Tag Archives: immigration debate

On immigration, follow MLK’s guidance. It’s about human dignity

Yesterday, a powerful editorial appeared in the Houston Chronicle. The author, African-American Reverend Harvey Clemons Jr. talks about educating himself to debunk immigration myths and does it all from the frame of justice and scripture used by Martin Luther King Jr.

I often shy away from immigration reform arguments that name-check MLK Jr. or discuss the movement as the modern day “civil rights” struggle. I am uncomfortable appropriating the work of those who have come before me to define today’s fight. However, I think that this editorial correctly places the crux of both King’s argument and the need for immigration reform on one thing: human dignity.

Though the conversation concerning immigration in America is more ancient than King, King’s vision provides a helpful tool with which to view the immigration struggle today. Immigration is about human dignity…

The Reverend’s own journey from ignorance to education about the issue is a story that must be told more often. The myths surrounding immigration in this country are false, but until we can open more eyes, we won’t be able to open more hearts.

The perception garnered from the media is often that undocumented immigrants simply go around the open door of the legal immigration system, but that morning I learned how an unworkable immigration system closes the vast majority of legal avenues for those who desire to immigrate legally. The perception from the media is often that immigrants do not pay taxes; that morning I learned undocumented workers pay taxes and to a much greater degree than what they consume in our state, with an estimated $400 million surplus. Also, I did not know undocumented immigrants contributed more than $17 billion to our state’s economy, how an enforcement-only policy would cost our economy $651 billion in annual output, or how immigrant parents lived continually under the threat of being separated from their children. For too long, advocates who fear immigrants have acted as the primary molders of our perception concerning immigration, convincing us all too easily that their fears fall in line with reality.

And perhaps most importantly, the Reverend Clemons adeptly weaves the current debate into a broad historic pattern of the struggle for justice.

Listen not to false prophets who wrap their politics around the fear of the immigrant. It is not a new song they sing. In fact, it is eerily similar to the songs sung not too long ago. They sang that slavery was God’s way until that song sounded ridiculous. They altered the song and sang segregation was God’s way until that too sounded ridiculous. Now the song of the false prophets paints the immigrant as a threat to, rather than a pillar of, American society; paints undocumented fathers and mothers working from sunrise to sundown as a drain of our nation’s resources rather than a reminder of our heroic beginnings; and paints immigrant children as a national burden rather than our nation’s blessing.

Recently, my friend took to her Twitter account to summarize just this:

So grateful to be a part of the Immigration Reform movement. What will you tell your children when they ask where YOU stood? [via @NvrComfortable]

For those of you who haven’t chosen a side yet (or those of you who know someone who hasn’t), I suggest  reading the Reverend’s full article. Then, educate yourself. For all the complexity of the immigration issue, your stance on it should be simple: its about human dignity

Game on: Why yesterday was important in the fight for reform

I am exhausted today. Yesterday was a whirlwind of marching, lobbying, writing, tweeting, picture taking, interviewing, chanting and more marching. But it was more than worth it.

I was standing side-by-side with more than 8,000 people (according to National Mall staff) as we marched to the front door of Congress to demand comprehensive immigration reform. Before the event, over 900 of those people talked directly to their members of Congress about supporting immigration reform and specific pieces of legislation such as the DREAM Act and AgJobs.

This number doesn’t even cover the more than 20,000 calls and faxes into Congress that were made by people across the country, as a part of yesterday’s action for reform. We showed power yesterday, both in DC and across the country.

The day culminated in Representative Luis Gutierrez, champion of immigration reform, introducing core principles for a progressive immigration reform bill, which he has promised to formally introduce later this year. Rep. Gutierrez said:

We simply cannot wait any longer for a bill that keeps our families together, protects our workers and allows a pathway to legalization for those who have earned it. It is time we had a workable plan making its way through Congress that recognizes the vast contributions of immigrants to this country and that honors the American Dream.

The event has garnered much media attention, though it was drowned out yesterday by the continuing health care debate.

Says Marisa Trevino of Latina Lista:

If you didn’t hear about the rally, it’s not surprising. It didn’t take place until late afternoon – after the passage of the health reform bill but news outlets are slowly getting around to writing about it.

And they should be because this wasn’t the usual caravan-to-Washingon-and-demand-immigration reform rally. This rally was different in that it served as the platform where Illinois Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, chairman of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, attempted to jumpstart the immigration debate by unveiling the “core principles” he wants seen included in any immigration reform bill.

She’s right: this wasn’t a typical march to the Capitol to call for immigration reform. There was substance and passion and true momentum behind yesterday’s event.

There are two big things that I am taking away from yesterday:

Number one, the fight for immigration reform has officially started.

