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Back from the Dead (with thoughts on the failure to include LGBT couples in immigration reform)

22 May

I started writing this as a comment to a friend’s post on facebook, but then it got really long and then I thought, “hey, didn’t I I used to have a blog where I ranted about stuff?” So here are my thoughts about the disappointment of many that binational couples were not included in the immigration reform bill that just passed the Senate judiciary committee.

There is no explanation but a political one for the failure of the Uniting American Families Act.  There aren’t the votes for UAFA.  There are 100 senators, and not enough of them will support the provision. In the Republican House its chances are somewhere in the negative range.  That may not be a reality we like, but it is an undeniable reality.  The question the movement for Commonsense Immigration Reform was/is faced with is: Are we ok with halting the bill altogether, with sacrificing the legalization of 11 million people to make a point? We may not like the choices, but that is what they are right now. Either accept a bill without UAFA, which its proponents say will help approximately 40,000 people, or insist on it and stop any chance of legalization for 11 million people. My answer: I support UAFA but I’m not willing to sacrifice 11 million for those 40,000. Call me a sellout.  I’m sure this blogger would. She writes about yesterday’s disappointing news:

I completely and totally reject this decision due to the fact that my husband will have a permanent residency appointment in the very near future because of our heterosexual privilege.

In my world, there’s no excuse, no manner to explain away what happened yesterday. I will not simply tweet out a consolatory message, or rue the fact that sacrifices had to be made.

And those so-called immigrant activists? Those same ones who dare to tell you binational same-sex couples that, “Once the reform becomes law, we’ll come back for the you,” or say to you with earnest eyes, “Don’t worry – The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) will be struck down next month.”

Those same activists who supposedly believe that, “No human being is illegal?”

I’ll gladly help you slap each and every one of those so-called immigration activists clear across the face.

In Love and Solidarity Always,

Giselle

PS And all of you supposedly pro-immigrant organizations, groups and individuals that are sending out congratulatory messages, all of you in the online and offline community who were chanting proudly after the vote at the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting yesterday, I offer this to you:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.”

-Martin Niemöller

We are right to fight for UAFA, and author’s blunt words come from real conviction. But support for UAFA is not the question.  Read the whole blog post and you’ll see there is a lot of passion, there is no answer to the question above.  Should the whole bill go down because UAFA is not in it?  I’m not dismissive of her passion but her need to mock and deride those who dared celebrate committee passage of the full bill, that’s a little much.  And the over-used Niemoller quote? Puh-leaze.

The fight for immigration reform began in the 80s after the last one still did not create a sane system to keep people from coming to the country and having to live in the shadows. The Uniting American Families Act is legislation was first introduced in 2000 but has had no real support until very recently. That doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile, it just means that there has not been the kind of movement behind of UAFA that has finally put CIR on the table.

And then there are the really annoying gay blogger/activists, like John Aravosis of americablog.com, who in a tweetrage about the withdrawal of the Leahy Amendment, had this to say:

That tells you all you need to know about some of the loudest voices on this subject right now. When Aravosis pulls out the “we’re not law-breakers” line (he’s done it before) he is reminding everyone this bill is only helping those horrible “illegals.” It’s disgusting. Worse, elsewhere he has mocked the idea that legalizing 11 million people does help gay people because many of those 11 million are gay. That’s whose leading the charge among the prominent gay politicos on calling those of us not willing to sacrifice 11 million sellouts.

Aravosis. Mean Gay.

Aravosis. Mean Gay.

The fight for marriage equality has made enormous strides in recent years. I support it and, in fact, I rearranged my life in the last two years to defeat the horrible Minnesota amendment and then pass equality. As a gay man who is a citizen of this country I must acknowledge a fact that I hope others can ponder: the cause of gay rights, especially regarding marriage, have progressed far more rapidly than any progress made for immigrants living in shadows. In fact, things have only gotten worse, dramatically worse.

Of course I support the goals of UAFA. But the political reality of vote-counting says it won’t happen and insistence on it will sink a bill that does a lot of the things we do need to have happen, including legalizing millions.  In politics sometimes the choices are stark.  In this case, I’ll take the imperfect and move on to fight another day.

[I’m taking a bit of a leave from work. After suffering through a chronic neck connection all winter, a couple weeks ago I threw out my back. “What were you doing?”, I was asked by an ER nurse. “Putting on socks. While being old.”  With my body telling me I need a rest, I’m taking a much needed long vacation.  One thing I do hope to do on that leave is, now that I have re-discovered it, is write about the world and stuff on this blog.]

We’re Better At This (and Other Reflections on the Past Week)

9 Sep

The awesome Jess McIntosh of Emily’s List summed up the Democrat’s week in Charlotte in one pithy tweet: “We’re better at this.”

