I have waited to write this entry until after I could be sure the new demise of the Dream Act was a fact. I would have liked to be wrong on this and see the Dream Act succeed even though it would’ve diminished the chances of comprehensive immigration reform passing on its own in a not too long distant future. Unfortunately I wasn’t. In this entry I would like to address the sadly predictable fate of the Dream Act and update some previous entries on liberal activism and the economy.
Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
1. Dream Act
The radical anti-intellectualism of the Tea Party, especially of "1776 Tea Party" (brand used by the Minutemen to re-launch their brand of xenophobia) and "Resist Tea Party", fueled by lobbyists’ money (consider the sponsorship of the infamous Arizonan anti-immigration law by ALEC –American Legislative Exchange Council-, which gathers corporations like CCA –Corrections Corporations of America-, which gave important campaign contributions to the Arizonan legislations sponsoring the bill and expects that contracts with ICE will be an important part of its future revenues.
On top of all this, the Census has shown the growth of Hispanic population in red states, which will fuel the anxieties that will not only feed the xenophobia of the already well-known xenophobic groups but also help seduce into their prejudice people not previously committed to it. Consider how these groups have used real but individual drunk driving incidents not to demand individual punishment for the driver but to seduce the mainstream into demanding collective branding for all illegal immigrants. Consider how these groups have hidden their xenophobia behind the excuse of unemployment concern (despite having long been discredited by serious research like Ottaviano’s and Peri’s), defense of the mainstream culture (Remember the rants about the Reconquista or about how English is under siege?), anti-crime crusades (Remember the headless corpses of Arizona, which existed only in the imagination of its Governor? In 2008 90,000 children were deported to Mexico, 13,000 of whom never reunited with their families and were caught between a harder crossing and the drug-gang related violence at the other side of the border), national security (Remember the Real ID Act?), sanitary concerns (Remember the swine flu? Lou Dobb’s charges of leprosy?), and even environmental concern (Remember the charges by Numbers USA that illegal immigrants here cause overpopulation and pollution but, if deported, magically they would not contribute to overpopulation and pollution in their countries of origin?). Well, in 20 years to be anti-immigrant may not be a politically wise position but in the next years it may be as the anxieties about an "out-of-control growing Hispanic population" that may threaten "our way of life" may be used by xenophobic groups to customize their message for different audiences. The Census release of data with respect to the growth of Hispanic population in red states may even unleash this possibility before I expect.
In practical terms this may mean that if immigration reform is not achieved by let’s say 2013, it could be increasingly difficult to pass for the next 20 years. Consider the trend of anti-immigrant sentiments reported by the polls of the Pew Hispanic Center.
2. Update to the entries on liberal activism and pro-immigrant activism
The record of pro-immigrant groups cannot be poorer. While the xenophobic Right and its minions at the left work as a well assembled and money-oiled machine that connects the talking points created in its pseudo think tanks to editorial lines and to activism at the fundraising and volunteer program levels, the so-called pro-immigrant leaders turn their back to serious think tanks supporting its cause and have decided to live in a world in which demographic trends don’t exist but only colorful choreographies and dancing marches, not matter how many times they fail. In their world, no matter the results, their message is always about how illegal immigrants will benefit from immigration reform while the xenophobic groups’ message, using all kind of distortions, is about how Americans will be negatively affected by such reform (This is as ridiculous as a salesman trying to persuade you to buy his products because that would help him reach his quota instead of trying to persuade you about how useful his product will be for you). In their world, despite the results, the goal is gaining legislators’ promises behind doors and finding the appropriate teary Piolin’s letter that will move the hearts of those politicians to do the right thing while the xenophobic groups challenge politicians and openly threat them with using their resources (in terms of volunteers and fundraising) at the service of their challengers if they don’t abide to their xenophobia. In the real world, in 2007 these groups got Bush to move the national guard to the border, the criminalization of employers ignoring letters from the Social Security Administration about invalid Social Security numbers (this still stopped by the courts as far as I know) and another demise for the Dream Act and Agjobs among other pieces of anti-immigrant legislation. At the end, the Kennedy-Kyl bill didn’t pass. In 2009, Obama made a reality of E-Verify, fundamental part of their "enforcement by attrition" strategy, moved the national guard to the border and increased deportations to an unprecedented number of 392,000 (on top of the about 1.5 million who have already left due to the recession). Less of half of them had criminal records (Consider the effects of the "Secure Communities" program in states like New York, where it was supposed to target criminal aliens but at the end it targeted whoever they could catch –cf. Aarti Shahani, from Justice Strategies at "Democracy Now", 11/18/10). At the end not even the Dream Act passed.