Number two, we haven’t even begun to tap the potential support for a pro-migrant progressive bill. The fact that thousands of out-of-town people turned out in person, drove hundreds of miles, fund raised and even missed work to be at a pro-immigrant event where the main draw was only principles of a potential bill, sends a very clear message: we are ready for this fight.

That is not to say this won’t get ugly. I never underestimate the nativist lobby’s ability to stoop lower and lower in their demonization of immigrants and of our movement. But, the true power and the true majority is with us.

For a more about yesterday and full slideshow of photos, visit the Reform Immigration FOR America Blog.

Immigration Reform Debate Prep 101: Understanding your opponents’ arguments

Here is this week’s guest post from Robert Gittelson:

I try to be a well informed advocate. I voraciously read everything that I can find that’s being said on the subject of Comprehensive Immigration Reform. I might note that in an effort to be as well informed as possible, I not only read what my fellow advocates are writing, I especially try to read what the opponents of CIR are writing. As Sun-tzu said some 2,500 years ago, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.”

Actually, I truly do believe that what he said is very good advise. In point of fact, I have often ventured into the lion’s den, and have written or spoken to audiences that I knew going in were staunchly against what I was about to tell them. There is something distinctly rewarding about swaying someone to consider your point of view, through logic and factual evidence. At some point in the upcoming discussion over the pros and cons of CIR, both sides on this debate are going to have to talk to each other, and see if enough common ground can be identified to structure a deal. If all that each side does in this debate is to preach to their own choir, then neither one of us will succeed in getting our message across (the aisle).

The other day, I watched the Kennedy funeral. I was struck by something that Ted Jr. said. He talked about how his father, “taught him to get along with Republicans.” Perhaps that is one of the most important legacies that Senator Kennedy left to all of us. Certainly, that particular talent is in short supply on Capitol Hill.

Yesterday, I discovered a new article on the internet that caught my eye. It was titled, “Since When Does Immigration Reform Mean Open Borders and Amnesty?”.  I got myself a glass of iced tea, settled myself comfortably on my office couch, and looked forward to a nice and incendiary read that promised to set my teeth on edge. However, it proved to be, in the parlance of President Obama, a “teachable moment.”

Continue reading

A New Look at Asian Immigrants

While I have talked a lot about Latino immigrants and their close ties to immigration issues, there hasn’t been much out there on other immigrants and their stance on the issue. With that in mind, the University of Massachusetts at Boston’s Institute for Asian American Studies released a new report on Asian Immigrants and their attitudes and ideas on immigration. From the Boston Globe:

“There’s been a lot of attention paid to immigration rights and policy,” said the institute’s director, Paul Watanabe, at the survey’s unveiling last month. “But the fact is, there is virtually no [statistical data] based upon Asian immigrants and the Asian community.”

The institute’s study, “Interest and Action: Findings from a Survey of Asian American Attitudes on Immigrants, Immigration, and Activism,” found that 80 percent of the 412 Asian-Americans surveyed pay either a great deal of attention or some attention to immigration issues.


We should remember that many Asian Americans were among the “New American Voters” who helped to elect Barack Obama this November – and they too have a stake in the immigration debate. It seems this issue will only become more and more relevant as we approach January’s inauguration.

Candidates Guides on Immigration

As I’ve mentioned before, our two presidential candidates are unabashedly courting the Latino vote, while remaining hesitant to discuss immigration.

Our immigration system in the United States is broken, and as immigration raids spiral out of control and immigrants are blamed for anything and everything, we are in dire need of a sensible discussion about this issue.


Have no fear, the Immigration Policy Center to the rescue! IPC has recently released to documents, to help political candidates engage in thoughtful and articulate dialogue about immigration.

The candidate packet was created as a resource for candidates and current elected officials to use in their efforts towards  achieving a real, effective, and practical immigration policy that keeps the interests of all those living and working in our country at heart. 

A Candidate’s Guide to Immigration along with a two-page document of Answers to the Toughest Questions are factual documents, backed by hard data and statistics.

I highly recommend Answers to the Toughest Questions to both presidential candidates. Now you can stop avoiding the topic and start a desperately needed dialogue with the American public!

International Migration: Tearing Down Walls

There is a great Op-Ed from this weekend’s Houston Chronicle discussing not only immigration in the United States, but the immigration phenomenon that is being seen across the globe.

Using the Beijing Olympics as a backdrop, the piece discusses walls (The Great Wall, the border wall and symbolic walls) and says that we should see immigration as “an opportunity, not as an obstacle”.

Here is an excerpt:

As the Olympic Games so clearly illustrated, the removal of real and imagined walls — through the spread of information and economic and political freedoms — has brought people around the world closer together than ever.