In the past I’ve often lamented the fact that, while Democrats put forward good, solid candidates for higher office the candidates and the party often  did not tell a good story about these candidates and our collective values.  We have underestimated the power of narrative and the necessity of presenting a candidate who people can relate to, can see themselves liking or even hanging out with.

So which party used their convention to tell a better story about their candidate and values?

Let’s review the Republican week.  Stories about Day One of the their convention were dominated by keynote speaker Chris Christie’s curious decision to leave Mitt Romney out of his speech. Coverage of Day Two focused on vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s Trouble with the Truth, and Day Three, the day when Mitt should have shone — he was upstaged by Clint Eastwood’s transformation into Grandpa Abe Simpson, yelling at a chair.

Poor Mitt, upstaged by Grandpa Simpson.

In these days of instant and decentralized media, and where political conventions are recognized as little more than three-day political commercials, The Democratic Party and the Obama campaign did a fantastic job of telling a story.

I think the most important speech of the week was given by the First Lady. She told a story not just about Barack, her husband, but a story about competing visions of America.  Without ever mentioning her husband’s opponent, Mrs. Obama presented the two candidates as a tale of stark contrasts. She said that families like hers and Barack’s didn’t begrudge others’ success, despite their own struggles; in fact, they admired those who were successful.  But, she underscored, Barack Obama “believes that when you work hard and done well and walk through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you.”

Huffington Post Sums It Up.

The most soaring moment of that speech, when I literally could not believe the power of Mrs. Obama’s words, came when she painted a picture of an America that overcomes:

 If — if farmers and — and blacksmiths could win an independence from an empire, if — if immigrants could leave
behind everything they knew for a better life on our shores, if women can be dragged to jail for seeking to vote, if a generation could defeat a depression and define greatness for all time, if a young preacher could lift us to the mountain top with his righteous dream, and if proud Americans can be who they are and boldly stand at the altar with who they love, then surely, surely, we can give everyone in this country a fair chance at that great American dream.

If you missed the speech, stop reading and watch now:

Julián Castro: The American Dream is not a Sprint or a Marathon. It’s a Relay RaceYes, the Republican Convention had New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, and Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval speak in Tampa, in an effort to stem the bleeding with Latino voters.   The many Latino speakers at the DNC had an advantage, of course, over their Republican counterparts. The Democratic Party Platform on issues important to Latinos, such as immigration, weren’t written by the likes of Kris Kobach, the virulently anti-immigrant Republican who wrote that party’s “self-deportation” platform.   When Antonio Villarraigosa, Ken Salazar, Cristina Saralegui, Eva Longoria and, of course, keynote speaker Julian Castro spoke to the values of their party, they didn’t have to run from their party’s platform.  All they had to do was point out the differences between the two party’s visions to confirm the choice that the vast majority of Latino have already made to support Barack Obama.Speaking on the same night as the First Lady, the Mayor of San Antonio also presented an eloquent vision of an America where people celebrate success but also help each other out.  In my favorite passage, he said:

In the end, the American dream is not a sprint, or even a marathon, but a relay. Our families don’t always cross the finish line in the span of one generation. But each generation passes on to the next the fruits of their labor. My grandmother never owned a house. She cleaned other people’s houses so she could afford to rent her own. But she saw her daughter become the first in her family to graduate from college. And my mother fought hard for civil rights so that instead of a mop, I could hold this microphone.

Beautiful.

Oh, and he has an incredibly cute kid, with a mean hair flip:

Bill Clinton & Comparing Obama to Obama

In the lead-up to President Clinton’s Wednesday night speech, the political press fell into one of its periodic fits of convulsive stupidity.  Would Clinton go off script?  Would the “tensions”  in the Obama/Clinton relationship shine through? And, of course, will Clinton outshine or overshadow the President?

Did these reporters not remember writing these exact same stories four years ago?

The former President did a bang-up job making the case for reelection, prompting President Obama to later declare that Clinton should be appointed “Secretary of Explaining Stuff.”

When the President did give his speech on the final night, some in the political press gave it mixed reviews.  From the arena and the reactions there, I felt like the speech did everything it needed to do.  The thing that stands out about those reviews, however, was how they were presented.  Some said he didn’t give the best speech of the convention – that honor went to either President Clinton or the First Lady. Others said that this “wasn’t Obama at his best.”  As a friend pointed out as we left the convention, if they’re comparing Obama to Obama, then I think we’re ok.  I’d add that even if they’re comparing him to Clinton, Joe Biden, or the First Lady, we’re still OK.  Because you know who they’re not comparing him to? Mitt Romney.

