I told a little bit more of my high school and college experience as an undocumented person on this Associated Press piece, “Future of Illegal Students Hinges on a DREAM”. The reporter also interviewed Margie McHugh from the Migration Policy Institute (yay!) and Dan Stein from the crispiest, cleanest, best-dressed anti-immigrant hate group: the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
Sympathy for the Dreamers
Loyal readers will know that I usually make sure to remind the public at large that FAIR Media Director Ira Mehlman talked about my momma — after he said on CNN that I should blame my parents for the policy nightmare that we call “immigration policy” instead of advocating for the DREAM Act and immigration reform. This time FAIR did not talk about my mom. Instead, Stein talked talked about all Dreamers, and offered us “sympathy”:
The people here, we are talking about, have no right to be in the country. We are sympathetic but the question is always when you make these policy decisions, are you setting a precedent that encourages more lawbreaking and further breeds disrespect for the law? At the same time, we might not extinguishing the prospects for the student by requiring them to pay the full freight or having them go to school in their home country.
Well, thanks, Mr. Stein. But your so-called sympathy is not at all welcomed. In fact, I don’t buy any of it. You, sir, have spent your entire career working to deny us access to education, prevent our families from having a viable path to legal status, and deceiving the American people about what the immigration population (both documented and undocumented) is really all about. It is easy to stand in front of a TV camera and claim to feel “sympathy”. But come on, we know who you are. Don’t you feel a little anxiety – or perhaps even anger? You worked your whole life to stop thousands – maybe millions – of young immigrants from achieving their potential. When a bunch of them start showing up on TV saying they are proud, doesn’t it unnerve you rather than touch your heartstrings? Hasn’t 2009 been a little scary for you? Didn’t you flinch every time Walter, Herta, Noe, Yosub, Benita, Alonso or a bunch of others took our message to the airwaves or the streets?
What they do: Demonize, Distract, Dismiss
Let’s go to a short analysis of what people like Stein do to – and how Dreamers can best equip themselves to undo the damage that decades of their lies have brought to our communities. I call it the 3-D approach: Demonize, Distract, and Dismiss.
Step 1: Demonize
The people here, we are talking about, have no right to be in the country.
Back in the day, it used to be okay in the media to be a little more harsh with undocumented immigrants. You could get away with calling them “criminal illegal aliens” as loosely as you chose without risking your prime-time news anchor job in a major network. That not being the case anymore, Stein goes with the ultra softball of “no right to be in the country”. Given that the first line lacks any reference to leprosy, it might seem nice. In reality, it is part of the “demonize” strategy. The truth is that no amount of goodwill, achievement, or character would be enough to actually get Stein to say: ‘Yes, this person right here and others like him deserve to be in this country’. The point is simply to say they are illegals. Remember: demonize first, specify never.
Step 2: Distract
The question is always when you make these policy decisions, are you setting a precedent that encourages more lawbreaking and further breeds disrespect for the law?
No, that is not the question. The question is whether Congress should create a one-time, narrowly-tailored path to legal status for kids who grew up here. There are obvious larger questions that all Americans need to ask themselves about immigration policy – but subtle editorializing is not the way to get to them. “Lawbreaking” and “disrespect for the law” is not what the DREAM Act would promote. Instead, it asks a generation’s worth of young immigrants to show their value and their character – and thousands of us are more than ready to do so. In the “distraction” strategy, it helps to ask a hypothetical question to avoid expressing an opinion, but rather reframing the obvious topic of discussion (DREAM) into a horrific possibility of chaos (breeding lawlessness!). For more distractions, refer to Glenn Beck: “Is Obama a Socialist?”
Step 3: Dismiss
We might not extinguishing the prospects for the student by requiring them to pay the full freight or having them go to school in their home country.
Way back when being anti-immigrant was a requirement for seeking elected office, you could make up lame alternatives for immigrants while knowing fully well that they were implausible (“Why don’t they go to immigration and get registered legally?”). This is what Stein is doing here. (“It’s not that big of a deal, kids, just go back to a country you know nothing of – nevermind the years of investments our society has placed in you!”). The fact of the matter is that Dreamers want nothing more to be able to call America their “home country”. Stein hides behind the possibility that students might overcome the odds and afford international tuition prices that are nearly equal to their family’s annual income – or that they might be so smart and strong-willed that they can make a smooth transition to the country their parents left when looking for a better life. Do remember: Stein’s goal is to deport us all, and he will dismiss any possibility of Americans (citizens, residents, and immigrants alike) actually moving towards a sensible immigration policy that shares the values we all share.
That’s all, Dreamers. You can post your practice 3-D statements against FAIR below. As for you, Mr. Stein, the Dreamers are here. Thanks for your sympathy, but we want respect.
United We Dream Board Chair