Constraining and complicating the system that allows people to move across borders — in America and elsewhere — will hurt businesses, stifle innovation and make it more likely that the United States will take a back seat to countries that embrace immigration.

The “us versus them” mindset has to be replaced by a “we” mindset.

Immigration and the Unspoken Words at the DNC

Last Wednesday, the NY Times ran an article about the cuts made to various speeches at the DNC last week.

DENVER — It seemed like a typical Democratic line, one that would play well with the partisan crowd that has packed the Pepsi Center this week.

“Above all,” it said, “we can’t have a Statue of Liberty welcoming immigrants to our country as we build a wall on the Southern border. Instead, let us build bridges of friendship and cooperation with our Southern neighbors.”

But when Representative José E. Serrano of the Bronx submitted his three-minute speech as required to the high command of Senator Barack Obama’s campaign, the remark was excised. In fact, there was no mention of immigration policy, an issue of great importance to Mr. Serrano and his constituents in New York.

It was this unwillingness to confront the immigration debate head-on that drew thousands of marchers in Denver last Thursday.

While the Convention went on with business as usual, nearly 600 workers were rounded up, sorted by race and shuffled through our country’s “justice” system. Due process, civil rights and workers’ rights seemed to be far from the minds of the Convention’s delegates and speakers.

The experience of Mr. Serrano, an 18-year veteran of Congress and influential member of the House Appropriations Committee, provides an especially revealing look inside the scrupulous process. His speech underwent roughly four edits.

“They kept saying it was for space,” Mr. Serrano said. “They never said it was for content. They said they wanted it to be 280 words. But when you read it, they took out the meat of the message.”

Edited out, for instance, was a passage saying that the war on terrorism should not be used “as an excuse to trample on the civil liberties of our people.”

“It was not a bad speech, the one I gave,” Mr. Serrano said. “But it wasn’t a hard-hitting description of where the country is heading.”

On Thursday, Barack Obama briefly mentioned immigration in his acceptance speech.

“You know, passions may fly on immigration, but I don’t know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers. But this, too, is part of America’s promise — the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.”

While I applaud Obama’s effort to denounce the humanitarian aspects of the raid, I would like to hear stronger language concerning the legal aspects of what the current administration is doing. The violation of due process is something that should concern every American that values their legal and civil rights. Like Mr. Serrano so eloquently stated, this is not a “hard-hitting description of where the country is heading”.

Arizona Burning – What would you do?

From Imagine 2050, comes a great post on the currently raging immigration debate and what the author views as the debate’s epicenter – the state of Arizona.

Did you ever play the “If I had lived during [insert appropriate historic period here] I would have . . .” game? Back when I was a kid my friends and I would sit in a tight circle often with popsicles juice running down our fingers while we discussed how each of us would have reacted to the Great Chicago Fire, escaped the Titanic, survived in the Land of the Lost, or ran bootleg rum from Canada, though I’m sure we didn’t even know what rum was.

As we grew older the game changed and took on even more significance. It was no longer made up of fantasies of how I would have invested in Disney and made it rich. Instead, I thought about how I might imagine myself reacting to important moments in U.S. history. Actually it was just one moment that fascinated me, the one called the Civil Rights Movement. “Would I have been able to keep my cool desegregating a lunch counter?” “Could I have worked up the courage and registered to vote knowing that I might get a visit from the Klan that evening?” Would I have left the comfortable confines of college to spend my summer in a place that very well might cost me my life?”

The author then moves on to point out that we are currently living through one of these historical moments – the immigrant rights movement.

In Arizona, like the tattered pages of an old paperback, the wondering is long over. With over 181 bodies recovered in the deserts in 2007, fifty five pieces of anti-immigrant legislation to be submitted in 2008, and a local Sheriff who resembles Bull Connor (a southern police officer and KKK member in the 1960’s) more than Wyatt Earp, Arizona is becoming to immigrants rights, what Mississippi was to the 1960s civil rights movement—a defining moment in which each of us will be called to either embrace inhumanity or redeem the soul of America.

When the author asks himself if the message of immigrants’ rights groups is extreme, he responds:

That hundreds of people dying in the desert each year is extreme, children coming home to empty kitchens where parents have disappeared is extreme, beings jailed for seeking work is extreme. Asking that each individual in our society be treated with basic human decency is not—it is as American as apple pie. It’s what we have been seeking since 1776.

If you were around for the immigration debate in 2008, what would you do?

Going toe-to-toe with Lou Dobbs

This week David Sirota, author of the newly released THE UPRISING, debated Lou Dobbs on the anchor’s radio show. Sirota challenges Dobbs on his separation of Fair Trade and the immigration debate here in the United States.

Click here to read Sirota’s comments about the debate on The Huffington Post and listen to the audio of the discussion.