3. Update to "The art of snatching defeat out of victory"
The worst consequence of the Obama’s tax deal with Republicans is not its cost, which will add $858 to the $14 trillion national debt. The worst consequence is that it has decisively contributed to encircle the economic debate on taxes until 2012, contributing dearly to the favorite Republican stereotype on the economic debate.
In any field of knowledge we have paradigms, the sets of criteria that define what we know we know, what we know we don’t know and the kind of answers that are acceptable to know what we don’t know. Republicans not only have been extremely masterful in positioning those criteria in the public’s mind (with a sustained effort so far unparalleled by the left) but also have frequently appealed to rationalizing prejudices in the voters’ mind (with an anti-intellectualism, portrayed as admiration for the common man’s wisdom, that has made irrelevant the debate in more informed circles). Thus morality has been reduced to legality and xenophobia rationalized as patriotism when talking about immigration; moral values and protection of the family have been reduced to the pro-life position (The Bible regulates even seafood but doesn’t mention abortion even once and abortion is a practice ancient enough to be known by the Old Testament’s Jews or, at least, by the New Testament’s Jews and homosexuality is mentioned only tangentially). Even Christianity has been reduced to a completely twisted version of that religion with which it shares only the characters (Jesus, Moses, etc). Arguments beyond that reductionism are not even considered. The system of castes rewarded by the current immigration system has been portrayed as incarnation of the Founders’ spirit even though Alexander Hamilton, our most important immigrant, would’ve been an illegal immigrant under the current law (He would’ve violated the dual intent). The "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" debate has hopefully finished (fortunately with its repeal and I hope DOMA follows the same fate in the near future) after years of conservatives crying about the effects of its repeal on the troops’ morale as if other modern armies accepting open homosexuals were infested by constant sexual harassment perpetrated by gays of incontrollable appetites, so turning those armies inoperative. National security is used as an excuse to protect and enrich military contractors that will protect us from a terrorist threat as realistic as jihadists crossing the Atlantic in canoes with a gigantic slingshot to launch nuclear weapons on us while the 9/11 Commission recommendations are not even mentioned. We can add to this list the death panels and mandatory abortion of the health care debate, the Biblical guarantee against global warming, the Tea Party’s cries about excessive taxation, the headless bodies left by immigrants in Arizona and the threats to hunting posed by banning assault weapons and by the New world Order. No matter how ridicule all this could sound to an informed person, the fact is that they have been penetrating, at least at the level of sympathy, a mainstream taught that the truth is not in the facts but somewhere in the middle. This has been clear in the power acquired by the Tea Party inside the Republican Party, turning even former supporters of the Dream Act like Hatch and McCain against it. One of those paradigms is unfortunately the reductionism of the economic debate to taxes: less taxes, more employment. The facts are of no interest and the truth is assumed somewhere in the middle: the good progressive taxes against the bad regressive taxes. Nothing else exists but in the real world.
This seems to be a philosophical debate until we get aware of how topics more important for our economy than taxes are doing. Let’s be clear. This crisis and its abnormal jobless recovery period are not the result of excessive taxation but, in the short term, of the uncertainty left in the credit market after irresponsible deregulation and even more irresponsible supervision, a sloppy bailout and ineffective re-regulation, whose effects have been hyper escalated by a brutal over leverage, especially in the non-banking sector, during the Bush Administration. In the long term, the problem is one of competitiveness, affected by the limited funds (Cf. interview to David Stockman by Fareed Zakaria on GPS, 11/28/10) to make the relevant investments in infrastructure and education after years of tax cuts, SUVs, and imperial wars paid on credit. This point has been particularly noted by Rubini, Zakaria and Morton Davis (who in The Hill has written about the need for a "Build America" program).
Tax cuts for the rich is the most stupid answer to a 9.8% unemployment rate but ‘Obama’s tax cuts’ are not an appropriate alternative either. The current debt levels, in an international environment in which the supremacy of the dollar is increasingly put in question (Already in "American Theocracy" and also in "Bad Money" Kevin Phillips documents challenges to the dollar zone), should make us give priority to investing on education and infrastructure instead of current spending or spending on housing. On the other hand, we can’t pretend that the irresponsible spending of the Bush years didn’t exist and won’t affect us. It will. If we add to all that the sad realities of our trade balance, the question is not any more whether we can achieve the standard of living of past generations but how to make a soft-landing in a decent lower level, especially if this is, as it seems, a crisis with structural consequences for the labor market. This landing come on top of a trend began on the 80s. The income of middle-income individuals has remained practically flat in the last decades while the poorest 5th after-tax income has grown 11% and the richest top 1% after-tax income has risen 256% in the comparison 1979 v. 2006 made by the CBO and the share of the national wealth of the top 1/10 of 1% has quadrupled over the last 30 years (Cf. Jacob Hacker, from Yale University in "Democracy Now", 12/2/10. Also in the Rachel Maddow show of 12/10/10) or as Senator Bernie Sanders make us notice in his recently 8.5 hour speech, in 2007 the top 1% got 23.5% of all income, more than the bottom 50% and 3 times what that top 1% made in the 1970s. Likewise, the top 1% has gotten 80% of all new income since 1980 to 2005.
