Tag: American Dream Act

Delayed Reaction

The only question is what took so long.

Today, President Obama announced that the US government will no longer hunt down young people to deport, giving America a watered-down, de facto version of the Dream Act.

One could argue that Obama was just playing politics. Yes, his approval rating is sky high with Latinos, but there is a general lack of enthusiasm for his policies, probably brought on by the fact that he has deported more people than any other president. So perhaps today’s speech was about getting Hispanics enthused to vote for the guy again.

But I fail to see what is wrong with that. Apparently, the GOP riling up bigots to hate Latinos is just “appealing to the base.” However, Obama trying to earn Hispanic votes is “pandering.” It’s an interesting dichotomy.

The point is that today’s announcement  is a positive step that will have a direct impact on the lives of those young people who did not knowingly break the law, and who have great potential to contribute to America.

Yes, it took awhile, but at least it’s a start.

No More Getting Pushed Around

When I was a kid, my mother provoked a controversy in our neighborhood by demanding more funding for local schools. She even got in the mayor’s face about it during a public hearing.

Our neighbors, as well as the people who went to our church, were scandalized. It wasn’t that anyone disagreed with her about the pathetic state of the schools. No, what caused them to whisper among themselves was the fact that she had spoken up about it.

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Marketing 101

Many thanks to everyone who has recently commented on my posts. You’re all in the running for copies of Raul Ramos y Sanchez’s novels as part of my latest giveaway.

I have to admit, however, that Emmasota’s comment about the Dream Act’s demise conjured up an unpleasant memory for me.

You see, last year I worked with a nonprofit to advocate for the passage of the Dream Act. I knew the odds were long, and of course, the legislation ultimately didn’t pass.

But I would feel better today about fighting the good fight if I hadn’t known, at the time, that our approach was doomed. I had a queasy sensation early on, when I saw one of the video packages that the nonprofit put together (I wasn’t involved with that stage of the campaign).

The video featured kids who would directly benefit from the Dream Act’s passage. Much of it was good, with heart-tugging stories from all-American, clean-cut teens.

But then the bottom fell out. The voiceover threw around terms like “fairness” and “justice.” And one of the teens stated that he “deserved” the rights that the Dream Act would confer.

I knew it was over as soon as the kid said that word.

Americans don’t want to hear that anybody deserves anything. Hell, many citizens will lose their minds if one implies that they deserve basic healthcare (and that’s in their own self-interest!). They certainly don’t want to hear that some whiny kid who wasn’t even born in this country “deserves” his rights.

Sending a video to media outlets and political leaders that featured this tone-deaf tactic just stunned me. Clearly, many advocates of immigration reform haven’t learned the importance of basic marketing.

They continue to push the compassion angle, or back up their assertions with facts that impress no one.

But if the Bush years taught us anything, it’s that sympathy is for suckers. More important, we learned that the truth is irrelevant. Or it’s at least a distant second to proper messaging.

How else do you think conservatives got an overwhelming majority of Americans to embrace a war that made absolutely no sense?

Other progressive movements have learned this tactic.

For example, gay rights are also issue of fairness and basic justice. Yet, advocates of repealing the DADT Policy went easy on this essential truth. Instead, they successfully presented the issue as one that was necessary to America’s well-being.

The message was, basically, “We need all the help we can get establishing a strong military and intelligence network. This will keep America safe, so drop your prejudice in favor of simple self-preservation.”

It worked. DADT is history.

Immigration-reform advocates need to adopt this strategy. Instead of pointing out about how unfair or irrational our policies are — which is true but a loser’s lament — hit people in the wallet by making it clear that a massive-deportation philosophy will cost them money. Or hammer home the idea that policies such as the Dream Act will improve the economy and strengthen the military.

In other words, let’s see more about how immigration reform will benefit current citizens, instead of pleading that civil rights be extended to strangers.

It may not be pretty, or even that principled. But it has to be more effective than what we’ve accomplished so far.

Just Words?