Reina Romney Reacts: My Husband has been “Demonized”

Likely unsettled reading headlines like “Very Little Convention Bounce for Romney,” on Sunday morning the Romney campaign dispatched Mitt to Meet the Press, hand-cuffed to Ann Romney, the person in charge of “humanizing” the man who thinks corporations are human.

Really, Ann? The woman who told us she and her husband could relate to everyone’s struggles because they once had to sell some stocks to pay for their rent?  The one with the Olympic dressage horse named Rafalca? The one who told Latino voters to get “past our biases” (Psst, Ann, mija, they’re not biases – we can read English and know his positions)? Reina Romney is going to humanize Mitt?  I guess you have to work with what you’ve got.

So what did La Reina have to say?  Well, for one  they must have figured out that whole  we-ate-tuna-in-a-basement-while-selling-stocks-to-make-rent story didn’t fly with the public, as she know admits “Mitt and I do recognize that we have not had a financial struggle in our lives.”  But, she said, her husband is a victim in all of this.  All of this talk about him outsourcing and offshoring jobs, closing factories while making millions, that talk about loving to fire people — all that, well, true stuff, just means her husband “really has been demonized.”

Pobrecito.  Well, not quite.  Pobrecito riquito.

Meanwhile, still a lot of work to be done…

…but Democrats left North Carolina happy to read headlines such as this one: “Obama Convention Bounce Continues to Grow.”

Finally, some personal thoughts

This was my third Democratic convention.  In 2004, I was a Dean supporter who got elected as a national delegate for Edwards.  (Back then, our joke was “Dated Dean, Married Kerry, Still Sleeping with Edwards” — which is so not funny any more).

In 2008, I was an Obama delegate and will never forget that historic speech at Mile-High Stadium. Having lived the Denver experience in all its raw emotion, this convention was different for me.  I went as a DNC member-elect, which means I was there as a “special guest,” not a delegate.  In four years, I get to be a super delegate (I’ve promised everyone who supported me in my DNC run to be as coy about my superdelegate vote as I possibly can be – remember how fun that was?)

Even though I watched with more of an eye toward the outside – constantly checking twitter and other social media to see how media and television watchers were reacting to speeches, I came away so glad to have experienced so many of those speeches live.  In 2008 the GOP and McCain derided Obama as a good speech-giver, sounding what I thought Democrats used to sound like — people who denigrated the power of narrative and artful, passionate story-telling.  We are no longer that party and they are.  So good on us.

Conventions are, indeed, extended commercials.  But they offer a unique opportunity to present a story, a vision for the future.

And you also sometimes get to meet some stars.

Me and That Guy From That Band.

A Chair is Not a House, and Other Reflections on the GOP Convention

1 Sep

Nothing like a Republican convention to put you in the mood for a little bit of Burt. [A little background music, as you read:]

No, a Chair is Not a House. It’s also not a President, but don’t tell Clint Eastwood.

Yes, the last night of the Republican Convention almost broke twitter, what with all the #eastwooding going on. But after a week of what turned out to be some pretty good TV – though not for the reasons the party planners had hoped – one can forgive the escapism of hashtag hysteria. In our household, even the cats got in on the act.

Our guy Steve, got memed. Thank you, classwarkitteh.org!

But, really, Clint’s foray into avant garde performance art was just icing on the cake of a week of cray-cray.

On the first day we had Ann Romney, the woman who wears 900 dollar t-shirts to morning talk show interviews, tell us how she and Mitt once had to eat tuna out of cans and sell stocks to make ends meet.

Wait, what?  Sell stocks?  No wonder all those convention-goers were waving those “home-made” signs (all same writing, same colors) saying “Women love Ann”:  she’s one of us!

To be fair, Ann’s task was a tall one. As comedian Paula Poundstone tweeted, “So few of us have to humanize.”

But humanize the man for whom corporations are human Ann did.  In addition to learning how hard it is to pay rent when you have to call your broker to cash in stocks, we also learned the aspiring First Family love the Modern Family. No, not literally modern families – the TV show. You know, the one with the very funny Latina actress and the gay couple raising children together?  (The producers have since offered Ann a gig, playing a Minister officiating at Mitch and Cam’s gay wedding. So if things don’t go well in November, she has a Hollywood career to fall back on – no more dog days of cashing in stocks for Ann!).

Between Modern Family and Ann reminding us how much she loves women — I mean really, really, loves women — things just got weird. I started to wonder if the campaign had numbers showing that heteroflexibles were the new soccer moms. But, yes, love…

No, Fuck Love, exclaimed the next speaker, Chris Christie. “Tonight we choose respect over love,” screamed New Jersey’s Tough Guy, as he made a barn-burning, compelling case for a Christie Presidency. I hear he also said something about the 2012 nominee toward the end of his sweaty tirade, but by then I was so emotionally whiplashed contemplating the value of love that I had to change the channel to catch up on old Project Runways.

