Framing Immigration Next Time Around

Yes, the current immigration bill is dead, for the time being, but we'd still like to take a quick look at they way some of our allies have been framing the issue.  There are lessons to be learned that can make us more effective advocates for comprehensive reform next time a bill is introduced.

An article at the Huffington Post by the always thoughtful and incisive Barabara Ehrenreich provides a case in point as to how some tried and true progressive frames might need to be rethought in the case of immigration reform.  Ehrenreich's piece is as witty as usual, and focuses on her typical, economics based argument for progressive reform.  In it, she argues:

The only question is how much we owe our undocumented
immigrant workers. First, those who do not remain to enjoy the benefits
of old age in America will have to be reimbursed for their
contributions to Medicare and Social Security, and here I quote the
website of the San Diego ACLU:

Undocumented
immigrants annually pay an estimated $7 billion more than they take out
into Social Security, and $1.5 billion more into Medicare ... a study
by the National Academy of Sciences also found that tax payments
generated by immigrants outweighed any costs associated with services
used by immigrants.

Second, someone is going to have
to calculate what is owed to "illegals" for wages withheld by
unscrupulous employers: The homeowner who tells his or her domestic
worker that the wage is actually several hundred dollars a month less
than she had been promised, and that the homeowner will be "holding" it
for her. Or the landscaping service that stiffs its undocumented
workers for their labor. Who's the "illegal" here?

Ehrenreich's points (only partially listed here) are dead on, but her framework is divisive, pitting "Americans" against "Illegals."   Her suggestions - that it is we who owe undocumented workers a debt for all that they do - while accurate, is alienating to the very people whose support the immigrants rights community needs to secure in order to achieve positive comprehensive reform.  This us vs. them, transactional (financial) frame implies that indirectly feeds into anti-immigrant ideas of undocumented workers as a burden to society, and  reinforces wedges that anti-immigration groups are attempting to drive between progressive communities, namely African Americans and Immigrants, who share many of the same concerns and problems.

Rather than  employ witty rhetoric that promotes the conservative (transactional) frame, progressives should deploy a frame that acknowledges the positive contributions that immigrants make to our society, draws on the history of America as the land of opportunity, and illustrates how, by helping immigrants find a pathway to citizenship, we can all rise together - economically or otherwise.

Here are some sample messages illustrating what that looks like:

  • We need to move from our broken immigration system to one that is orderly,
    workable, and consistent with our nation’s values.  We can do that by allowing
    immigrants who work, pay taxes, and learn English to earn a pathway to
    citizenship.  Those steps, along with reforms like increased civil rights
    enforcement and sanctions for employers that exploit workers will raise wages
    and expand economic opportunity for everyone.
  • Immigrants are part of the fabric of our
    society—they are our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends.  Reactionary
    policies that force them into the shadows haven’t worked, and are not consistent
    with our values.  Those policies hurt all of us by encouraging exploitation by
    unscrupulous employers and landlords.  We support policies that help immigrants
    contribute and participate fully in our society.
  • Immigrants and African Americans have a
    shared interest in fair working conditions, laws against discrimination, and
    quality schools that prepare our kids for a diverse country and world.  Our
    communities are increasingly coming together to press for those
    policies.

The current immigration bill may be dead, but before long this issue will rise again.  When it does, let's be prepared to talk about it in a way that builds bridges and helps create a coalition strong enough to push through comprehensive reform that treats immigrants fairly and is consistent with our national values.


Fox News - All Black Congressman Look Alike

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Just caught this from TPM TV on YouTube.  Fox News continues to take shoddy journalism to a new level:


