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I consider this a Radical Gumbo, with many varied ingredients making more than the sum of its parts. We are no-holds barred, passionate and not overly PC here. Yes, Liberals can have Fangs. Jump in and be part of the cutting edge!
First, let me state up front that I was an ardent supporter of the DREAM Act from the beginning--and I still am. As a Latino student, this is an issue close to my heart.
The Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity (CIR ASAP) Act of 2009 makes a few desperately-needed changes to US immigration policy. I won't list them since you can read the 600+ page bill for yourself (or a summary of it at Vivir Latino). However, this legislation has several problems--and one fatal flaw in particular--that cannot be ignored. Sadly, the DREAM Act became intertwined with the CIR ASAP Act and is only one of may provisions in the bill. Perhaps I am too much of a cynic, but it seems to me that the DREAM Act was attached to the CIR ASAP Act as a Trojan horse of sorts to garner the Latino/a community's support for a bill laden with draconian provisions that we'd otherwise be in the streets protesting. Please allow me to explain.
I will not discuss all of the provisions that were included in the bill to assuage the rabid nativist pendejos. They are pretty obvious (e.g., the emphasis on LEARNING ENGLISH because... dear god in heaven the earth will spin off its axis if a person can become a US citizen without having to take tests to prove they can speak English well enough so that the poor oppressed white folks across America won't have heart attacks and die whenever they are forced to hear a Spanish word--and there are many other examples).
Here is my main concern. The CIR ASAP Act increases the militarization of the US-Mexico border, even though the politicians tried to be slick and trick everyone by stating that the "military" generally will not be allowed to patrol the border. But if you read the bill carefully, it actually ratchets up "border security" to historically unprecedented levels--some of the crap they are proposing sounds like something out of Star Wars. Now, this increased border militarization will have one inevitable disastrous consequence...and a second terrifying one if you are Lou Dobbs.
Princeton professor of sociology and public policy Douglas Massey is perhaps THE authority on the intersection of US immigration law and the demography of Mexican migration to the US. For years--probably decades--he has been the principal investigator of the Mexican Migration Project. What Dr. Massey and other prominent researchers have found--consistently and unambiguously--is that throughout US history, two things happen each time a federal or state law increased the militarization of the US-Mexico border (i.e., "enhancing border patrol") and/or included increasingly punitive measures against undocumented immigrants:
(1) These laws, designed to serve as a deterrent to keep all those brown people out, resulted in a swift and dramatic increase in the number of undocumented Mexican immigrants living in the US...these xenophobic nativist laws actually caused what idiots in groups like the Minutemen fear the most: an explosion in the population of "illegal aliens" who can't speak no gosh-darned English and who apparently spread leprosy. So these fucked up laws had the opposite of the intended effect. It actually makes sense when you think about it, and I'll gladly explain if anyone wants to know why this paradox takes place, but it is a verifiable fact, not mere speculation [see Beyond Smoke and Mirrors: Mexican Immigration in an Era of Economic Integration by Massey, Durand and Malone (2003); and Immigrant America: A Portrait by Alejandro Portes and Rubén Rumbaut (2006)--from Princeton and UC Irvine, respectively--if you want to fact check my statements. I can also recommend scientific journal articles to anyone who is interested in this phenomenon]. Pero this isn't what concerns me the most.
(2) The number of recorded border-crossing deaths has soared higher with every new law that increased the militarization--oh, excuse me, I meant " patrol"--of the border. The fact is that they could build a wall made of 15 ft thick steel that was 4000 feet high, surround it by a moat, and hire Blackwater to train a battalion of 2 million heavily armed crocodiles to patrol it, and people are still going to try to come to the US. Poverty and starvation are pretty powerful incentives--and we can all thank US economic policies for screwing Mexico for so long that whole families now have to subsist on one tortilla per month. The Massey book discusses some of the research demonstrating this fact re: border deaths, and there are numerous articles in scientific journals that have systematically documented this phenomenon--Dr. Wayne Cornelius' work is the first that comes to mind.
So, if the CIR ASAP Act passes, it will be a good thing that immigrant college kids will no longer be persecuted. Who can argue with that? However, I want everyone to remember the following when they are celebrating on the day Obama signs this bill into law:
When he signs that bill, he will also be signing death warrants for untold thousands of Mexican immigrants--human beings who are someone's fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins and spouses. I think the DREAM Act could have passed on its own eventually without being absorbed into the draconian CIR ASAP Act. But it seems Obama and the Dems "forgot" they controlled the White House and both houses of Congress. Or maybe they were scared of a nativist backlash if they demonstrated the audacity to enact empirically rational--not to mention compassionate--immigration policies. Perhaps they feel they have to prove that they can be just as irrational and intransigent regarding us spics as the Republicans are to show all the Lou Dobbs clones out there that they hate them damn beaners as much as any other nativist asshat.
So, I'll be happy those kids won't have to worry about getting deported after the bill is signed into law. But I cannot support the CIR ASAP Act b/c of how many deaths it will--and I emphasize will--cause. As a queer Latino, I was equally appalled when virtually no one else in the queer and transgender community condemned the so-called Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act--which was actually a bill to allocate hundreds of billions of dollars to escalate the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (call me crazy, but I believe war is the ultimate hate crime) with a few sentences about hate crimes tacked on at the end. And lo- anti-war liberals and progressives were dancing in the streets about it. I would prefer not to have those laws "protecting" me because the deaths of countless innocents were required to obtain those "protections" for me (and it was also a great distraction to keep the anti war left befuddled and confused as their peacenik prez started committing even more war crimes).
I think the same thing is sort of happening in this case.
And I continue to marvel at how quick many of us are to throw other people under the bus as long as we get what's ours--even when we know for a fact that thousands of them will die horrific and unspeakably tragic deaths.
So that's where I am at with all of this right now.
I think the folks at DREAM Activist are good people fighting a noble fight. But I was disappointed when they refused to even mention these issues in their massive "conference call" about the bill today. I was scolded for bringing it up--I believe I was accused of "needling" whomever was in charge of their Twitter account--and they informed me that the purpose of the conference call was to discuss the DREAM Act, not the CIR ASAP Act--and no, it didn't make any difference when I reminded them that the DREAM Act was just a tiny part of the whole bill. They were clear that all they were focused on at the moment was ensuring the passage of the DREAM Act. But at least they promised to blog about these other minor issues at some point in the future.