On the second day, Paul Ryan gave a speech so fact-challenged that the campaign spent the next 24 hours explaining how he didn’t really say what he said when he blamed President Obama for the closure of a factory that happened before he took office.

And then, of course, on the last night, the candidate himself was upstaged — by an empty chair.

Diversity Week in Tampa: or,the Quadrennial Brownwashing of the Republican Party

Pity my compatriota from Puerto Rico, Zoraida Fonelladas.

The Republican Committeewoman was drown out by delegates chanting “USA! USA!” as she tried to address the convention.  What originally looked like naked xenophobia (why would anyone jump to that conclusion about Republicans? Pshaw!) was later explained to be related to the ongoing Ron Paul civil war in the GOP.  Whatever the explanation, these were unfortunate optics for a party being trounced with the largest, growing voting demographic in the country.

Welcome to the neighborhood, Zoraida! No te preocupes, mija, it could have been worse.  Dale Gracias a Dios no one pelted you with peanuts.

There was the speculation we get every four years from talking heads – will the parade of people of color on stage mean that the GOP cuts into the Democratic base?  Yawn.

Hey, look, it’s Brian Sandoval!  Surely he will make everyone forget the party’s viciously anti-immigrant platform, written by he architect of “self-deportation” dreams, Kris Kobach.  Look, Susana Martinez! Surely she’ll lull Latino voters into forgetting that candidate Romney has promised to veto the Dream Act and keeps the hateful Kobach as a campaign adviser. Maybe we’ll forget Reina Ann tried to “woo” Latinos by telling us to get over our biases! So charming!

Over there! Surely Condoleeza will get Romney’s poll numbers with African Americans out of negative territory.

Surely Condi will lull black folks into forgetting that the Romney campaign declared “we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers” as they repeatedly pushed the lie that the President has gutted welfare work rules. I think those who call this line of attack a racial dog whistle because it’s meant to inspire in white voters anxiety about black welfare queens are just plain wrong.  Dog whistles are supposed to be inaudible to the human ear. You know, subtle.

Maybe everyone will forget that Speaker Boehner this very week spoke what is supposed to remain unspoken – that the GOP strategy is to depress turnout amongst people of color, not win them over.

Yeah, maybe all that will work.

As the Reverend Timothy McDonald wrote, Republican Please!

Minnesota GOP, Well-Represented

It was refreshing to see the Minnesota Republican Party take its dysfunctions with it to the national stage.  A majority of the delegation did not vote for Mitt Romney but for their hero, Ron Paul. They took active part in the Paul Mayhem on the convention floor, and apparently they found that elusive voter fraud the MNGOP is always talking about: “They’re cheating. The Republican National Committee is not transparent and does not have integrity. They stole votes,” said Minnesota delegate Yelena Vorobyov.

The Paulites were still spitting nails upon their return to the Land of 10,000 Republican Recount Debts.  Despite the national declaration of a “unified” party, Paul supporters are still unwilling to say they will support Governor Romney.

So, all in all, a fun week of Must-See TV.

On Monday, TIP will travel to Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention. I hope I’ll have time to send a missive or two from there.

Hope Deferred No Longer: A Dreamer’s Reflection

1 Jul

Guest Blogger: Juve Meza (Just Don’t Him Thugcito)

TIP Preface

For my first post for this blog, written on the day of President Obama’s announcement of a Deferred Action Policy that will keep hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from being deported, I reflected on the Lessons we could all learn from the activism, passion, and optimism of Dream Activists.  Admitting I was one of the older advocates concerned with the aggressiveness of their strategy and tactics, I wrote: “I’m sorry. You were right. I was wrong. You were bold.  And you were right.”

Today’s guest blog is by the person I was most thinking of when writing that line.  Juve  is a brilliant and tireless young activist I met when he was a student at Augsburg College, where–amongst other accomplishments– he was elected student body president. He tells the story here of NAVIGATE, a group he co-founded with other young immigrants who decided to take their futures into their own hands and created a network for undocumented students to learn about educational opportunities available to them.

Meet Juve and other Dreamers and you will see how bizarre it is that the conversation about immigration reform has revolved around the question – Should we let them stay? Let them stay? – this country needs these young people.

As I read his reflection, and think of the past few weeks, I am reminded once again of how desperately the immigrant community needed a victory, even a partial one, even a first step. And I am reminded of this poem by the great Langston Hughes:

A Dream Deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Hope Deferred No Longer: A Dreamer’s Reflection (by Juventino Meza)

We are students, parents, brothers and sisters, partners, wives, husbands. More importantly, we are DREAMers.