After recessions usually there is some time in which the unemployment rate remains high. It’s called jobless recovery period and could take 6, 9 months. The fact that the unemployment rate his risen from 9.6% to 9.8% 18 months after the official end of the recession should be seen as a warning signal.
Zakaria recently reported how China is investing $1.5 trillion in 5 years on strategic industries in 70 high-technology areas (information, biotechnology, alternative energy, environmental friendly technologies, etc.), what should quadruple its output in these areas in 5 years. Zakaria also reported that the 500 biggest companies get 46% of their profits from abroad and the biggest can even get 80% of their profits from abroad. Unfortunately, (in his documentary "Restoring the American Dream", 10/31/10) Zakaria also reported that that the United States is now 52 in the World Economic Forum’s world ranking in on the quality of math and science education, after Serbia, Saudi Arabia, Costa Rica and Vietnam, respectively. Zakaria noticed that the quality of education problem goes from the elementary school to graduate school and job retraining to the little participation of the government in Research and Development compared to other countries. With respect to schools, we can’t continue basing 90% of the funding of education on real property taxes, preserving a system that guarantees a poor education to poor neighborhoods, that teaches the poor to be poor, that increases the gap between the American rich and poor and between the American poor and China.
On the other hand the Fed’s $600 billion QE2 program could even lead to a double deep recession if it causes monetary and trade retaliations like the ones that made the Great Depression worse after the gold standard sank. China and Brazil have already denounced it. Not just that, this cheap money could end up flying to buy assets abroad. Worse, a by-product of such trade wars could be the dumping of part of the $9 trillion of our debt in international hands. The interest rate is already too low to think that what companies are waiting to invest in real productive assets is an additional reduction of such rate. Already non-bank companies are sat on $1.8 trillion of cash they are not investing in productive activities despite the record profits achieved in the third quarter, $1.6 trillion (Cenk Uygur, The Young Turks, 12/13/10). On the other hand, Olbermann reported that while JC Penny and Kohl’s sales fell in that same period, sales were good for Tiffany’s, Neiman Marcus, Saks, Nordstrom and Christie’s. For some people, tax cuts work.
The re-regulation of the financial system brings some consumer protections but promises to be a shell as empty as health care reform without a public option. The most important reason for re-regulation was not consumer protection. Not only the Volcker Rule has been relaxed by the Treasury for proprietary trading after the end of the recession but also the clearing house for derivatives has been taken over by the biggest banks (which can even decide which derivatives are exempt from the clearing house), no rating agency has been successfully brought to justice (Worse, Fitch, S&P and Moody’s have won a lawsuit filed by the California Pension Fund, which lost $1.3 billion after being deceived by AAA classification. The rating agencies won alleging First Amendment rights) and the Center for Public Integrity reports that 3,000 lobbyists will be hired to affect the implementation of a bill already full of loopholes (cf. Nomi Prins). Cenk Uygur (The Young Turks, 12/13/10) quotes the Center for Responsive Politics on campaign contributions to Republicans by the Finance-Insurance sector after Boehner promised it support against re-regulation and quotes Valerie Jarrett position in favor of a "balanced approach to regulation" after the Republican victory in the midterm elections, helped by the financial contributions of the Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable. At the end, the Glass-Steagall firewall wasn’t reinstated and the Supreme Court made the corporative dream of secret and unlimited political contributions a reality.
If a trade war is not unleashed by the Fed’s QE2 program, the expected growth will be poor at best (10 years, in the estimation of Stockman in the interview by Zakaria of GPS of 11/28/10 mentioned above). If the Republican House accepted a second stimulus, I don’t want to think of the price it would impose on Obama. In "The art of snatching defeat out of victory" I joined the economists who recommended a swift repeal of the Bush tax cuts as soon as Obama took office. I also expected a much modest growth than the one projected in the Obama’s budget and the President to be conscious that the economy would be the fundamental issue on which the voters would judge him. Nevertheless, Obama not only didn’t repeal the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy but also recently has had to extend them sacrificing low-wage earners and the 99thers. Also, instead of, in exchange of the bailout, taking temporarily stocks to secure finance sector reform and the effective cleaning of the banks’ books, Obama made them a loan collateralized by the bad assets of the banks’ choosing after which the financial sector got back to its short-term practices (Deceitful appeal to risky credit card borrowers, trading derivatives in opaque markets; Cf. story quoted by Uygur and Olbermann about how the biggest 9 banks have given all their derivatives trading to ICE Trust in exchange of the right to appoint the director of the clearing house and the right to decide what derivatives are exempt from the clearing house. Derivatives are now considered more profitable than lending, credit cards, advising in mergers and acquisitions or managing money for the wealthy.) and bonuses and hired an army of lobbyists to oppose re-regulation. Paradoxically, in GM and Chrysler Obama took ownership, heads rolled and now both companies are profitable again.
