Organizing: January 2011 Archives

U.S. support of dictators in Arab countries has for decades highlighted the contrast between America's words and its deeds on democracy. Now that system is under stress across the Arab world, from Tunisia to Egypt to Yemen, as people take to the streets to protest their governments.

Youth organized online and then on the streets in Egypt, as tens of thousands of protesters in recent days have challenged the autocratic government of Hosni Mubarak. Al Jazeera in Tunisia broadcast user-generated videos of police abuse found on Facebook, which then inspired others to film and distribute their own content, which fed the cycle.

It is inspiring to see oppressed people take their futures back from a corrupt elite. One day the oppressed in Egypt or Yemen may find they have more in common with the dispossessed in Arizona or Guatemala than their own venal rulers. If so, it'll probably happen on Facebook or something like it.

obama shaking hands.jpg

Some readers may wonder why I have spent so much time writing about Barack Obama and his action or inaction on immigration reform.

For example:

Obama Resumes Deportations to Ravaged Haiti
Obama and Fox News Latino Can't Have It Both Ways On Immigration
Pedro Gutierrez Asks President Obama to Defer His Deportation
Obama Praises DREAM Act While Deporting Dreamers
Obama: Deporting Immigrants So Republicans Don't Have To

And I'm not the only one:

Buyer Beware! Obama: The Deporter and Job Killer in Chief
"Obama is not the answer because he IS the problem"
Man the Deportations: Full Speed Ahead!
Halfway Through Term, Obama Still Hasn't Earned His Nobel Prize
Heroes and Zeroes of Immigrant Rights in 2010

... and many others.

But isn't the president a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act?

Didn't his Department of Justice sue Arizona to prevent implementation of the SB1070 racial profiling law?

Wouldn't it make more sense to spend time and energy pushing Republicans to compromise, to punish them politically for opposing comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act? Hasn't the real struggle moved away from federal legislation to the state and local level?

I think these are questions worth discussing, but I still believe the best national focus for action to achieve immigrant rights objectives is President Obama.

Each national politician who voted against the DREAM Act should be held accountable for betraying migrant youth. And there is a lot of work--both on offense and on defense--to be done on the state and local level.

But the immigrant rights movement should not neglect federal politicians or the 2012 presidential campaign, which has already begun.

First, Obama can be moved politically. The GOP's incentives are more mixed, and on balance run against supporting fair immigration reform.

From Imagine2050 comes word of the Freedom from Fear Award, "a new national award that will honor ordinary people who commit extraordinary acts of courage on behalf of immigrants and refugees."

Fifteen individuals who have contributed to the immigrant rights movement will be chosen to receive the award and a $5,000 prize. Nominations close February 28. Here is the nomination form.

It's likely that many readers of this blog know a Dreamer whose local group could use $5,000, no strings attached, to build capacity and push for progressive immigration reform. Or a Dreamer who could, with that money, afford to take some time off from waiting tables or selling fast food to organize full time. Or to cover some of next semester's tuition. So let the nominations commence!

California Assemblyman Gil Cedillo reintroduced a bill today that would make undocumented college students in California eligible for in-state financial aid. Prospects for passage of the California Dream Act are brighter this year since Governor Jerry Brown said he supported a previous version of the bill, while Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed it three times.

As a state measure, the law would have no effect on an applicant's immigration status, which falls under federal authority. Even so, passage of the bill would help undocumented residents of California pursue a college education and demonstrate the organizing power of migrant youth.

Please take a moment to sign the petition at DreamActivist asking Governor Brown and the California state legislature to pass the California Dream Act.

(Via DreamActivist and Colorlines.)

I haven't seen as much soul-searching, discussion, and fingerpointing within the immigrant rights movement as I expected after the 111th Congress ended with no measurable progress for the immigrant community in the U.S. Democrats spent the last two years claiming to be champions of the immigrant community but in the end accomplished nothing despite holding large majorities in both houses of Congress.

Since the DREAM Act was defeated in December, I haven't heard anything new from President Obama.

I haven't heard anything from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

From the Democratic leadership in the Senate.

From the Reform Immigration for America campaign.

From America's Voice or the National Immigration Forum.

From AILA.

Maybe I haven't been paying attention. Or maybe I haven't heard much that is new, something that doesn't replicate the failed strategy of the past several years.

I know some have been taking time to decompress after a fierce extended campaign. I know others have been depressed and unsure of what comes next.

I have to accept accountability for the current situation as well ... I've been working towards the goal of legalization for a few years with as little success as anyone else. And drifting from necessary introspection to counterproductive acrimony is a real danger.

But the silence right now is deafening.

