Where is the Online Organizing for Immigrants Rights?

As we move further from the day to day details of the immigration debate, it's becoming increasingly clear that a savvy campaign among the conservative grassroots organized hundreds of thousands of supporters online to bring down comprehensive reform. 

As an article in the New York Times documented this weekend:

“We had way more response than we could handle,” said Stephen Elliott, president of Grassfire.org,
a conservative Internet group that called for volunteers for a petition
drive and instructed people how to barrage lawmakers with telephone
calls and e-mail.

The group gathered more than 700,000 signatures on petitions
opposing the bill, delivering them this week to senators in Washington
and in their home states.

Organizers described a new Internet-linked national constituency
that emerged among Republicans, much like the one that Democrats
pioneered during the presidential candidacy in 2004 of Howard Dean. But many of these Republicans are enraged at their party leaders, including Mr. Kyl and Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi, who supported the bill, and they feel betrayed by Mr. Bush.

Matt Stoller at MyDD notes that the nativist elements of the Republican Party did a good job organizing online to kill this bill, and sees the potential emergence of another element of a conservative blogosphere in their organizing savvy.  I think that he's right, and thus far the immigrant rights community has not exhibited an coherent online strategy to counter the rise of such a blogosphere.

GrassFire.org's ability to attain hundreds of thousands of signatories to its petition echoes the early days of MoveOn, which itself started as a petition drive, and their online savvy extends beyond gathering signatures.  The organization has also created humorous TV ads in support of a border fence.  They are currently trying to raise $100k to air their spot on TV, and the ad has already been uploaded and viewed almost 50,000 times on YouTube.  This organizing savvy goes far beyond GrassFire.org.  On FaceBook, anti-immigration groups far outnumber those that are in favor of comprehensive reofrm, and the largest group - by far with over 14,000 members - is called "No Amnesty for Illegal Immigrants."  This is just as true in the blogosphere, with anti-immigrant blogs dominating the discourse.

We face an uphill battle, but it's not by any means insurmountable.  There is a nascent progressive blogosphere forming in favor of humane immigration policies, lead thus far by blogs like Immigrants in USA, Immigration Prof, Border Line, Migra Matters, Immigration Equality, DMI Blog, Pro Inmigrant, Immigrants and Politics, Latina Lista, Justice and Journalism, Migration Debate, and Blue Latinos.   As far as I can tell, these groups are still disconnected from the Beltway immigration advocates, and even from the many grassroots immigration groups scattered across the country.  There is little in the way of a coordinated strategy to harness online the many hundreds of thousands of immigrant rights supporters that groups like La Raza command offline.  That needs to change.

A new organization - Dreams Across America - seems to be looking to form a coherent online strategy (including blogs, social networking, and online video) for advocating for humane, comprehensive reform that lives up to our national values, but so far they are a lone voice just getting started. 

Last week, the conservative grassroots successfully organized online to pressure their representatives and kill reform.  It's time for the immigrant rights community to become similarly organized.  The next time an immigration bill comes before Congress, let's be ready with our own online strategy to counteract the conservative narrative and build support across the country and in Congress to achieve comprehensive reform.


Daily Blog Round-Up 6/11/07

We wanted to first give a shoutout to Racialicious, which is fast becoming one of our favorite blogs for their great reporting and abundance of good links to reporting on issues of racial justice.

  • Immigrants in the USA Blog reports on the Board of
    Alderman’s Connecticut decision
    to administer identification cards for undocumented
    workers in New Haven. The cards were issued primarily to allow undocumented workers to open bank accounts, as current habits of carrying
    large sums of money on their person make undocumented workers targets for crime.  The decision to help protect undocumented workers is a positive step taken that underlines the empathy needed by government officials to help
    undocumented workers succeed in society. Too often, their plight is overlooked, but with creative solutions such
    as this one, all people will be given the opportunity to prosper.
  • Racialicious reports on a recent George Washington
    University School of Medicine study
    showing that white children were more likely than children of color to be admitted to a hospital for medical conditions that could be
    treated at home, highlighting yet again that disparities exist not only in access to care, but in the quality of care that one receives based on one's race.
  • NytimesincomeThe New York Times featured an interesting reflection on the
    wealth inequalities and increasing gap between the rich and poor. Counter to many economists’ predictions, the amount of wealth going to the rich and super rich is increasing at an unprecedented rate. According to the Congressional Budget
    Office’s dat
    a, in 2004, while households in the lowest quintile of the country
    were making 2 percent more than they were in 1979, the top quartile had increased their income by
    63%. These figures parallel the State of Opportunity in America study (pdf), which also adds that much of the discrepancies can be explained by race.  White households gained more in real income
    than African-American and Hispanic households between 1974 to 2004.

Daily Blog Round-Up 6/8/07

  • Racialicious reports on the discrepancies in the 2000 U.S.
    , stating that over 700,000 blacks were not counted nationwide. Committees are looking for ways to clear up
    such problems in future census counts, as mistakes skew the representative character of our government. The census has presented a number of problems for communities of color, who are frequently miscounted in a number of ways. As featured on the State of Opportunity website, the 2000 Census counts prison inmates as inhabitants of their prison
    towns, not their home towns. This miscount of the populations of those areas, results in a loss of both resources and equal representation for those communities.  An accurate census is important to
    maintaining a true democracy that suits the people’s needs.
  • Racialicious continues its coverage on the lack of the
    diversity on TV networks
    , especially in television writers. While certain prime-time shows do feature
    minority actors, on the whole, many of these characters are merely supporting
    predominantly white casts. In response
    to the new line-up of shows for the fall, Janet Murguia, president of the
    National Council of La Raza, voiced her dismay: “It seems to me that we're
    losing ground. I'm puzzled. Where there
    has been diversity, there's been success…But with a few exceptions, this is the
    least diverse lineup we've seen in recent years.”  In a study of the Writers Guild of America,
    West showed that white males disproportionately dominate film and TV jobs in Hollywood, and that
    minority writers accounted for fewer than 10% of employed television writers
    between 1999 and 2005. Without proper
    representation of the true diversity in this country, TV networks are
    showcasing a false view of the country, thus contributing to more hostilities
    and stereotypes in race relations.
  • BlogHer reports on the importance of comprehensive sex
    education and access to birth control within the frame of a “basic human right
    and a normal value.” In addition to
    explaining how much support throughout the country exists across gender and
    party lines, BlogHer’s use of language truly exemplifies the type of communication
    strategies advocates need to unite the country. By framing access to birth control as a basic human right, BlogHer
    elevates the reproductive rights struggle to a more universal issue, one to
    which many people can relate. This
    framing is a positive step for advocacy everywhere!
  • Sakaduski Marketing Blog reports on a recent study from the
    Harvard School of Public Health, which grouped people based on race, country of
    residence and a few other community characteristics and compared life expectancy
    rates in each “race country.” These
    researchers found that life expectancy rates differed dramatically between
    these eight “race countries”: Asians, northland low-income rural whites, Middle
    America, low-income whites in Appalachia and the Mississippi valley, Western Native Americans, black Middle America, southern low-income
    rural blacks, and high-risk urban blacks. For example, the gap between the high-risk urban black males and the
    Asian females was nearly 21 years. Differences
    in access to health care and health insurance, as well as the quality of care one receives, are a primary cause such disparities, severely hurting many minority groups. Without equality to health care, these eight Americas will continue to show such huge unfair discrepancies.

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:

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

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


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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
    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.
    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
  • 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
  • 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.

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