I don’t want to be mean with many of his victories in other fronts, but Obama’s weaknesses and contradictions has been perceived by Republicans and making blink will be much more difficult. Obama waited until the Tea Party and other astroturfs took over the health care debate to engage in a series of too-little, too-late town halls and even then he looked more interested in hammering liberal Democrats and in gaining Olympia Snow’s vote than in twisting the arms of Democrats like Nelson and Baucus. He not only has defended Bush’s surge in Irak but also has embraced the surge in Afghanistan in Bush’s terms, embracing the short-term mirage the surge can provide in a land full of unsolved issues (Obama should have honestly presented the facts to the American people so they decide, even in a referendum, whether to give that war a chance with the right strategy for maybe another 12 years or to cut our losses now and leave, even if that implies a permanent civil war for Afghanistan. Instead Obama promised quick success, ignoring that Bush’s strategy supporting Karzai’s failed government had given popular support for the Taliban, that a negotiated political solution could not be discarded unless we were willing to begin from scratch a political alternative to the Taliban and stay for another 12 years and ignoring more than a century of counterinsurgency history. At the end we have animated Karzai’s approach to the Taliban with drones and night incursions and Clinton has succeeding on putting pressure on Karzai to not expel military contractors after the abuses that motivated Karzai’s decision. At the end Obama forgot his own Cairo address. He advocated for "looking forward" and didn’t bring to justice even one of the previous administration protagonists of the Bush’s economic and national security calamity (or even one of the big financial companies CEOs for their role in this tragedy –Come on! Even Bush got his buddy Ken Lay prosecuted!). Instead he unleashed all the power of the United States over Julian Assange basically to protect Bush’s legacy. Consider that three years after the real estate bubble debacle, while the estimated $8 trillion lost in the recent financial debacle has brought little criminal prosecution, we are presented again with cases of fraudulent practices in the mortgage market and foreclosure proceedings as if they were something new and a probe is announced... after three years. He promised immigration reform and at the end presented us with a record number of deportations of non criminal aliens. He promised cap and trade and in Cancun put pressure on voluntary cut of emissions and left Kyoto to die on its own. He promised internet neutrality and his FCC will end up exempting wireless internet from net neutrality. On top of this, he promised to bring back the American dream to the middle class and his own Deficit Reduction Commission is the wet dream of a conservative Republican: more tax cuts and the maiming of what remains of the welfare state. The result: Obama froze unilaterally the wages of federal workers.
4. What to do?
A) With respect to immigration reform: Due to the anxiety created by the demographic trends I have mentioned above, the last opportunity for immigration reform in many years may be 2013. I believe that leadership for immigration reform should come from the leaders of the Dream Act movements as far as they grow up. After several years of fruitless dancing with Mexican flags, the traditional leaders should have realized that what they do don’t work and that what their enemies (i.e., NumbersUSA in 2007) do does work but whether their intelligences are beyond any kind of help or they have gotten used to live of the donations contributed to their organizations, the matter is that you can’t rely in such leadership. Now, Dream Act activists cannot expect different results if they use the same colorful choreographies. They have to coordinate the same kind of machine anti-immigrants used so effectively in 2006, 2007 and 2010 and that’s a lot of work but there’s no way around it unless they expect that the problem will disappear just by ignoring it. When I drafted my plan, the "Movement Alexander Hamilton for Immigration Reform", I thought it as that kind of machine and I suggested low-budget ways to begin to implement it. It’s free. It doesn’t bite readers.
When, tired of knocking the doors of the traditional leaders, I tried to organize the undocumented workers I knew to visit the head of Casa de Maryland, I know I don’t have that traction that characterize leaders but the excuses ("I have to work", "I am sick", "I am too tired", "it’s my birth date, etc) were pitiful. Nevertheless, when invited to dance with Mexican flags their faces illuminate with a smile and they go. If the xenophobic groups had had this kind of attitude, immigration reform would have passed in 2005. Consider that even the American Chamber of Commerce and the Cato Institute are for immigration reform. Thus the original steps have to be taken by people involved with the Dream Act. They should be more motivated than many immigrants that have mimic the attitude of their leaders of expecting that immigration reform of their like will come from heaven in their day off. Undocumented students face a dark perspective: menial jobs after college at out-of-state tuition because they can’t work in their careers without a Social Security Number or trying to find a work abroad with their American diploma. Already in my plan "Movement Alexander Hamilton for Immigration Reform" I drafted a protagonist role for the students.
