[Please sign the petition, above, and ask Boston to stop allowing the federal government to turn our local police into border patrol agents.]
Boston has made one mistake too many in trying to enforce federal immigration law.
The city is currently enrolled in the federal program with the Orwellian name Secure Communities (S-Comm), which forces local police to check the immigration status of anyone they arrest. The Obama administration wants to force every local police force in the U.S. to enroll in this program by 2013, but states and localities across the nation are resisting. If migrant communities are afraid to go to their local police officers to report crimes, then all residents are less safe. Following the governors of Illinois and New York, the governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, recently declined to participate in the program.
While the program is under review in Boston, the latest Boston Globe article from Maria Sacchetti makes clear that the time for Boston to terminate its S-Comm program is now. With DREAMer Lizandra DeMoura now in deportation proceedings, this program has manifestly done enough damage to our communities.
It's easy to understand why the federal government approached Boston about doing this. As one of the most pro-migrant major cities in the U.S., involving Boston early would blunt criticism against S-Comm later. Immigration and Customs Enforcement also promised all participants in S-Comm that the purpose of the program would be to target the worst of the worst for deportation.
If you're as moved as Mathew Yglesias has been moved, and there's only one thing you do in reaction to Vargas' story call Barack Obama through Presente.org and ask him to stop deporting people like Vargas.
Media Matters has a good round-up of the nativist conservatives that are committing demographic suicide by going berserk over this story. I'll write more on the nativists, later, but Vargas' story has highlighted, yet again, for me, how far progressives and the mainstream media have to go before they can begin to cover these stories accurately and with a semblance of humanity. Let's start with Heather Horn staff writer at The Atlantic:
Whatever you think of the illegal immigration issue, it's hard to dispute that there's a fundamental injustice occurring if Vargas gets let off the hook, while hundreds of thousands of other illegals get deported. Even those who want to see productive illegal immigrants granted amnesty might admit that making exceptions purely based on prominence isn't right. What if there's someone as intelligent and productive as Vargas--but not as famous--out there right now?
Wow. I don't even know where to start. While I somehow doubt Horn's concern for the "hundreds of thousands" that are being deported I've already told people who are concerned to call Barack Obama and ask that his administration use discretion to stop deporting people like Vargas. Recognizing that, I'll start simple with Horn's use of the term "illegal". More people have referred to Vargas as an "illegal immigrant" at this point than I care to count. Not only is that phrase dehumanizing, it's legally innaccurate. No human being is illegal. The word illegal should be used to describe acts, not to define people. Horn, however, goes a step further than dehumanization and legal innaccuracy and gets into butchering grammar with her use of the word "illegals." Sorry Ms. Horn, the word "illegal" is not a noun. Maybe you and the nativists who dehumanize people with the term "illegals" should start taking English lessons from undocumented people like Vargas. If you haven't signed the pledge to Drop The I-Word, please do so.
I'm sympathetic to Matt Yglesias' view that we should empathize with all people who come to the United States in search of a better life, even if, unlike Vargas, they do so knowing that what they're doing is illegal. But I've also worked with foreign-born journalists who've paid thousands or tens of thousands of dollars and waded through miles of red tape and seemingly senseless regulations—including, sometimes, returning to their home countries for a period—in order to work in this country.* (This applies outside of journalism, too, of course.) I wonder how they're feeling about Jose Antonio Vargas this morning.
It's difficult for me not to descend into sarcasm after reading this. Does Baumann really think that foreign journalists envy Vargas' position, right now, or for the last decade and a half, for that matter? Would Baumann care to get any of those foreign journalists on record so we know who those heartless bastards are? I thought the supposedly liberal Mother Jones magazine really took a step forward when reporter Tim Murphy stopped using the word "illegal," but Baumann just put the magazine another huge step backward in the anti-migrant direction with this post. Finally, I'll refer to Bryan Preston over at Pajamas Media whom I believe most succinctly provides the nativist view:
He took at least two jobs that otherwise would have gone to others who are here legally.
At Netroots Nation, Felipe Matos of the Trail of Dreams caught White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer in two lies, yesterday: (1) Obama "hears from DREAM Act Students all the time," and (2) Obama "does not have the executive authority [to stop the deportations of DREAMers]."
The first lie is probably the greatest disrespect to the migrant youth movement. It is not widely known that Obama refuses to meet with undocumented people himself. Undocumented youth have certainly confronted him at public events, but Obama refuses to meet with undocumented people to talk with them about an immigration system that is doing violence to them.
