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Racists vs. Reformers - Two Immigration Demonstrations. By Roger Algase

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Anyone who thinks that the battle over immigration reform has nothing to do with race must have missed hearing about the anti-immigrant rally on Capitol Hill on July 15. A good summary of what went on there appeared in an article by George Zornick in The Nation dated the same day: Ugly Opposition to Immigration Reform Comes Back to Capitol Hill.

www.thenation.com/blog/175276/ugly-opposition-immigration-reform-comes-back-capitol-hill#axzz2anJrAGUq

Zornick writes:

"If there's one media failing in the immigration debate, it is that many mainstream reporters hedge around the fact that at least some conservative opposition to the bill is based in cultural and even racial animus toward Hispanics...

It's ugly, but it happens to be true. One could forgive mainstream reporters for largely dancing around this fact - if these activists didn't regularly plan large rallies in the shadow of the Capitol building and then say a bunch of plainly racist and nativist things into a microphone."

The same article quotes Ken Crow, a Tea Party leader speaking at the rally, as follows:

"From those incredible blood lines of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and John Smith. And all these great Americans, Martin Luther King. These great Americans who built the country. You came from them. And the unique thing about being from that part of the world, when you learn about breeding, you learn that you cannot breed Secretariat to a donkey and expect to win the Kentucky Derby. You guys have incredible DNA and don't forget it."


One can only imagine what Martin Luther King Jr., who led the historic March on Washington for racial justice 50 years ago this month, would have thought about hearing his name used in connection with this type of racist ranting.

Not surprisingly, Representative Steve King (R-Iowa), who compares immigrants to dogs and accuses Dreamers of being "drug mules", was at the rally, along with two immigrant-hating Republican Senators, Jeff Sessions (AL) and Ted Cruz (TX).

And just in case anyone missed the point, Representative Michele Bachmann, who, as a presidential candidate argued that Arizona's anti-immigrant racial profiling law was a model for the nation, was at another right wing rally the previous month. According to Zornick's article, Bachmann held up a white baby at that earlier rally while talking about "the future of America". Get the point?

As for Steve King, Republican House leaders have lost no time running away from his racist "drug mules" comment. But why did they allow a vote in his bill to defund President Obama's DACA initiative to give Dreamers relief from deportation, which passed the House with 224 Republicans voting for it? And why is King still sitting on a House immigration subcommittee? Why is he still in the House at all?

Meanwhile, even though Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), allowed a vote on King's bill, he refuses to allow a House vote on the Senate CIR bill. Is this a legislative body, and are these the types of leaders, from whom we can expect any kind of good faith immigration reform proposal to help unauthorized immigrants, other than perhaps some temporary, revocable, token relief for as few Dreamers as possible?

Another kind of immigration activity took place near the Capitol on August 1. According to POLITICO, around 40 immigration activist leaders were arrested for blocking traffic in a civil disobedience protest. POLITICO reports as follows in Immigration activists arrested at rally (Seung Min Kim, August 1):

dyn.politico.com/

"' When you want policymakers to see the light, sometimes you gotta raise the heat,' Frank Sharry, the executive director of America's Voice, said shortly before he was arrested. 'And that's what were doing today. It's a sign of the escalation of tactics and demands from around the country that are going to pressure the House Republicans until they schedule a vote on citizenship.'"

Civil disobedience, also embodied in the protest by the #DREAM9 which my colleague Matt Kolken has been following in his blog, was also a hallmark of the civil rights movement. There may be many more such protests if the House continues its stalling tactics against any kind of real immigration reform.

It could be argued that the immigrant rights movement does not yet have a Martin Luther King. But on the other hand, maybe it has 11 million Martin Luther Kings.

The GLBT community is not afraid to talk about marriage equality. Why are the media, and immigration advocates themselves, so hesitant to talk about racial equality as the central issue in the battle for immigration reform?



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Updated 08-02-2013 at 01:33 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

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