When exchanging emails with a leader linked to the Dream Act, he believed that the Dream Act had more possibilities if fought apart from immigration reform. I disagreed and I gave him my reasons in a letter I reproduce in the Appendix. I redact his name because I don’t want to betray his trust.
Where do you begin? Begin with the districts of Nelson (Nebraska), Baucus (Montana), Tester (Montana), Pryor (Arkansas) and Hagan (North Carolina), the five Democratic Senators who voted against the Dream Act (Remember that the Dream Act was killed by five votes). Focus on the districts that could make them vulnerable. Follow with the 23 senatorial seats Democrats will defend in 2012 but now, not in the middle of the primaries because that will only weaken unnecessarily a Democratic candidate. Then do a similar homework with the House. Congratulating yourself on victories irrelevant to your cause is a sloppy luxury you can’t afford (as when Casa de Maryland congratulate itself on a historical victory in Maryland, what is the same as Republicans congratulating themselves on a historical victory in Oklahoma (A victory in Virginia, on the other hand, is a good reason for self-congratulation). Even if they had never been born Obama would have won in Maryland and McCain in Oklahoma. Remember that immigration is a federal issue so Chirla’s or Casa de Maryland’s local victories are irrelevant if they don’t advance immigration reform in the federal field. Local victories are useless in what is fundamental). Do it now, when you still can reframe the debate for 2012 and let the Democratic candidate endorse your point without fear of losing votes. The Right has done it successfully before with deceitful arguments. Can’t we do it too with real ones? Has nobody read Thomas Frank’s book "What’s the matter with Kansas?"
There is no time to fool around with flags and customs. After 2013 it may be too late. I write this entry just for the sake of the likelihood that an honest leader reads it or a friend of his/her invite him/her to read it and that leader can see the storm in the horizon but, honestly, am I optimistic? No.
B) With respect to activism in general: We need a coordinator of grassroots organizations that reframes the political debate, communicates our message and gives support to candidates supporting that message and, in doing so, creates a base for a Democratic President. In other words, Organizing for America should stop being Cheerleading for America or a new organization has to be created. In my last entry I elaborated on liberal activism and I am not going to repeat myself here. Tactics like "Carpa Docente" and challenging the patriotism of those who prefer to hide behind their stereotypes and slogans to avoid informed debate are still relevant and better explain in previous entries. Just remember how important is to reframe the debate in our terms instead of surrendering to the 30" TV add format. When the debate is reduced to slogans and oversimplifications, Republicans have the advantage and prejudices and stereotypes give the necessary context to rationalizations. That’s where "Carpa Docente" may be especially productive.
I would like to reiterate the word "coordinator". This organization should be able to connect grassroots and media to research and think tanks in order to solve new problems (i.e., the filibuster reform support by Markos Moulitsas and Rachel Maddow), to keep politicians in line and avoid, i.e., the lame excuses we heard from conservative Democrats during the health care debate. Consider how Ben Nelson voted for both Bush tax cuts but fiercely opposed the public option sheltered by the protective silence of the White House. If we can affect the perception of the voters in their electoral districts exposing their records and how asinine their excuses are, they will have to listen to the voters as much as they listen to their political contributors but this is only true if we can effectively communicate with the voters and if you lose a politician who doesn’t vote with you in what matters, what do you want him for?
Another point I want to reiterate is that the challenges have to be made inside the Democratic Party. Third party cries would only divide, atomize and weaken the liberal option. I would like to see somebody like Howard Dean running in 2012 but that would be counterproductive. The coordination I propose should develop to put pressure on Obama and conservative Democrats and then we can support Dean in 2016. Dean himself has mentioned how counterproductive would be an effective challenge to Obama in the 2012 primaries.
C) With respect to the economy, all this should be predictable by now:
a) The next two years will be wasted defending the symbolic reforms of the last two years (Cf. Rubini). If Republicans shut funds to the federal government next year like Gingrich did to Clinton, that shenanigan would be a good opportunity at least in political terms, thinking of 2012. Nevertheless, that would imply Obama exposing Republicans, looking strong instead of inviting them to have tea.
b) With no supermajority (or even filibuster reform) expected in 2012, the opportunity for real reform in health care or the financial sector is for now gone even if you have a masterful talent to spin the fact that you are reforming your own reform (assuming that you have the votes to overcome Republican filibuster or, unlikely for Republicans posed to make Obama a one-term president, filibuster reform). In the case of financial reform, the moment is already gone. That moment came when the financial sector needed the rescue. The financial sector, after dumping some of its bad assets to TARP in exchange of nice loans and getting cheap funds from the Fed, funded Republicans, got back to its old short-term practices and, of course, is not interested in reform. Corporations, in a "globalized" world where they don’t have to share the fate of regular Americans, will use the momentum by fueling Republicans and trying to get the most of their political contributions’ worth. This means a counterproductive public spending and tax policy that will shortchange the funding of the necessary investments we need to improve our competitiveness. This, in turn, will increase the uncertainty at the roots of the current crisis more than any level of the deficit could do.