We began NAVIGATE in reaction to the lack of knowledge in the community about going to college. In 2007, years of work resulted in a law in Minnesota that offered flat-rate tuition for all 18 campuses in the MNSCU system.  This gave access to many undocumented students to go beyond high school. As young people, we pressured Republican Governor Pawlenty to sign a pro-immigrant law even though he promised to do everything in his power to block our efforts. We won. We realized many then did not know their options for college before and even after the law passed. Policy couldn’t be the only focus.

Founders of NAVIGATE, 2007

In the summer of 2007, five young people begun NAVIGATE to provide Minnesota-focused information to other undocumented students. Our personal experience in school was that most people around us did not know how to help us go to college. Many of our friends dropped out of high school—“why graduate and go to college and not be able to use my education and end up with the same job I can get today?” many would ask. There wasn’t information for students, many of our families didn’t know either, and many in our schools did not know or would tell us we couldn’t go to college.

We wanted other students coming after us to not struggle as much to pursue their dreams. That first summer we created a website, stories of undocumented students to share via video, documents that explained the process to college in MN for undocumented students, a scholarship list, and we started going to around the state to share our stories and inspire others to stay in school, go to college, and help pass laws that benefit us and our families.

National Politics

Sadly, many of the immigration policies around the nation have been detrimental to our communities. Arizona. Alabama. Georgia. Lino Lakes, Minnesota. And the list goes on. The border is more militarized than it has ever been. While we all know that a comprehensive and humane immigration reform is needed because of our current broken immigration system, our congressional leaders haven’t been willing to take on to the task. The defeats have been far too many. Our community is terrorized.

In addition, the politics around immigration are toxic. The DREAM Act passed with a majority of votes in the US Senate (it passed the House of Representatives) and President Obama promised to sign it. Unfortunately, some Senators succumbed to anti-immigrant sentiment in the nation and blocked it. President Obama unfortunately too has been willing to cater to the anti-immigrants in hopes to pass immigration reform. For that, many of our families have been split, thousands have been deported.

Further more, we have seen Republican candidates for president use some of the most vile rhetoric around immigration in recentyears (but we should have expected so after Sen. McCain – who had once championed immigration reform, co-authoring a bill with Ted Kenned– choosing to run as an anti-immigrant in 2008). Now, presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney during the campaign trail said he would veto the DREAM Act, would nationalize Arizona’s law, SB1070, and advocated to make people’s lives unbearable to the point where people (us, our families, our children, students, grandparents) self-deport.

Gracias a Nuestros Padres

Many who would benefit from the DREAM Act, if passed, were young when arrived to the U.S. Many politicians and supporters who advocate for the DREAM Act tend to blame our parents. “These kids came here with no fault of their own. Why punish them for their parents’ decisions?” some ask. Our parents are being criminalized – even by advocates.

Our parents, when asked why we are here, always say they wanted a better life for their children. As their children, there is nothing to blame them for, but thank them. Thanks to our parents we are here, moving forward, and we have opportunities we would not have were we anywhere else in the world. Their sacrifices to give us a better life are a reality and every day that goes by we are thankful to them, our parents.

Small Victories, but Victories

For better or worse, as the conversation has shifted from comprehensive immigration reform to something that would benefit only young people, we have won a few victories. First of all, Republican Governor Tim Pawletny promised to veto and block any policies that would benefit undocumented students in MN. In 2007, as young people, we pressured him to sign the Flat-rate Tuition bill, which has benefited many undocumented and US citizen students.

Dreamers’ often aggressive tactics of direct action were not always welcome by other immigrant rights advocates.

For many months now, young people have been pressuring President Oabama to sign an Executive Order granting relief to youth. While the politics around pro-immigrants are still toxic, on June 15, 2012 President Obama announced the Deferred Action Policy that will benefit hundreds of thousands of young immigrants, Latinos to not fear deportation and be able to legally work and travel in the U.S.

On June 29, the City of Minneapolis announced its endorsement of the President’s policy and encouraged the Homeland Security to interpret the policy broadly so that even more young people can benefit. Again, another small victory for young people.

Uriel Rosales, NAVIGATE Board Chair, spoke at a press conference with the Minneapolis City Council (June 28, 2012)

In politics, we can also see more victories. While Presidential candidate Romney had used abhorrent proposals as central to his vision around immigration while running for the GOP nomination, today young people have pushed him to the point where he isn’t saying anything about vetoing the DREAM Act, Arizona’s law, or self-deportation. He has changed his rhetoric. He cannot run as extremist around immigration any longer (even though we all know what he has already said).

