an influence on the presidency than it does on individual nativist lawmakers in Congress.   

With little chance at pro-migrant legislative or administrative action at the federal level, the best move, in my opinion is to turn our energies to the states.  The nativist movement is stupidly putting all of it's energy and efforts at the local level into unconstitutional efforts like ending birthright citizenship.  That allows us to rely on the power of the courts to stop their actions while we use our power locally to pass efforts that have a real chance of being enacted and having an impact on the migrant community, like in-state tuition, and maybe even drivers' licenses for undocumented migrants.

There's one more thing I haven't mentioned that I think we should put some real energy into.  Again, with little chance at federal action, this is a golden opportunity to really start changing the language and the frames we use to discuss immigration policy in the U.S.  There's no better time to start doing some real organizing to stop the media from using the dehumanizing and legally innacurate terms like "illegals", "illegal alien", and "illegal immigrant".  Thankfully the Applied Research Center, publisher of Color Lines, has already laid the groundwork for this through it's Drop the I-Word campaign.

In summary, this is the strategy I have in my head moving forward into the new year.  It's preliminary, subject to change, and I always appreciate input.  If you want a different way of thinking about it, though, I've also been describing it in terms of national pro-migrant offense, defense, and local work. 

National Pro-Migrant Defense:  The federal government has to be resisted at all levels for it's violence against our communities.  Secure Communities, in my mind, is the program that is the greatest threat to migrant communities, right now, and has to be resisted at every level.  As far as I know, the National Day Labor Organizing Network has been doing the best work on that up to this point.  We need to put Obama's face on every sympathetic migrant person he tries to deport, and force him to account for his stepped up violence against our communties.  We also need to fight nativist legislative initiatives that have a real chance of passing, like forcing every business in the country to adopt E-Verify.

National Pro-Migrant Offense:  The time is now for Obama to provide administrative relief to our communities.  U.S. immigration law is broken and Obama's enforcement priorities should reflect that.  I'll write more later on the sort of administrative relief that I'm going to advocate for later, but there's already been multiple calls for Obama to stop the deportations.  As my co-blogger Dave Bennion has suggested to me the leaked USCIS Memo is ripe possible administrative actions the Obama administration could take.  This is also an excellent opportunity to start taking on the harmful and legally inaccurate language we use to discuss U.S. immigration policy in the media.  

Local Offense and Defense:  At the national level and in most localities we will be playing mostly defense for the next two years, probably, but there's some real opportunities to play offense at the local level through things like granting DREAMers in-state tuition at their local colleges and universities.  Local strategy should play into the national strategy I've laid out above. 

UPDATE: The dreamactivist twitter feed gave me some suggestions for this post that I wanted to add.  @dreamact suggests mentioning specific winnable fights like in-state tuition in California and Maryland:

@kyledeb Also think we should highlight some specific fights, MD tuition equity and CA DREAM are winnable.less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

@dreamact also mentions Kentucky as one of the first places we need defense:

@kyledeb Just add it. Also, must stop KY immigration bill from passing House very soon.less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

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This page contains a single entry by kyledeb published on January 8, 2011 3:18 AM.

What Can Gentle Mormon Radicals Teach Us About Immigrant Rights? was the previous entry in this blog.

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