c) Bush’s tax cuts will take over a significant part of the economic debate in 2012, obscuring the debate of more pressing economic issues related to re-regulation and transparency of the financial sector or the investments necessary to protect our competitiveness.
d) The market has already assimilated the reality of a weak president, what will make it more skeptic and defensive to his agenda. This implies that the economic agents will take the uncertainty in demand for granted, bet for the success of the opposite positions and assume even more conservative expectations. In the years the economy was overleveraged, bad practices passed unnoticed due to the level of profits made possible by a demand fueled on credit. Without that leverage, conservative expectations may lead to keep investment at the lowest possible level.
Letters to a Dream Act activist
- Dear XXX:
My name is Alfredo Martin Bravo de Rueda Espejo
(http://alfredo-martin-bravo-de-rueda-espejo.dailykos.com/) and this may be
my last attempt to get something done on immigration activism. You must
remember the lesson of 2007: The Dream Act has no real possibilities (even if
supported by the American Chamber of Commerce) without comprehensive
immigration reform. On the other hand, the demographic trends of the Hispanic
population will take the anxieties that motivate xenophobic groups to record
levels of hysteria in maybe 5 or 7 years, bringing a very dark night of this
issue until, in a few decades, the weight of the Hispanic population makes it
politically dangerous to take anti-immigrant positions. In the meanwhile,
most talented though undocumented students who graduate will have to face a
hard decision: leaving the country to work abroad if they have graduated from
prestigious universities or applying to menial jobs where their invalid
social security number is not a problem. To have an idea of what that night
would look like you just need to check the enforcement by attrition plan
proposed by the think tanks linked to those groups. More, China, energy and
other issues will bring in the next years plenty of events on which these
groups can feed to promote their hateful agenda.
I do believe that the leadership necessary to make immigration reform
possible has to come from you. During the last five years you have witnessed
the mediocrity of many Hispanic leaders who have mobilized immigrants in
useless parades to honor their own vanities, wasting time and opportunities
as they have wasted the opportunity brought by the Arizonan anti-immigrant
law. In five years I have knocked the doors of these organizations and I have
not even seen curiosity on their side no matter the number of their failures,
no matter the human cost of their uninformed ways, no matter the number of
times I have knocked their doors. Again, maybe 2007 is the best example of
this: Not only the Kennedy-Kyl bill sink but also, even though in a moment
immigration reform counted in the polls with 72% of support, the only real
result was the passing of seven major anti-immigrant (like the Gutierrez and
Durbin bills sink last year but e-verify and increased funds for immigration
law enforcement passed without major problem).
After volunteering for the Obama campaign in Virginia and after trying to
convoke the Hispanics in that campaign for a serious activism on immigration,
I published in my section in Daily Kos the guidelines for a plan to make
immigration reform possible
I believe the main lines of that plan are still valid. If you cannot get at
least two of the three legs of the tripod I propose there (image, program of
volunteers and fund raising), you may look even cute but not effective. I
would doubt of any spokesperson or analyst saying that you will have
immigration reform in 3 or 5 years just as a consequence of the passing of
that time. Without changing the disastrous political activism that has hurt
so much that issue, you cannot expect different results (at least, in the right
direction). You cannot expect to achieve a result without doing first the
work necessary to secure that result, even if that work if difficult. Doing
otherwise is like looking for a key not where if fell but where there is
light because the search is easier there. Whoever tells you that you can get
immigration reform and the Dream Act persisting in what has failed just
because it is easy, is just playing with your expectations and remember you
don't have too much time to take the right path.
Right now I am living in Los Angeles, California, but I may be moving in a
couple of months due to the economic hardship in which my failed office left
me. If you are interested in talking about the possibility of working, here
or in some other state, a sound political plan to make immigration reform
possible by 2013, please contact me.
Waiting for your answer,
Alfredo M. Bravo de Rueda E.
- Dear XXX:
With respect to the question about why to go for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR, from now on) instead of going for the Dream Act (DA, from now on) only, let me share with you some points:
- First of all, what I propose you with my plan is that you position yourself as a different brand of immigration and not only as a DA brand. Voters' minds identify the issue of immigration more easily than the issue of the DA or Agjobs and whatever the positioning [I use this term in the meaning it has in marketing] you want to achieve (and I still think the Alexander Hamilton standard is the best for this case), you need the voter to link your message easily with something he/she is familiar with and the DA or Agjobs are not, unfortunately, something they can relate easily (especially, I am sure, in the swing districts you need to secure to the passing of the bill). Even immigration is not an issue they deal daily in their lives (as, in example, college costs or health care access) and you see it the the big variance the support for CIR has in the polls depending on other circumstances but, compared to the DA, I am sure you will better chances to stick your message to immigration to a less known issue like the DA. After all, it's easier that people retrieves the concept of immigrant than the concept of DA because the connection between student and immigrant has not only not been successfully established but also misrepresented by the anti-immigrant noise machine.
