THE PRO-MIGRANT BLOGOSPHERE IS ALIGHT with talk of “The 38 Words” uttered in President Obama’s first State of the Union speech last night.
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THAT’S RIGHT dear friends and lurkers, shamans and barkers, señoras y señores and all matter of other lovers! Nezua is addicted to rounding up the immigration and brown-centric news, and so such content will be the non-ink un-writ upon Nezua’s new Weekly Undocument! Because even though I no longer write the Weekly Diaspora, you still need your glimpse of immigration news! ¿Que, no? And who is left standing upon this hoary tundra? Who! Who has the cojones to bring a phrase like Hoary Tundra into your wide-eyed presence? Nezua, that’s who. And The Weekly Undocument.
PS. If you want to send me news/tips to be included here, please do. I’ll save it up and look it over at end of week.
THE PRO-MIGRANT BLOGOSPHERE IS ALIGHT with talk of The 38 Words uttered in President Obama’s first State of the Union speech last night. Immigration advocates and activists alike were watching with baited Twitter client. Websites were liveblogging the SOTU. Obama was fill of spirit. At moments you felt hope rise that he’d hit it right. Or at least smack someone on the Right side of the aisle.
“Damn,” you said to yourself, beaming at the determined expression on Little Computer Screen Obama. “The way he is talking about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, he may just bring some of this fire to immigration reform!” And you waited for those words. You and your millions of Latino friends waited. (You have a big living room.)
But in the end, he sort of just slid it in under the wire.
“And we should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system – to secure our borders, enforce our laws, and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nations.”
—Barack Obama, State of the Union speech, 2010
As Sandip Roy of New America Media writes, that one sentence seemed nothing more than a “casual platitude.”
12 million undocumented immigrants deserved more than those 38 words.
“Continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system.”
Does that imply that Congress or the White House have been already busy fixing our broken immigration system? Were they doing it during the rest breaks in the middle of health care reform gridlock? If so, I missed the memo.
Yes, it sounds like a punt, eh? A missed opportunity. It felt that way to me.
Maegan la Mala at VivirLatino.com points out another missed opportunity: that of connecting the health care reform issue to immigration reform, and breaks it down to the community level in her post The President’s State of the Union: Missed Opportunities on the Push for Immigration and Health Care Reform.
While I was preparing mentally for the State of the Union address, I saw on the Spanish language news about an immigrant mujer, Alexandra Nunez, who died from massive bleeding during an abortion in a clinic walking distance from Casa Mala. A single mother, like me, made a decision about her body and life within the limits placed on her because of law and who she is.
During the State of the Union speech, Obama spoke about the problems with getting health care reform passed and spoke on immigration from a law and order perspective, following the laws and securing the borders. He failed, as so many do, in pointing out where health care reform and immigration reform intersect, in the very lost life of mami Alexandra Nunez.
The “law and order perspective” is very popular with many politicians and right-wingers alike, when talk of immigration arises. Why is that? Probably because the notion of criminality and Latinos is linked nearly every day, in the mouths of many a mainstream pundit. (And immigrants today are thought of as only—and erroneously—Mexican!) Images are reinforced in movies and video games and magazines. To talk of numbers of brown people coming over the border is to provoke an anxiety that the mainstream US mind will often try to soothe with the placebo of a prison prescription.
In many cases there is just a straight-up divide in worldview and life circumstance. As a friend, Prerna (the organizing force behind DreamActivist) wrote during a post-SOTU discussion on a list-serv today:
There’s a lot of strategies and egos, but then there are also broken families, wasted lives, unfulfilled dreams that no amount of driving legislation forward can change because we don’t get back lost time. Talk is cheap, free actually, but some of us just have to make do with what we have, take matters into our own hands or move on to greener pastures.
Civil disobedience, occupying buildings FTW.
So the level of frustration is high. And yet the need for action will not wane.
Is it time to occupy buildings? How far to step up our presence and voice at this point?
Is immigration reform “dead in the water” as some DC sources lament? Not at all, counter others. What is to be done? We’ll come back to that.
FROM KENNEDY TO BROWN
Teresa Puente in Massachusetts is pretty angry about Republican Scott ‘Happy Trail’ Brown—another subscriber to the Enforcement Model of reform—being elected to the U.S. Senate. On immigration, Brown is against “amnesty,” is for more border enforcement, and programs like E-Verify. Boo. Just another cardboard cutout GOP-tronmatic figure with no real or modern solutions in mind.
How does Puente see the chances for immigration reform in today’s political context?
If there isn’t the political will to pass health care reform, I see it as very difficult for President Obama to muster support for immigration reform.
But he shouldn’t turn away from it as legalizing immigrants can actually help strengthen the economy by bringing more people in to the tax base. Plus we can’t continue to have two classes of workers in this country.
Immigration reform is an issue of national and local importance. Local advocates and politicians want to remind Washington, D.C. that it matters to us here.
LatinoPoliticsBlog breaks down Brown’s position even more here. It doesn’t sound like “Brown will even be supportive of the DREAM Act” and does not see the “relative benefit to the economy that immigrants have been proven to bring.” LatinoPoliticsBlog, speaking of those in the local community, feels he may be “hard to warm up to” after Senator Kennedy, but that it is “certainly worth” lobbying him on these issues.