Celebrating

On June 30, 2012, we held a forum to inform people about President Obama’s Deferred Action Policy. When deciding what to actually do, for the first time we published the address of the event, something we would only share with those registered. We realized that the fear many felt was much less than in other times. About 150 registered. We had about 300 people present, where even a line went outside of the SEIU Local 26 offices! (Event was sponsored by NAVIGATE, Immigrant Law Center of MN, SEIU Local 26, and the Mexican Consulate)

We had a full house, people standing for two hours; we were all excited to be there, learn, and celebrate this victory. For many young people, it was the first time they had ever publicly acknowledged their immigration status. And for many if it was also the first time they had ever attended an event about and for them—again a testament of how we are changing the environment around immigrant rights in our community.

On June 29th, hundreds waited in line for for a workshop on the Deferred Action Policy held at SEIU Local 26.

The few victories we have won have been in part because young people are escalating their actions to not wait any longer and demand change. We’ve pushed establishment organizations in Minnesota and nationally to accept small victories. We know that these policies only benefit young people; our goal is to pass comprehensive immigration reform that will also benefit our parents, nothing less.

While we get there (to pass policies) we must keep vigilant and make sure that everyone knows their options for college, stays in school,  avoids risks, and is engaged in making these changes happen.

As for NAVIGATE, today we are a team of people committed to other undocumented students in Minnesota and support national efforts that will benefit us all. We are willing to go anywhere in the state to talk about college, and present about actual possibilities for undocumented to go to college. We will always have undocumented students present to share their inspiring stories. We want everyone to hear positive, inspiring stories about being undocumented and succeeding.  (For more information, visit  www.navigatemn.org, like us on facebook.com/NAVIGATE.MN).

A packed house at the workshop, co-sponsored by NAVIGATE, the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, SEIU Local 26, and the Consulate of Mexico.

Now personally, I am exhilarated by the newest development. Deferred Action Policy is not a norm and there is no way future presidents would go after it (which means going after thousands of young people). President Obama’s public support for same-sex marriage is also super exciting. This also means that we are going after DOMA full force. And the push for the DREAM Act becomes ever more possible. Exciting times these are. Exciting times.

Caution: Future Leaders of America.

[I do want to disclose that if it was up to me, CIR would be my top priority. Politics has made that impossible. I also think that the DREAM Act becomes more and more narrow every year to the point that sometimes I wish we would reintroduce it so that more people can benefit. However, I will do everything I can to pass it because this DREAM, even narrow, has the potential to benefit thousands and provide a path to citizenship – which the Deferred Action policy alone does not do. And that is worth fighting for.]

Arizona: Sure It’s Hate. But it’s a Dry Hate. (Thoughts on The Supreme Court’s SB1070 Decision)

26 Jun

For the record, I tweeted that joke well before Jon Stewart used it on the Daily Show.

In 2010, I took a leave from Local 26 to spend five months in Washington DC leading SEIU’s national immigration campaign.  Our goal was to move our immigration work beyond a policy operation and into a more aggressive campaign. No sooner had I arrived in DC immigration news, which had been on a backburner of public policy debates, came back to the forefront thanks to Jan Brewer’s Arizona.

Having spent a lot of time thinking about, campaigning against, mocking, and studying Arizona’s immigration law, I can say today’s ruling was generally positive — with one important exception (see below).

Jan Brewer’s declaration of “victory” notwithstanding, the High Court struck three of the four provisions it considered and reaffirmed the federal preemption of state immigration laws.  The Supreme Court slapped down the notion that we could have a 50-state patchwork of immigration laws.  Its decision also reinforced in important ways the discretion the federal government has in enforcing immigration violations — which is to say, the court implicitly and preemptively shot down any notion, for example, that President Obama exceeded the authority of the federal government when he recently announced that the federal government would halt the deportation of many young immigrants.

SEIU’s national immigration campaign spoofed Arizona’s law in 2010.

The Good: “As a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain present in the United States.”

How’s that for a line if you’re looking for something, pro-immigrant and positive in the Court ruling? (p.15).

A lot has already been written about how the decision“was largely (but not entirely) a victory for the federal government.”   (For a handy summary of the decision, see the ACLU’s infographic here). I’d like to focus on one particular aspect of the decision: its implicit reinforcement of  the Obama administration’s recent changes in immigration enforcement priorities.

The decision goes on at length reaffirming not just the federal preemption of immigration laws but also the discretion the executive branch has in enforcing those laws:

“Congress has specified which aliens may be removed from the United States and the procedures for doing so. Aliens may be removed if they were inadmissible at the time of entry, have been convicted of certain crimes, or meet other criteria set be federal law.  … Removal is a civil, not criminal, matter. A principal feature of the removal system is the broad discretion exercised by immigration officials.” (p.4)

And then, in a line that could have written for President Obama’s June 15 policy announcement, the majority opinion states:

“Discretion in the enforcement of immigration law embraces immediate human concerns.  Unauthorized workers trying to support their families, for example, likely pose less danger than alien smugglers or aliens who commit a serious crime.” (p.4)

Essentially, the Court states exactly what the Administration argued on June 15th that had anti-immigrant politicians heads exploding and had Mitt Romney’s tongue tied into knots. The Administration argued that it had the authority to prioritize enforcement and that the right thing to do was to de-prioritize and halt the deportation of hundreds of thousands of young people brought to the US by their parents and family and have led good lives in the only country they know as home.