Felipe Matos would know that Obama refuses to meet with undocumented people because he himself walked 1,500 miles from Miami, FL, to Washington, D.C. only to be denied a meeting with Obama. Obama has met with currently documented former DREAMers, but not with undocumented youth themselves. Felipe himself makes this clear in the video, only to be dismissed by Pfeiffer:
Felipe Matos: He has spoken to people who are not DREAM Act-eligible, people who are not undocumented, because he has made it very clear that he doesn't want to talk to undocumented people.
Dan Pfeiffer: I don't think that's accurate.
Felipe Matos: I mean I was in meetings with Valerie Jarrett when she told me that so I know it's accurate.
While the first lie is disrespectful to the migrant youth movement, it is probably the second lie that does the most violence to migrant communities. Obama does have the power to grant administrative relief to migrant communities. The Immigration Policy Center has made that very clear.
As a former teacher of constitutional law, and as the signatory of nearly 80 Executive Orders, President Obama understands that the role of the Executive branch of the U.S. government has never been limited to blindly enforcing laws passed by the Legislative branch. In fact, the effective implementation of any law (criminal law, tax law, environmental law, securities law, etc.), requires the Executive branch to interpret that law and develop strategies to implement it. Every new administration brings its own set of values and priorities to this task. That is why federal regulations, policies, and procedures change from administration to administration.
This fundamental fact has been repeatedly recognized by the Obama Administration outside of the immigration context. Speaking in 2008, President Obama’s transition chief, John Podesta, noted: “There’s a lot that the President can do using his executive authority without waiting for congressional action, and I think we’ll see the president do that.” Speaking in 2010, White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer observed: “The challenges we had to address in 2009 ensured that the center of action would be in Congress. In 2010, executive actions will also play a key role in advancing the agenda.”
I'm struggling a little bit with categorizing these as lies so blatantly right now, primarily because I feel an unproductive narrative of liberal anger at Obama is emerging from Netroots Nation. Were I to craft my own productive narrative of why Obama needs to provide administrative relief to migrant communities, it would go something like this:
We're not asking Obama to ignore the laws that are already on the books, as broken, unjust, and violent as we feel those laws are. What we are saying is that the Obama administration has limited resources to enforce the law, and that his administration should use those resources wisely. At a time when the federal government is struggling with a growing deficit, it makes no sense to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars detaining and deporting young people who know no other country as their home, or any undocumented people with strong and productive ties to their communities in the U.S. for that matter. Even with the Obama administration deporting over 400,000 people a year, now, the undocumented population continues to hover at around 11 million people. There's even research to suggest (pdf) that heavy enforcement actually increases the undocumented population in the U.S., not because more people are coming in, but because less people want or are able to leave.
If Obama continues to force pro-migrant voters to choose between helping to elect him, and stopping the deportations of our family members, friends, and peers, guess where we're going to put our energy? Dreamers have regularly shown the ability to mobilize tens of thousands of people to stop their deportations one-by-one. Wouldn't Obama prefer that they direct their energy at convincing or electing lawmakers who can change the laws, rather than have us continue to direct our energy at his administration?
As it gets closer and closer to election time, pressure is going to increase on the pro-migrant movement to shut our mouths lest we help elect a nativist Republican to the presidency. It's difficult to say where different pro-migrant groups will fall as that pressure increases but I can say that I certainly won't help elect someone that continues to decimate my community. With Obama deporting more people that George W. Bush ever did, and now implementing a program, [In]Secure Communities, which would turn every local police officer into a border patrol agent by 2013, there might even be situations where a Republican president would be better for the pro-migrant community.
In other words, does Obama want to continue wasting limited resources and grassroots energy by continuing to deport folks who don't need to be deported, or does he want to save money and direct that energy towards lawmakers who should be taking responsibility for fixing this unjust immigration system? I hope the answer is clear and that Obama grants migrant communities administrative relief.
Briefly, for those who don't want to read my previous post, the Gaby Pacheco challenge invokes the revolutionary idea that the people you defame on the air, in this case Megyn Kelly's "illegals", should get a chance to speak for themselves.