Daily Blog Round-Up 6/7/07

  • Miagra Matters makes an important point, noting the core
    values central to the immigration debate, and how historical precedent of
    Reagan’s Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 could help shape new
    laws. Miagra underscores the values that
    current legislation should be building on, including the fairness inherent in strengthening
    workers’ rights and workplace enforcement of labor laws, ending the temporary
    guest worker program, and finding a quota that accurately reflects the
    country’s true labor needs. In political
    discussion, our values are often overlooked and confused in the process of
    getting a bill passed. Immigration
    legislation will affect many people who greatly contribute to this country’s
    initiatives, and we have to continue to respect and uphold the fairness and
    opportunity this country stands for – not divide and exploit people just
    because it’s economically convenient. By
    continuing to support programs in education and child care, this country can
    truly benefit from the diversity and commitment of many different groups of
    people.
  • The Pew Research Center reports on their recent public opinion poll on current immigration legislation
    debated in the Senate. Overwhelming,
    across party lines, a majority of the respondents want a path to citizenship
    for currently undocumented workers if they meet certain conditions. However, respondents were somewhat ambivalent
    about the current bill, with a large minority without an opinion. Therefore, to reflect public opinion accurately, our lawmakers need to recognize that most Americans support sensible reform
    with a path to citizenship – and that basic premise shouldn’t be lost in the
    ongoing debate.
  • Rachel’s Tavern reports on the findings of a recent study
    that showed that of men being treated for breast cancer, African American men
    are more likely to die from the disease than white men. The five-year survival rate was approximately
    90% among white men and 66% among African American men. This finding was attributed to lower access
    to standard treatment, which broadcasts a larger problem: the disparities in
    access to health insurance and health services.  The State of Opportunity in America   (pdf)
    found that African Americans, Hispanics and the poor are more likely than white
    non-poor groups to face barriers to having a regular source of health care, and
    the gaps have increased since 2000. Without adequately addressing such issues, these gaps will continue to
    widen and disproportionately hurt certain populations.

Daily Blog Round-Up 6/6/07

  • Racialicious reports on a New York Times article explaining
    the ways in which New York City's composition of “mom and pop” stores would change drastically under the proposed
    immigration bill. Contrary to previous
    systems of sponsorship for extended family members, this new bill places a higher value on education and skilled labor via a points system. Many of these small businesses continue to thrive today as a
    result of these families ability to bring in new workers. As the study notes, much of the reconstruction of New York City after the bankruptcy and
    property losses of the 1970s can be traced to the influx of new immigrants. These immigrants, many who would have been turned away by the provision of the current bill, play a key role in revitalizing American cities like New York.
  • ChartradioA recent Free Press study
    (pdf) reports on the lack of diversity in radio ownership, attributing the dismal
    figures partly to FCC policy and media consolidation. This study is the first
    complete assessment and analysis of female and minority ownership of full-power
    commercial broadcast stations in the U.S since a ruling from the Third U.S. Circuit Court
    of Appeals in 2004 criticized the lack of diversity on radio, television and
    newspapers.  Since that ruling, the FCC has done next to nothing to improve minority ownership. Currently, women own just 6 percent of commercial broadcast radio stations, and
    racial or ethnic minorities own just 7.7% of them. As a media outlet, dependent on the public airwaves, radio should accurately
    represent the composition of the country, and provide all groups an equal voice in our democracy
  • Feminist blogs reports on an American Journal for Public
    Health study
    which found a correlation between routine, subtle racial
    discrimination and development of chronic illness. The study interviewed Asian-Americans across the U. S. about their personal experience with discrimination and their medical histories,
    concluding that stress from the former may cause problems ranging from
    mental health issues to chronic cardiovascular, respiratory and pain-related health
    trouble. Overlooking the negative
    effects of subtle institutional racism causes great harm for the groups in
    question, and prevents positive solutions through social programs. For example, the recent attempts to allow communities to integrate schools in segregated neighborhoods have not garnered as much support as they should because of people's perceptions about the existence of racism.  Without a true understanding of the problems our society still faces, minorities will continue to be disadvantaged.
  • Bloomberg.com reports on the impact of presidential
    candidates’ attitudes on immigration in the upcoming election. With varied reactions from all walks of life,
    this bill faces several amendment suggestions to soothe responses. Particularly of concern to immigrant advocacy
    groups is the lack of emphasis on family over a point system highlighting education and professional. Deepak Bhargava,
    executive director of Center for Community Change, responded that “the
    emotional resonance of the family issue is profound. This point system is not just wrong-headed
    policy, it is deeply offensive to many people who came to this country as
    immigrants.”
  • In a similar piece, the Gotham Gazette reports on the new
    immigration bills and advocacy groups’ reactions. Many groups in New York expressed dismay over the point
    system, unhappy about a bill that does not stress family reunification. In response, Chung-Wha Hong, executive
    director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said that “the proposed
    bargain…undermines our family-based immigration system.”