In his dissent, Scalia noted precisely the implication of this reasoning when it came to the recent Obama announcement. And he had a conniption fit.

Lo Feo in Today’s Decision: ‘Show me Your Papers’ Provision Upheld, for now

Brewer and the author of SB1070 Kris Kobach declared today’s ruling a victory because it upheld the provision that allowed police to request immigration documents if they have reason to suspect the person is in the country illegally.

Not so fast on corking that champagne, Kris and Jan.

First, what the Court essentially said was that we had to wait and see if the law as applied in a manner that violated federal law (eg, that it enabled racial profiling) before it could be blocked. “It was improper to enjoin 2(B) before the state courts had an opportunity to construe it and without some showing that 2(B)’s enforcement in fact conflicts with federal immigration law and its objectives.”

In addition, the decision states: “This opinion does not foreclose other preemption and constitutional challenges to the law as interpreted and applied after it goes into effect.”

The Court ruled that the Arizona legislature had prettied  up the SB1070 law enough that we could not yet prove that it would lead to racial profiling. And let us not forget that racial profiling was precisely the intention of the bill as originally written.

We should remember that it was only as a result of a public outcry over SB1070 as an encouragement of racial profiling that Governor Brewer signed a subsequent law, House File 2162, that modified the bill she originally signed. It was only with this new bill that 1070 was re-written to explicitly state that racial profiling cannot be the proof for reasonable suspicion of undocumented status. The revision also changed the circumstances under which someone could be required to give proof of documentation.  While the original SB1070 as passed and signed by Brewer said this occur any time there was “contact” with a police officer, under the new revisions they could only ask papers of those they “stop, detain or arrest.”

Advocates argued that these revisions were still not enough to prevent racial profiling. The High Court said, “well, maybe, but you have to let them do it first.” Not exactly comforting, but –In a word–the fight is not over.

Today’s ruling created other stumbling blocks for implementing the law as Arizona legislators had intended.

As the Boston Herald reports:

“There was a catch, however. The court decided that officers cannot detain anyone on an immigration violation. That is, unless federal immigration officials say so.

“Hours after the ruling, the Department of Homeland Security canceled agreements with seven Arizona police departments that deputized officers to arrest people on immigration violations while on street patrol.

“Federal immigration officers will help, but only if doing so conforms to the department’s priorities, including catching repeat violators and identifying and removing those who threaten public safety and national security, the department said.”

In the words of one analyst: “Five Justices cut out three lobes on S.B. 1070, and leave one on life support.”

From a protest outside the White House when Jan Brewer met with President Obama in 2010.

Immigration Politics and the GOP

You can’t blame Jan Brewer for trying to claim total victory, even if it does get her mocked in a press conference.

And we must admit that, so far, SB1070 has not hurt her electoral career. So far. But remember back when Pete Wilson championed Prop 187? Everyone said that was good politics for him then – and it was for a while. It also made the state unwinnable for Republicans running for president in the years since. Demographic trends in Arizona tell us the very same could be true there very soon.

The Romney campaign – knowing the political realities of demographic trends and the simultaneous problem they have with their anti-immigrant political base, had a tough time coming up with a response to today’s ruling. For some fun, watch“Romney Spokesman Dodges 20 Questions on Romney’s Immigration Position.”

It’s a by-now familiar tune. So familiar, even Republicans paid to make excuses for their candidate are growing tired. Latina Republican talking head Ana Navarro tweeted,”I confess, as a Republican Hispanic, trying to put positive spin on Romney immigration (non)statements, well, let’s just say it ain’t easy.”

Ay, mija.

In a written statement, Mr. Romney said “I believe that each state has the duty – and the right – to secure our borders and preserve the rule of law, particularly when the federal government has failed to meet its responsibilities.”

So, reacting to the Supreme Court decision, Mr. Romney said he believes states have the right to do exactly what the court reaffirmed today they cannot do – preempt federal law.

As a friend commented in an email, “No time for constitutional niceties when you are in hot pursuit of a whites-only electoral coalition, I guess.”

Indeed.

The GOP has some splainin’ to do to the Latino Community

22 Jun

I was just thinking back yesterday to the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and then I ran into this story about how Sotomayor still receives gift from fans in the public.

