Recently in Nativism Category
For the first time I can remember, as long as I've been a resident of Massachusetts, local Republican leadership has been silent on the issue of unauthorized migration. It appears State Representative Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton), has finally crossed a line too far by suggesting that undocumented rape victims "should be afraid to come forward" in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Over 100 people have signed my petition asking that Mass. GOP Leadership clarify their position on undocumented rape victims, and almost 500 people have signed a petition started by local women's rights group, New Hope, Inc., asking the Mass. State Assembly to censure Rep. Fattman. If you haven't signed my petition, yet, please do so:
Massachusetts Republicans love to beat up on the pro-migrant community. The entire Republican infrastructure, along with local conservative newspapers like the Boston Herald, and talk radio like WRKO AM 680, beat up on us so much it's hard to know which punches to defend. Folks who follow me know that I don't say that as a partisan. In fact, I think it's partly the pro-migrant community's fault that we've allowed ourselves to be punching bags for Republicans, and the first ones to be sold out by a state that is run almost entirely by Democrats. We're not as well organized as we should be, but you can help us start to build the power we need to take on this nativist infrastructure.
As the pro-migrant community tries to build power here in Massachusetts, we have the gift of a rare misstep by the miniscule Republican caucus, through Rep. Fattman's remarks, to shine the light of truth on the horrific anti-migrant policies that local Republicans advocate for and local Democrats enable. I wouldn't be pushing this if Rep. Fattman had apologized. However, it's clear from his "clarifying" statement (which doesn't do much clarifying),and the silence of Republican leaders, that they are refusing to take responsibility for his statements. Rep. Fattman's statements discourage undocumented rape victims from coming forward, and encourage rapists to focus on undocumented women.
As I stated in my first post about this, this isn't an attempt to play political games, nor is this a hypothetical situation. Unauthorized migrants are frequently preyed on by people who know they're too afraid to go to the police. Furthermore, this situation gets to the heart of the debate that advocates are having over what I think is currently the greatest threat that migrant communities face across the nation, the [In]Secure Communities program (S-Comm).
From an ALIPAC email (I won't link to ALIPAC):
The failure of the Democrats to pass the DREAM Act in December prompted the Washington Post and Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) to declare President Obama's immigration reform strategy a failure. Ali Noorani of the National Immigration Forum explained the "pickle of epic proportions" that the administration was in:
Republicans would now cry foul if the administration eased up on deportations, he said. But Latinos are losing patience with a strategy that has led to pain without gain for their communities.
Nevertheless, according to the Post, the Obama administration is doubling down on its "enforcement-first" strategy, having "no plans to pull back on enforcement just because Republicans are unlikely to support a bipartisan overhaul of immigration laws in the next two years."
How did the Democrats' immigration reform strategy fail so thoroughly? What went wrong? And why is President Obama still committed to a failed strategy?
It's not aboutThe reactions I've witnessed to the violence in Tuscon have made me physically sick. Ever since I heard the news on Saturday, I've been glued to twitter, the television, and my computer screen, looking for someone to say something that makes some kind of sense. It seems the only people that have anything worthwhile to say have been keeping mostly silent, using this time to reflect as we probably all should.
win or lose
Cause we all lose
when they feed
on the souls of the innocent
blood drenched pavement
keep on moving
though the waters stay raging.Matisyahu - 2009
Writing is one of the ways I reflect, taking the thoughts that swirl around me, sometimes wreaking havoc on my spirit, and channeling them into something tangible that I can take apart and make sense out of. I publish these thoughts publicly here in deference to one of Hillel's famous ancient lessons: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And when I am for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?" In short, I'm sick of waiting for someone to say something worthwhile about a tragedy that has shaken me to my core, so I'm going to give it a try.
Stanley Renshon of the Center for Immigration Studies, an anti-immigrant think tank, wrote last week about the DREAM Act:
Anyone with a heart as well as brain recognizes that children brought here by their parents illegally at a very young age are different in many ways from those old enough to know better but who choose to break our immigration laws almost wholly to satisfy their own self-interest.
The question is: what to do about this difficult set of circumstances?
The answer is simple: Pass the DREAM Act.
But Renshon and the two other "compassionate" conservatives he cites in his blog post--Mark Krikorian and Debra Saunders--don't support the DREAM Act in its most recent form. Instead, they discuss some future DREAM Act to be written by conservative lawmakers which would "not include egregious loopholes."
I am skeptical for a few reasons.
[Image: Choo Youn Kong / AFP-Getty Images]
Sometimes I wonder what people who get riled up about immigration would do if they actually knew how the laws worked, instead of relying on the lies that have been spun into conventional wisdom.
Utah State Rep. Stephen Sandstrom wants Utah to pass a SB1070-style law that would drive undocumented immigrants further into the shadows. He told the LA Times one of the reasons he has become Utah's leading anti-immigrant politician is that it is so hard for immigrants to come through legal channels.
Sandstrom became fluent in Spanish and sponsored one family that wanted to immigrate to the United States. He was shocked at the hurdles they had to surmount. They had to sign a form pledging to refuse all U.S. government benefits for five years. Sandstrom thought of the people here illegally who accessed those benefits. It didn't sit right with him.
There are a couple of inaccuracies repeated in this short paragraph. First, the passage suggests that all it takes to immigrate to the U.S. is a financial sponsor like Sandstrom and a pledge not to access benefits. This is incorrect. It's true that each applicant for permanent residence must locate a U.S. citizen or permanent resident financial sponsor to sign an "affidavit of support," a requirement derived from the long-standing prohibition on accepting immigrants who will become a "public charge." But to apply for permanent residence in the first place, applicants must have an employer or close family member in the U.S. able and willing to file the underlying petition for them.
Most people who want to emigrate to the U.S. can't because they lack such a petitioner. A financial sponsor alone gets you nowhere. Yet most Americans believe that the U.S. takes all who wish to come, as long as they wait in the famous "line." This line is a fantasy. It only exists for the small number of people who have close family members in the U.S. or an employer willing to wade through the red tape and expense of an employment petition. And some of those fortunate enough to be able to wait in the line must wait 10, 15, even 20 years for a visa.
But the other myth that Sandstrom repeats to this reporter is perhaps even more pernicious, the myth that undocumented immigrants are on the dole, stealing money from taxpayers.
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 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:
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.