Earlier this week, the United States celebrated MLK Day. For the last quarter-century, we’ve marked this occasion with tributes and speeches that restate ideals that shouldn’t need to be restated. I’m talking about the basics: shunning bigotry, treating individuals of different backgrounds with respect, judging people by the content of their character, and so on. We really should have these concepts down by now, but we don’t.

In any case, Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy is framed within the context of civil rights. Indeed, the phrase “civil rights movement” is practically trademarked to refer to the quest of African Americans in the 1960s to gain the privileges promised to them in the U.S. Constitution.

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You Can’t Win ‘Em All

Thanks to Lucifurry and Ankhesen Mie for their recent comments on my posts.

Perhaps they were as surprised as I was to find out that, in 2011, gay soldiers are less controversial than undocumented immigrants.

Yes, in a final burst of lame-duck progressivism, the U.S. Congress rightfully eliminated the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy at the end of 2010. As happy as I am for gay-rights activists, I feel a twinge of jealousy that about five minutes before the Senate decided to give the homophobia a break, these same people said, “But those brown-skinned kids still have to go.

Even though they were willing to deal with President Obama on just about every other piece of last-minute legislation, Republicans squashed the Dream Act as if it were a pesky mosquito.

Clearly, getting tough on illegals is still a resonant theme for the GOP. This is despite the fact that it is long-term political suicide to piss off the fastest-growing demographic in America.

The approach also ignores the fact that “Americans are more inclined to support than oppose legislation similar to the Dream Act.”

So even popular appeal is not enough to pass this most modest of reforms, which “was originally designed to be the first in a sequence of measures to resolve the status of the nation’s illegal immigrants.”

Rather than a starting point, however, the Dream Act became a flash point, proving that “in the age of stalemate, immigration may have a special place in the firmament.”

Indeed, could anyone have predicted, a decade ago, that Republicans would be more willing to say nice things about homosexuals than they are to pass immigration reform that’s actually beneficial to their big-business overlords?

And the miniscule progress that has been made will soon be wiped out, because “when Republican lawmakers take over the House and gain strength in the Senate … a decade-long drive to overhaul the immigration system and legalize some of the estimated 11 million undocumented migrants seems all but certain to come to a halt.”

The optimists among us insist that change is still possible. In fact, President Obama recently told Congressional Hispanic Caucus members that “he’ll renew his push for comprehensive immigration reform in 2011 — even though such an effort would face even longer odds in a Congress where Republicans control the House.”

But quixotic efforts aside, no one expects the issue to be resolved in time for, say, the 2012 elections. That means it will once again be open season on the undocumented (and by extension, Latinos) during the presidential campaign.

If only we were as popular and universally beloved as gay people are… yes that’s sarcasm.

Stop that Dreaming

The Dream Act may not be dead. But it is most certainly on hold, and no one is sure for how long.

The U.S. Senate did not directly kill the bill. Rather, Senate Republicans filibustered the defense authorization bill. The reason was that the Dream Act, as well as the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal, were amendments to the legislation. These two bits of conservative wolfbane were too much for Republicans to stomach. So they voted, en masse and without exception, to deny the bill’s passage.

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Pounding the Pavement

I’m not big on symbolic acts. For example, candlelight vigils, no matter how noble the cause, tend to annoy me. And when I was Catholic, I could never figure out how abstaining from meat on Fridays was anything other than a mild gesture that was unlikely to appease an omnipotent being.

So when I heard about the Dream Walkers, I was dubious. Now I certainly didn’t doubt their sincerity and courage, but I questioned whether their strategy would lead to anything meaningful.

The Dream Walkers, in case you don’t know, are four Latino college students from Florida who pledged to walk the fifteen hundred miles from Miami to Washington DC in order to raise awareness for the Dream Act (see my previous post on this). The students also want the government to step up on immigration reform.

Besides getting them some exercise, I wasn’t sure this interstate marathon was going to be too productive. However, the students have thus far completed their trek to DC, met with Valerie Jarret (one of President Obama’s top advisors), garnered publicity and conducted multiple interviews to educate people about the Dream Act, and even coaxed a hug out of Sherriff Joe Arpaio. That last one freaks me out.