- If you are a new brand on the DA as something different from CIR, you are still vulnerable to the stupidities of the traditional Hispanic leadership on immigration so if some of these guys compare America to Nazi Germany, mentions the rights of Mexico to California, or an old redneck is beaten in a march with Mexican flags, NumbersUSA and its minions will still be able to use that against you to label and pack you with those idiots. Then they'll use that to put pressure on Senators and Congressmen, like in 2007.
- If you are in the fight as Martin Luther King and you differentiate yourself from the Black Panthers, the the Black Panthers do won't stick to you and you will still have the right to have a voice to mark distance from them and capitalize on the people who begin to prefer your option.
If you ran a campaign on the DA only, you lose the capability to capitalize your success attracting other groups and link constituencies sympathetic (in example, the best educated immigrant workers disappointed of the traditional leadership who could be the security force of your next event as your growth makes you bigger and the target of harassment by xenophobic groups; religious groups more sympathetic to the drama of the day-laborer than to the drama of the undocumented student; corporate contributors who like the idea of eleven million people who now will have better credit and will know that these companies supported their cause but who could be not that interested in the few thousands represented by the DA movement) to your new image because you have yourself narrowed your base.
Besides that, if you are successful in your presentation to the American public, other groups or sectors will look at you and it would be convenient you have something to offer them, what is precluded if your limit yourself to the DA. In some versions of the DA you're especially vulnerable because they could be portrayed as the attempt to reward lawbreakers (and many have poorly presented the DA as a way to not punishing the students, most of whom were too young to be made responsible for the way the arrived to America, for their parents' terrible felony against the sacred immigration laws) through their children while depriving native born of a legitimate college education. If Jesus Auspaza could have debated Tom Tancredo, he would have had to do it from the general immigration debate in order to win. Had he limit himself to those versions of the DA or to calls for compassion, his results wouldn't have been different from what you've seen during the last 5 years.
Actually, while the traditional pro-immigrant groups make calls for compassion or say how much they need to support their families, anti-immigrant groups (with the processed and simplified versions of all the intellectual trash coming from their "think-tanks") declare to defend not their xenophobia with lies but the interest of the American taxpayer against the public burden caused by immigrants; the American worker against the lower salaries and jobs stolen by immigrants; the American elderly against criminal and gangs whose members are undoubtedly immigrants; the American students against the spots in colleges stolen by immigrants and their children; the American homeland against terrorists coming here posing as immigrants and so on. If I am a voter and you want to court me, it will always be more appealing to me what you want to give me than telling me what you need for yourself. My legislative proposal takes all this into account.
- Even if you are Machiavellian, running on CIR gives you more leverage (even if after the Conference Senate-Congress the final version prefers you to other immigrant groups). This means that even if you win the battle for immigration and you find a not that friendly Conference, you can always get advantages for the students behind doors but, because of the other reasons given in this e-mail, you will hardly achieve the opposite (breaking the status quo with the flag of the DA only and getting something done, even only for yourself).
- Even if you want to achieve only the passing of the DA, you will still need a plan based on the tripod I propose because if something we can learn from the last 5 years is that appeals to compassion to heart-hardened politicians behind doors and marches with Mexican flags do not work. So, if you need a plan like the one I propose (or to copy what xenophobic groups have done to be so successful during these years - I, who actually do not pretend to invent the wheel, have adapted their methods to work in favor of CIR) whether you go for the DA or for CIR, why don't you go for CIR instead? Your enemy is going to hit you from the immigration angle anyway, even if you limit your voice to the DA and even though embracing CIR will represent some marginal effort, it will be small compared to the reach you will win as a result.
- Morally, going for CIR is the right thing to do because that way you extend your hand to people who is also victim of the mediocrity of the traditional leadership we both know. How many times in your life you will have the chance to bring justice to almost 11 million people?
Even if this argument doesn't convince you, you will look better if you present your case to the public as trying to solve the general problem in the interest of both native-born and immigrants (as I try to do with the Alexander Hamilton standard of my proposals) than looking selfish as trying to solve your own problem only.