MORE SOTU GOODNESS
Tammy Johnson hosts a post-SOTU discussion with Chris Rabb and Lola Adesioye to get a feel for what the President was “saying to communities of color” and the tone of the speech, overall. Rabb sums that up as “sassy.” Pressed for more, Rabb defines Obama’s approach as “vigilant when he could’ve been licking his wounds,” saying he “pulled off a fairly bold speech.” Adesioye characterizes the speech as “Chiding,” like “a father telling his kids ‘listen, we’ve got work to do; get in line!” Adesioye goes on to pan the talk of pulling troops, but touch on how communities of color are affected by so many issues that won’t be solved by “middle class tax cuts.” Video below.
Michelle Chen of RaceWire further explores this truth of how communities of color are marginalized in the general move to restore economic stability, and how the “glossy oratory” of Obama’s SOTU was threaded with a “familiar sense of entitlement.” Chen points out that the new jobs bill is “deferential to free enterprise,” a dynamic that means growth will be attained “on the backs of the poor, people of color and other communities at the economic margins.”
Recovery, in the narrow frame that Obama has drawn, is about nurturing a “strong, healthy financial market” that “channels the savings of families into investments that raise incomes.” Who’s not in the picture? The families who are more likely to dip into their local food pantry than draw down their mutual funds.
As America’s Voice reports, Rep. Luis Gutierrez thinks the President did not go far enough, during his SOTU, to explain why the nation needs “real immigration reform.”
… [The President] did not go far enough for the four million American citizen children whose parents face deportation; the millions of Americans waiting to be reunited with loved ones overseas; hardworking Americans whose security is undermined in the workplace; women who are physically and sexually exploited on the floors of meatpacking plants; or the $1.5 trillion lacking from our Gross Domestic Product, all in the absence of real reform.
By the way, wanna a little insight into those meatpacking plants? Take your time with this one when you’ve a minute.
THE GENERAL MOOD AND A STREET LEVEL SUMMATION
It’s not just the blogs and activists taking a pause to wonder how effective their efforts have been so far and how The 38 Words can possibly signal anything other than immigration reform taking a backseat, or maybe even clinging to the bumper on a skateboard. As New America Media reports, “Latino media coverage revealed disappointment” overall, on Obama’s quickie paragraph on an issue so crucial to millions of human beings today. From La Opinion to Univision, the responses ranged from “the topic did not rank high profile in the address” to stating that the “scant mention” in the SOTU “left much to be desired.” Even NCLR, often right behind the White House and cheering all the way was less than excited with the President’s speech stating that the focus on health care reform was understandable, but that “we missed an opportunity” to link immigration reform to restoring the economy.
And that seems to happen time and time again, doesn’t it? The White House should have woven immigration reform into every topic it presented. That would help educate the people on the reality of the issue which is, after all, woven into every other issue we face as a nation. Perhaps then, too, there would not be this feeling of keeping the big bag behind the back, everyone fearing that the immigration issue will set the GOP’s rheumy eyes alight with loathing and a fury never known.
While nearly all the activists I am in touch with now are feeling a bit daunted by Obama’s lukewarm words on immigration reform, the country as polled remains very supportive of immigration reform [pdf]. So take a breath, amigas y amigos. We can do this. But as Dolores Huerta said about removing the criminal Sheriff Joe Arpaio on January 16th of this year, it’s not work that we can sit back and wait for Obama to do.
And that’s what my DC sources tell me. (Hey! Like Jerry Macguire—I’m laughing to use this comparison, trust me)—I take my contacts with me when I leave! And the goldfish!!!) The White House needs to see and hear us on this. The President as well as Reid and Schumer. Reid will no doubt defer to Schumer’s timeline (whatever that is), but it is true that Reid has been a backer of many facets of immigration reform, including the DREAM Act. I was assured specifically that Reid’s commitment to CIR is not a passing phase, but that he is constrained to follow the lead of Chuck Schumer.
My source (who has never once mentioned the Aspens turning in any particular direction, I promise you) feels these are the pressure points, and urges advocates and activists to present and drop in, meet with these lawmakers and make your voice known. Make clear your vision on what CIR ought contain. Insist on understanding what their views are. Bloggers are encouraged to present as allies, and by all means “hold their feet to the fire” but also open up lines of contact that might aid the movement on the DC side.
And McCain, the aide mentioned deliberately, as we talked about how to steer this ship in the right direction. John McCain is up for a primary. He should be made to answer for his current position on immigration, to declare it, to make it jibe with his past statements. Because as we know, he has made a lot of those.
You can intrepret all that as you want. I worry about Schumer’s stances, which (snore) echo so much of the heavy enforcement-make-them-messikinz-speaka-de-english stuff. I worry he is really buying this idea that the nation is hungry to see immigrants cowed, bowed, and broken before they can enter the fraternity of U.S. personhood.
But from different sources in DC I am getting almost a pleading that we media members and activists do not turn, in one great big hoary wave of malcontent (didja like that? Seems we have a word of the day!) And I get the feeling it is an earnest desire not to see what might be potential help in the fight turn into more opposition. Despite what you think about my goldfish, I’d say one thing is clear. We cannot give up. And we will not. Even if the White House punts on this issue, it cannot go away for many of us. This is a struggle that will last for life.
As Prerna wrote today:
it is folly to plan life according to the timeline of those with more privilege than you. The people “fighting” for #Immigration reform in DC will continue to have jobs and funding whether or not it passes. The same is not true for the millions more who continue to actually fight for survival, daily, in this broken immigration system. So our priorities are obviously very different.
This is true. And yet, many of us want to move in the same basic direction.
Take a breath if you need to. Take a break, even. I’ll be here when you’re ready to get back in the march. Reach out to me, to your compas, to your congresspeople, to whomever. Draw on the collective power of Good and that which your friends and allies emanate. Resistance to change on some matters is deeply entrenched. So is the power to overcome that resistance.
La Lucha Sigue.