Currently, the Dream Walkers are on stage two of their campaign. They are travelling to immigrant communities, where they will document the horrors of our messed-up immigration system. They will collect testimonials about botched deportation procedures and terrifying raids, then return to Washington DC to present their findings.

I don’t know where the students will end up, or how long they will be on the road. I also don’t know what the result of all their hard work will be.

But so far, the four of them have accomplished a hell of a lot more than even the largest candlelight vigil.

We Like Them Young and Dumb

I’ve written before about the demographic change taking place in America. Specifically, ethnic minorities, led by Latinos, are reproducing at a faster pace than white Americans are. As such, in the near future, the United States will be a minority-majority country.

This has caused much teeth gnashing and wailing among overt racists, of course. But many other people who deny prejudice or ethnic animosity have also expressed their concern. Their deep-seeded fear, masked as logical concern, is that Latino teenagers have the highest dropout rate of any ethnic group. As such, they’re afraid that at some point, a legion of uneducated Hispanics will take over the nation and send us into an abyss.

Their solution – let’s try to kick out as many Latinos as we can now – is bigoted of course. But more than that, it’s impractical. No matter what they do, white people will one day be, if not minorities themselves, no more than a plurality.

One would think, therefore, that instead of simply bemoaning the fact that too many Hispanic teens aren’t finishing school, the majority culture would strive to make sure that the largest subgroup of younger Americans will be better educated.

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Now What Happens?

Here at Fanatic worldwide headquarters, we all want to know what the Obama administration will mean to Latinos. My guess is that it will mean roughly the same thing that it means to everyone else (eg, change, hope, cries of “socialism!” etc), with an extra tint of pride beyond what most white people feel – but which still falls short of the absolute joy that African Americans feel.

The first detail to address is the makeup of his administration. We’re talking about a biracial liberal whose candidacy attracted voters of every conceivable race, creed, and demographic. He’s more or less promised to rehabilitate the term “diversity” and transform it, Cinderella style, into a beautiful princess, instead of leaving it to toil in the social conservatives’ kitchen.

Specifically, there is some talk (possibly scurrilous, because there’s nothing better than “scurrilous talk”) of Bill Richardson getting to call his Cabinet post. Besides being well-qualified for just about any administration gig, this high-profile Latino did help Obama score New Mexico. So a Richardson appointment would be both political payback and good for the country, and we know how rare that combination is after the abject cronyism of the Bush administration, where competence was a humorous afterthought compared to loyalty and ideology.

Next, we have to ponder those issues that resonate most with Hispanics. Conveniently, most of these issues are also big guns with the general population. After all, Latinos are not any more or less obsessed with jobs, health care, and education than white people are – it’s just that Hispanics have grown weary of receiving the poorest quality in all of these areas. Any Obama policies that move Latinos closer to the standards enjoyed by the general population will receive a resounding “Si, se puede!”

Already, Obama’s transition team has identified hundreds of executive orders that the new president will overturn, amend, or just bury in the White House backyard. In addition, Obama’s ideas on taxation – and his drive to reform the previously mentioned problem areas of education and health care – may have a direct impact on the Latino standard of living. Much depends on whether the minority party (an ironic moniker under the circumstances) decides to pick a fight over what constitutes “socialism.”

The most pressing topic that appeals specifically to Hispanics, of course, is immigration. This tends to be true regardless of whether one is illegal or a third-generation citizen. For Obama, this issue gets dicey, because Bush and McCain were actually at odds with their own party’s hard-line stance, meaning that the president-elect would have to be even more open about immigration to differentiate himself from his opponents.

So one has to ponder if guest-worker programs will move forward. Also, will there be a nationwide American Dream Act, or is this piece of equitable legislation fated to be battled over in state after state? And what will happen to those so-called amnesty provisions?

In all likelihood, the answer is that not much will come of the new president’s apparently sincere desire to make this country a better place for immigrants. There simply isn’t the bandwidth. Obama will be so swamped trying to dig the economy out of the toilet and dealing with two floundering wars that I doubt any serious movement on immigration will happen before, say, 2012.

And just think, at that point, all this fun starts again.

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