Lindsay Lohan and the Rest of Us

Over at Tom Paine, Alan Jenkins and Kirsten Levingston (of the Brennan Center) use the recent escapades of Lindsay Lohan as a teachable moment about the inequities in our criminal justice system and the importance of redemption.

At the same time, the system is unequal in its administration. Although
African Americans and whites use illegal substances at about the same
rates, African Americans are far more likely to be incarcerated for
drug offences. Between 1990 and 2000 the number of African Americans
incarcerated in state prisons for drug offenses increased by over 80
percent to 145,000, a number that is 2.5 times higher than that for
whites. Affluent whites like Ms. Lohan are far more likely to be let go
with a warning, to avoid prison time, or to avoid criminal scrutiny at
all. Their substance abuse problems lead them to places like Promises,
not the penitentiary. Race and class, then, play a powerful role in
determining the consequences of unlawful behavior.

Read the rest here.


Daily Blog Round-Up 6/5/07

  • Ezra Klein reports on a few different immigration issues,
    including the results from the recent Washington Post poll indicating a clear
    majority in favor of a few aspects of the immigration bill debated in Congress
    right now on both sides of the aisle. Klein debates the point that guest workers would harm
    American workers, stating that there would only be small downward effects on
    native wages, if any. Klein has a point, but for those looking to build support for comprehensive reform, it is more important to think
    of native workers and immigrants as a united force, sharing many common
    aspirations for their families. By
    stratifying the types of jobs each group can and “should” do, the greater
    purpose of becoming a community is left behind in favor of pointing
    fingers. 
  • Migra Matters
    continues the discussion on immigration by explaining the current state of
    affairs in Congress, stating that it appears as though the bill will not be
    struck down. For those looking for a good breakdown, Miagra Matters
    highlights the 14 current amendments proposed and how they would affect the final legislation.
  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog cites a New York Times
    article
    about racial bias that occurs in jury selection. While it is illegal to turn away
    a possible juror based only on race, many lawyers use other excuses to reject
    black jurors. In a report of 390 felony
    jury trials from 1994 to 2002, the district attorney’s office turned away three
    times as many eligible black jurors as white ones. In these cases, while the racism is not
    explicit, the institutional racism still exists, but to a less obvious
    degree. This kind of racism results in a
    lack of public commitment to address social policies for equality, and
    obfuscates this important problem
  • Racialicious references an ABC News article arguing that
    children’s school settings impact their own racial exclusion. The report referenced a study of students of
    different ethnic and racial backgrounds and found that children with friends
    from different background were much more likely to say it is wrong to exclude
    someone because of their own race. In
    addition, in a follow-up analysis of white students, children in “mixed
    ethnicity” schools were much less likely to use racial stereotypes about
    children with different backgrounds. The
    study corroborated the explanations of the many Amicus briefs
    submitted in support of the school integration cases for the Supreme Court
    rulings in Seattle and Louisville, which can be found on the NAACP Legal Defense Fund website. These Amicus briefs consist of arguments from a plethora of
    organizations explaining why exclusion and school segregation is harmful for
    children, with arguments from such institutions such as the American
    Psychological Association, Anti-Defamation League, Historians, and the LA
    School District. The detrimental effects
    of segregation on school-aged children has been well-documented, and only with
    the Supreme Court’s decision to let the communities deal with integrating their
    districts themselves can we truly move toward equality.