- Unless we are talking about rare cases, like late Senator Edward Kennedy, most politicians' principles and loyalties come always after the expected results of the next elections (where fund raising and volunteers are usually determinant – Actually those where the tools NumbersUSA and its minions used to get the Senators lobbied by Bush in 2007 to retreat from their support to the Kennedy-Kyl bill) but then the image of the immigrant cause is something you have to address if you want to use those tools in your favor (and not end up like Immigrant's List, who could not place contributions on the politicians it needed because they considered the immigration issue radioactive). That's why I don't trust the sympathies of those politicians, especially during a slow jobless recovery period like the one we are going through.
- Consider this. Anti-immigrant groups have even gotten e-verify passed (not to mention routinely increases in the funding of immigration law enforcement), a key element of their "enforcement by attrition" plan, while pro-immigrant groups have gotten nothing passed during these last 5 years. That should be a good reason for they to pay attention critically to their barren efforts and to what the successful xenophobic groups have been doing. Unfortunately they are not even curious and they are still willing to court behind close doors those hard-hearten politicians who have forsaken them all these years and whose only fear and love is in the next elections, whose only worry is losing base support and fund raising, especially if they are in swing states (and those are precisely the votes you need the most). Xenophobic groups know that trying to thaw their hearts closed doors doesn't work, so go openly to them and threaten them to put their electoral resources at the service of their challengers and they can do it because they use the way their intellectual minions have distorted the image of immigrants for years to appeal to other constituencies. Consider how even Christian groups clashed on the immigration issue on Arizona recently. Again, this last point explains why Immigrant's List, the pro-immigrant PAC, could not get the politicians they were more interested to accept their money. The students, on the other hand, can get important progress on the important beachhead of image. Image is a key issue if you want to win. Unfortunately, in the popular culture the image of the immigration law comes from episodes of Family Guy and The Simpsons and the American people knows very little of the injustices of the system of castes that the current immigration law is. That's why there is a lot of work to do in this front.
Besides that, if I am right with respect to the demographic trends of the Hispanic population on the immigration debate, if I were you, I wouldn't want to miss the chance of having a presence in 2012 to earn in the electoral battlefield the right (or better, to send politicians the message the you have motivated volunteers and fund raisers that you can pit at the service of their challengers if they betray you – This is what NumbersUSA and its minions did in 2007) to demand CIR and the DA as part of it in 2013.
I know my plan could be even naively ambitious and doesn't come with a guaranty of success but is your best shot if you want to present a real fight. I think the "immigrant's tent" could be the best way to bring attention to you and the starting point of the plan I call "Movement Alexander Hamilton for Immigration Reform", especially because you have students who can make an excellent first impression in the endeavor of positioning a new brand on immigration activism. Let me know if we can work that plan or a similar one,
- Dear XXX:
I am writing you after some time. I wanted some time to confirm some of my words before contacting you again. Of course, I still agree with you that the leadership to make the Dream Act (but also immigration reform) happen must come from your ranks. Nevertheless, the problem of leadership implies also the problem of strategy. It’s not enough to have better leaders if they are going to adopt the failed strategies of the traditional leaders, if the same methods that have brought nothing but failure and pain during all these years are just accompanied by younger and smarter faces. I also admit that engaging in the right strategies is also difficult because, different from xenophobic groups which can use the effective infrastructure built by other xenophobic groups (like NumbersUSA, 2007), you have to practically begin building from zero but if you want to win, that is a work that needs to be done. Adopt what works, not what others’ mediocrity has defined as the standard procedure.
Use wisely the time from here to 2013 before the demographic trends of the Hispanic population will increase even more the anxieties motivating those xenophobic groups. Nevertheless, what could work from here to 2013 may not work afterwards. I hope you reconsider a strategy like the one I proposed you. Anyway, in the next two years, even if this time Obama and Durbin or Menendez were really committed to reform (and Obama could prefer a less conflictive gesture like another Justice Sotomayor or scholarships for Hispanic students), the new Judiciary Committee will not make it possible (Cf. Politico, October 26, 2010. Immigration Hard-liners poised to lead Judiciary). As you must have seen, negotiating behind closed doors hasn’t worked in the past and hasn’t worked now, no matter whether Durbin is a good man or is just playing you. As you must also have seen, the enemy has attacked you from the immigration front, no matter how much you try to separate the Dream Act from it.
From great leaders like Hector Perez Garcia to xenophobic groups like NumebersUSA, the past should have taught us that success goes hand in hand with precisely the opposite strategies and that’s what I tried to adapt to my strategic proposal. To assemble a machine that works politically, you need to position a new brand on immigration. It’s not easy but you don’t have another alternative if you want to give success to your young followers instead of sorry excuses.
Right now I am living in Maryland and hopefully I must begin another job in December, what will let me volunteer with a cause like immigration reform and the Dream Act. If somebody from your group can contact me to see whether we can work something, please make that person send me an e-mail to set a meeting.
Hoping hear from you,
Alfredo M. Bravo de Rueda E.