Gaby Pacheco is an undocumented student leader from Florida who wants to be a special needs teacher. After she spoke out publicly about her immigration status, her family was detained. She walked 1,500 miles for the DREAM Act on what was dubbed the Trail of DREAMs. Despite the fact the the only country she knows as her home refuses to recognize her existence, Gaby is not bitter or hateful. In fact, upon meeting the notorious nativist Sheriff Joe Arpaio, she hugged him. Gaby loves this country more than I ever will.
I issued the Gaby Pacheco challenge to Michelle Malkin in my last post. The fact that all I've received is silence shows, I think, the cowardliness and meaninglessness of the nativist noise machine. Why can't Michelle Malkin have the decency to sit down and have a conversation with the people and communities she defames on the air and in print?
I'm now issuing the same challenge to Kelly. Kelly invited Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) onto her FOX News show, America Live. She regularly interrupts Gutierrez and exhumes a festering potpourri of half-truths posed as questions. But there was nothing more grating to my ear than Kelly's use of the word "illegals."
I think even people who are really really against illegal immigration have more empathy for kids who were brought here through no choice of their own by there parents, who are illegals because their parents made a decision that the kids had nothing to do with.
I believe very strongly that no human being is illegal, and that the the phrase embodies the essence of the global pro-migrant movement. That is why, rather than use the adjective "illegal" to define someone's very existence, I prefer to use the terms undocumented or unauthorized. If people absolutely must use the word "illegal" to describe what's happening than use it to describe the action, not to define the person. In other words say, people who migrated here illegally, rather than "illegal immigrants." The media has accepted this dehumanizing phrase "illegal immigrants" as the "objective" way to describe people and I'm sad to say that even I have become desensitized to it.
The fate of almost a million lives could be decided in the next six hours. As a voter, as a millenial, as a migrant, as a Guatemalan, I'm writing to say that I will be watching along with the vast majority of those who will determine the future of the United States of America.
If you haven't heard about the DREAM Act yet I wouldn't be surprised. The media has largely been focused on the train wreck that is Christine O'Donnell's campaign. But the mainstream media is missing out on one of the most suspenseful political dramas I've ever witnessed. No one knows if we have the votes to beat the filibuster in the Senate, today. If we don't beat it, the National Defense Authorization Act will likely have to wait until after the elections. At that point, all bets are off.
One of the most compelling elements of this political drama has been the interaction between The LGBT movement and the migrant youth movement. What to an outsider might be perceived as two unrelated constituencies, perhaps even hostile to each other, have been working long before this moment to build unity and solidarity. It is one thing to believe in the truth that we are all woven into a "single garment of destiny." It is another to live that truth and act on it. The migrant youth movement and the LGBT movement having been living and acting on that truth, as we all should. My freedom is tied up with the freedom of everyone else in the universe, and tomorrow we have a chance to set close to a million people free.
Again, the media hasn't been watching but everyone who matters everyone who will decide the future of this country is watching. The DREAM Act has been front-page news on major Spanish language newspapers all week, and featured heavily on Spanish language television. The U.S.'s largest and fastest growing minority, Latinos, is watching, today. Educators and students from around the country have organized for and come out in support of the DREAM Act. The next generation is watching, today. Facebook and twitter have blown up with mentions of the DREAM Act, and traffic on the sites covering the DREAM Act is through the roof. Business leaders, religious leaders, and military leaders have all come out strong in support of the DREAM Act. If the Senate fails to move the DREAM Act forward today, we will all be watching and we won't just remember this November, but for the rest of our lives.
According to a poll commissioned by First Focus, 70% of the U.S. public supports the DREAM Act. Multiple polls show that a majority of the U.S. public supports the repeal of DADT. Republicans, for the most part, are floating arguments about procedure. They are saying that Democrats are playing politics with the National Defense Authorization Act. Republicans are playing politics, too, and have used the procedure of the filibuster to grind the Senate to a halt for two years. Playing politics is what politicians do. The public doesn't care about politicians playing politics or what procedures are used as long as Congress does their job and gets things done. It's time for Congress to get two things done that the majority of Americans support.
Republicans, especially, face an important choice, today. They can please their increasingly regional extremist base and relegate themselves to irrelevancy for a generation, or they can do the right thing and be competitive with the next generation of voters.
If we win, today, we will face an even steeper uphill battle, but we will all be watching. Failure has not entered into my mind. We will pass the DREAM Act and DADT will be repealed. It is no longer a question of if, but a question of when. The time is now and whomever stands in the way will regret it for a long time.