Daily Blog Round-Up 6/4/07

  • Ezra Klein reports on new figures in a Brookings Report
    regarding the state of social mobility in this country, especially in
    comparison to other industrialized nations. Klein highlights the
    changes in income of men in their thirties, and shows that growth for
    the top 1% of income-earners has increased the
    most out of any group. His post corroborates data from The State of Opportunity in America (pdf), which found the least mobility in the bottom and top income quintile. People in the lowest income quintiles
    experience the least mobility, from 19-38 percent average annual mobility over
    10 years. Only 7 percent of those
    starting in the bottom quintile were in the top on follow up. These figures are particularly troubling when
    viewed in context with racial imbalances. In a 20-year study, African-American and Hispanic median household
    income was lower than that of whites at each point, and increased to a smaller
    degree. Only when greater opportunities
    are given to the lower income brackets can the “American Dream” of rising to
    the top based on one’s merits exist.
    International_mobilitytm_4
    Income_mobility_mentm Growth_in_income_since_79tm
  • Related to last week’s blog post, Facing South continues the
    discussion on the changing racial trends in school. Facing South points out that recent reports don't take into
    account private school students, who comprise a large percentage of Southern
    white families.  A Duke University study shows that private schools have contributed to the re-segregation of
    schools in the south, although they accounted for less than a fifth of all
    school segregation. Importantly,
    segregation tends to be the highest in the school districts that have non-white
    percentages between 50 and 70 percent. This comes as the public awaits two Supreme Court decisions on critical
    school segregation cases
    which will determine whether school districts may
    voluntarily continue to integrate the schools. The State of Opportunity in America (pdf) cites
    that since the mid-1980s, virtually all large school districts have had
    increasingly lower levels of integration. The 1954 Brown decision promise of acceptance and diversity cannot be
    fulfilled until school districts encourage integration in ways that work for
    community.
  • Feminist Blogs reports on new statistics from the National Center for Children in Poverty (pdf) about how
    state policies affect low income children. Most notable is the comparison between the level of poverty among
    children and the percentage of Non-Hispanic White members of the population. These figures parallel those in The State of Opportunity in America (pdf), which states that in
    2000, the poverty rate among African Americans and Hispanics was slightly over
    2.6 times greater than that for white Americans. In addition, from 2001 to 2003, poverty rates
    for all racial and ethnic increased more than for whites. Poverty is represented disproportionately
    based on race in this country, which threaten the well-being of a diverse
    country.
  • Feminist Blogs also reports on a Department of Public Health study which shows that minority women in Los Angeles country have disproportionately higher rates of chronic disease than others. The report found that black women have the
    highest mortality rate of any group, and many minority groups reported
    significant percentages of poverty and low access to health care. The large gaps in health status among
    racial/ethnic groups are obvious in The State of Opportunity in America (pdf),
    which explores figures that mortality rates among African American females’
    mortality rates have been consistently 25 percent higher than for women
    overall. Examples like the LA Country’s
    disproportionate health care coverage and poverty situations highlight a national
    problem requiring new social reforms.

Daily Blog Round-up: 6/1/07

  • Ally Work reports on an article from Lip Magazine which breaks down the ways in which white supremacists exploit tragedy to further their own causes.  Besides using any crime committed by a non-White as a race crime attempted to bring down the majority, many of these groups believe that the media purposely ignores black-on-white killings.  In reality, the media over-represents blacks as offenders, relative to their share of crimes committed. The State of Opportunity in America (pdf) cites findings from the General Social Survey that significant majorities of African Americans are more prone to violence than whites.  When Americans continue to endorse these racist attitudes, the goals of equal access through renewed social policy become compromised.
  • Prometheus 6 reports on a New York Times article exposing the rapid growths of minorities in school rolls, especially Hispanics.  This number has peaked at 42% of public school enrollment from 22% thirty years ago.  These figures reflect the changes in the greater composition of the country, where great ethnic shifts are taking place in all regions.  Despite rising enrollment, large test score gaps exist between whites and minority groups.  The State of Opportunity in America (pdf) cites that while 87% of U.S. adults have obtained a high school diploma or the equivalent, the high school degree attainment among Hispanic adults is only just above 60%.  Schools need to provide the proper resources to close this immense gap.  As a way to combat the prejudice that students from lower socioeconomic status may face, some higher education institutions are courting low-income students with offers of grants and tuition wavers, recognizing that their test scores and performance is only in reflection to their resources. This New York Times article highlights the ways in which Amherst seeks to make their class more diverse, not only racially, but also across class differences.
  • The Huffington Post reports on the disadvantages of living with such large discrepancies between the top of the wealth index and the bottom, even if you find yourself in the better half.  Citing his new book, The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner-Take-All America, Daniel Brook explains how the more unbalanced a society is, the more the top will need to pay to keep it afloat.  The State of Opportunity in America (pdf) cites the increases in class divide in the past three decades, in which the wages for the top 5 percent of wage earners grew by 31%, but the wages for the bottom 10% of workers slightly declined.  With these severe trends, it becomes that much more challenging for social mobility and equal opportunity to all members of society.
  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog reports on the recent increases in California spending on prison budget, extrapolating that in five years, this budget will supersede spending on the state universities.  The author attributes the disorganization in California’s prison department and unprecedented numbers of incarcerations to unclear goals for the function of prisons, either a way to remove criminals from society or rehabilitate them.  These figures in California parallel those found on the national level.  The State of Opportunity in America (pdf) found that in mid-2004, more than 21.13 million people were incarcerated, a number higher than other nations and unprecedented in our history.  Without proper rehabilitation programs, these rates will continue to increase, forcing our law-makers to spend high percentages of budget money to sustain the populations when the money could be used better elsewhere.