While I have not (yet) sent Justice Sotomayor a gift, I confess that on the day of President Obama’s announcement of her appointment, I was a kind of giddy that would have been embarrassing had anybody witnessed it.  Leaving the gym early that morning, I stopped in a shopping mall parking lot, pulled out my laptop and watched the announcement online. When she talked about her mom and the cameras panned to her–well, yes, I kind of lost it.

A hero to many in the Latino community, Justice Sotomayor still receives gifts from the public.

I’ve been thinking back to Sotomayor’s confirmation hearing this week, watching the slow-motion train wreck that has been the Romney campaign and the Republican Party’s reactions to President Obama’s dramatic announcement last week granting relief to hundreds of thousands of young immigrants.

Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings were covered by Latino media the way, back in the day, everyone else covered the O.J. Trial. And, although all the pundits agreed that her confirmation was certain, the Latino public nonetheless saw Sotomayor being grilled by a small group of Senators as some kind of crazy radical.

Senator Tom Coburn, confronting Sotomayor about her supposed extremism, dug deep into the synapses of his small brain where he houses Latino stereotypes and pulled up – who else? – Ricky Ricardo!  Sonia, he said, “you have some splainin’ to do.”

And some in the GOP wonder why their brand is so damaged in the Latino community?

During the primary, Sotomayor was a favorite punching bag for Romney. He criticized Rick Santorum for his 1996 vote to confirm Sotomayor to a federal circuit court and was so tone deaf as to even criticize Sotomayor, the boricua Justice, when on a campaign stop in Puerto Rico (where he also encouraged Puerto Ricans to speak English).

President Obama’s Announcement, Romney at NALEO y la Baladada de Marco Rubio

I looked to Univisión yesterday to see how they were covering Mitt Romney’s much touted address to NALEO – the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials – and the headline says it all. “Romney changes tone but offers little substance.”

Although his campaign promised that the NALEO speech would finally bring details to his immigration policy, Mr. Romney couldn’t even bring himself to say whether he would reverse President Obama’s order to halt the deportations of young immigrants. But we know Romney is between a rock and hard place. Congressional Republicans have lined up against Obama’s policy, making it easier for the President to get full credit from the Latino community –new poll shows the President up big with Latinos in swing states–and impossible for Mitt to speak with any clarity.

No one’s felt the GOP Latino Multiple Personality Disorder more than the Senator from Florida, el pobrecito Marco Rubio.

First, when Mr. Romney turned to the Senator’s Dream Act Lite idea to explain his non-position on the day of the Obama announcement, some said Mr. Rubio’s VP chances had risen.

Then came news that Marquito was not being vetted.

It was awkward timing for that story to get out, given that immigration was the topic of the week.  So Romney backtracked and assured everyone that el Senador was definitely being vetted. Totally.

But wait – then news got out of a super exclusive retreat with the Romney campaign that included a sleep-over for all the potential V.P. candidates. But someone forgot to invite Marco!

As we say in Puerto Rico, Pobre, Marco – lo tienen del tingo al tango.

Maybe the Senator can put in a call to Sonia to ask for some sisterly advice:

Óyeme, Sonia, how did you put up with these guys?”

Te lo Dije: According to the Post, Marco Rubio not being vetted for V.P.

19 Jun

Did I not say, when it comes to Romney VP picks, Incredibly Boring White Guys, Get in Line?

Today the Washington Post is reporting that Mr. Dream Act Lite is not being seriously vetted by the Romney campaign.

While some like Chris Cillizza argued that the VP fortunes of el senador de Florida had risen as a result of Mr. Obama’s dramatic announcement last Friday of a change in immigration policy, I have thought that to be non-sensical.  (Cillizza has re-considered his analysis as of today’s report). The Administration essentially enacted Rubio’s imaginary Diet Dream Act (he never actually wrote a bill) last week with the stroke of a pen. After that, what does Mr. Rubio actually offer a Romney ticket? A reminder to the Latino community that he and the GOP still oppose a real, permanent solution – a path to citizenship for undocumented people?

A favorite in conservative straw polls, Marco Rubio can make the cover of the National Review but apparently not the Romney vetting machine.

Of course, in the end, things could change and maybe the Romney team could end up picking Rubio, who they say today they are not vetting.

One can Dream — the last time the GOP picked a Lightly Vetted V.P. Candidate things got way fun.

So whose VP fortunes are rising? 

According to the Post, at the top of the list is Minnesota’s own Tim Pawlenty, who is being described today by an unnamed Romney advisor not as an Incredibly Boring White Guy but rather an “an incredible warrior.”

Warrior?

The guy who fled from the presidential campaign the second he was embarrassed in the Iowa Straw Poll by Michele Bachmann, the Congresswoman from Minnesiowa?

Incredible Indeed.