Whatever happens going forward, the immigrant rights movement can't repeat the mistakes of the past several years. I hope that this silence from those who formulated and implemented the comprehensive immigration reform strategy represents a tacit acknowledgment that something went badly wrong. And that now it is time to listen to new voices and new ideas. I hope that conditions now are favorable for more vibrant discussions, more brainstorming, and more openness to new strategies.

I hope there is more space in this movement now for undocumented leadership, for leaders whose incentives, information, and experiences are more closely aligned with undocumented communities than current leadership. Leaders who would personally benefit from legalization will almost always fight harder than leaders who wouldn't.

I'll be writing more about this soon, but for now one of the few in-depth attempts to debrief I've seen so far in the new year is this one from Daniel Altschuler. Another is my co-blogger Kyle's recent post on priorities for 2011. Check them out, share your thoughts in comments here or at these posts. Write your own reaction and post the link in comments or email it to me or Kyle, or let us know about pieces you liked that we might have missed. Let's start talking.

As among the adherents to any major religion, there is a spectrum of views on migration among Mormons. This is one pro-migrant Mormon reading of kinship networks and migration. Here is an excerpt:

This is what a gentle Mormon radicalization looks like. This is how our fellow Mormons can become empathetically sensitized to the suffering of strangers: through the pedagogy of kinship, and the liberal urge to expand its lessons to others. It isn't the kind of radicalization that traditional revolutionaries pine for: it is no open insurrection against the government, no systematic critique of coercion or capital; not a declaration of insurgency or even any promise of a refusal to compromise in the future. Instead, it is a quiet, even a meek, refusal to accept the tyranny of the state, in one case, when it became just a little bit too much to stomach, and a decision to choose friendship and family instead.

In this post, Tristan discusses two types of kinship relations: vertical and horizontal. By vertical, he means traditional blood or legally-recognized relationships. Horizontal kinship refers to a universal human kinship which is a core precept of the Mormon faith and many others, that we are all brothers and sisters before God.

In my experience, the pressures, challenges, and opportunities faced by the contemporary immigrant rights movement has resulted in many members of the movement developing strong horizontal kinship relationships with one and other. Dreamers (and a few allies) are a tightknit bunch, much closer than many families, and in some cases, closer to each other than to their own families. Yet immigration law prioritizes vertical kinship relationships, which in turn has lead the immigrant rights movement to focus rhetoric and strategy on vertical kinship. I don't like seeing families broken up by the Obama administration, and vertical kinship relations provide value and stability to many people. But we could benefit from thinking more intentionally about the role of horizontal kinship relationships in immigrant rights messaging, policy goals, and organizing.

Change.org's Immigrant Rights page is a good source of information and a portal for taking action through targeted online petitions. (Disclosure: I used to blog there.) Petitions are no substitute for other types of offline action, but I have seen their effectiveness in leveraging other forms of support in deportation defense cases. Targeted petitions can bring visibility to individual cases that otherwise would be swept under the rug by the Obama administration. I speculate that they might also be a type of "gateway" activism, informing and engaging participants who are then more likely to pick up the phone to call legislators, attend rallies, and meet like-minded people offline.

With that in mind, here are three recent immigrant rights petitions on change.org. If you would like to add your voice to those who have already signed, jump on in:

Ask President Obama to save Florinda and halt ICE's "Secure Communities" program.
Florinda is the mother of U.S. citizen children, and is at risk of deportation because of the notorious "Secure Communities" program. "Secure Communities" puts local police at work enforcing immigration law - misusing local resources and undermining of community/police relations. U.S. citizens, babies and kids are separated from their parents and family members because of "Secure Communities."

PLEASE HELP US FREE INNOCENT 19YR OLD PEDRO JOEL ESPINOZA!!!!!!!!!!

My boyfriend was brought to the U.S at 3months old by his father, he is now 19yrs old and has been here all his life, his dad was going to help get his legal status but his dad passed away when he was 4years old and his grandma who had legal status had a petiton set up for him and other grand kids to get their legal status but during the process she died and they canceled everything. He was currently attending school to get his diploma, he was riding his bike home to get clothes to go camping with us and got stopped for riding without a light, now hes been in jail for almost 2 months on no charges, hes never been in trouble. In a second his life changed, he didnt ask to be brought here. Everyday he is calling us crying so scared that he will get deported to a country hes never been to and has no family or place to live.

Don't Hold Tucson's School District Hostage For Teaching Hispanic Heritage

The Tucson school board, student activists, Ethnic Studies teachers and educators agree -- the Ethnic Studies program is a great asset to students in Arizona. Tell the state's Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education to overturn Horne's ruling and keep this valuable program running.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Organizing category from January 2011.

Organizing: December 2010 is the previous archive.

Organizing: March 2011 is the next archive.

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