Daily Blog Round-up: 5/31/07

  • Racialicious
    reports on the current lack of minority representation on TV shows,
    especially in light of the recent Emmy nominations.  The achievements of people of color on TV have rarely been recognized by the Emmys (seven winners since 1986), and there continues to be only a
    marginal percentage of actors, writers, and senior-level producers in
    the TV industry.    TV coverage may not seem like
    the most important racial injustice to fight, yet
    seeing one’s own group represented in mainstream America (or not) can have a profound impact on how we view race in America.  When certain groups are rarely depicted in
    prominent TV shows and popular culture, the producers are sending a
    message of how America should look, ignoring the diversity that
    strengthens this country.  This imbalance in media  is even more apparent on major cable and network news.  Media Matters
    conducted a study calculating the ethnicities of the guests on four
    prominent Sunday talk shows.  Not surprisingly, they found a major bias in favor of white guests
    versus any other minority constituency analyzed.  What does that say about whose opinion counts as an authority in our society?
  • Racialicious
    also reports on the wave in lawsuits filed around the country by
    low-paid workers, especially immigrants in large cosmopolitan cities
    like New York City.  These successes exemplify the potential gains of
    immigrants and other low-wage workers when united.  While some may try to pit immigrants against African Americans and low wage workers, by joining forces to tackle our common problems, we can make greater headway and all rise together.
  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog
    reports on the problems of the criminal justice system, using the
    situation in Massachusetts where having a Criminal Offender Record
    Information file can limit one’s occupational opportunities, housing
    offers and loan grants, even if the charges were later dropped or the
    person was found not guilty.  Even when modernizing the criminal
    justice system, governments need to consider the implications of a
    criminal record and provide educational and vocational resources to
    give the person the opportunity to change.

Daily Blog Round-up

  • ACS blog reports on the 5-4 majority decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber, a case involving sex discrimination in the workplace.  While the gender wage gap has narrowed in the last 30 years, this decision only makes further advances more difficult.  The State of Opportunity in America (pdf) cites that in 2003, a women’s average wage was still only 81% of a man’s average wage.  By continuing to put such roadblocks in the path of possible equal opportunity employers, women and minority groups will have a much harder time fighting for equality in the workforce.
  • Prometheus 6 reports on Color of Change’s continuous efforts to unite the rising black blogosphere and the progressive netroots to combat the Congressional Black Caucus’s democratic debates on Fox News.  Color of Change is pioneering new forms of online activism for racial justice advocates.  Show your support by checking out their site.
  • DMI reports on senators' reactions to the recent immigration proposal (The Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act (pdf)) and to the NY Times/CBS poll showing a strong majority of American support for providing a path to citizenship for undocumented workers.  DMI discusses the senators' apparent disconnect with this majority, detailing two different amendments to the bill (introduced by Senators Vitter and Coleman), which would have created roadblocks to a compassionate pathway to citizenship that recognizes the contributions immigrants make to our country. 

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