Facing South

Immigration backlash backlash

Facing South
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Wow! A couple of interesting days here at Facing South and around the nation. I won't try to recap all the news pouring in from around the country about the "Day Without Immigrants" yesterday. Chris has done an excellent job of bringing you the highlights, and this Google news search has lots, lots more. One commentary worth reading is this succinct editorial which takes an objective look at all sides of the issue.

In reading the news coverage, the first thing that struck me was the amount of news coverage. Some thought this might turn out to be a non-event. On the contrary, it is the huge, front-page above-the-fold story of the day in just about every newspaper, and dominated the cable and broadcast TV news all day and all night. In that respect, supporters of progressive immigration reform succeeded in turning up the heat on this already boiling-over issue and forcing it into the national spotlight.

The other thing that struck me was the sympathetic hearing immigrants are getting in the media and from the public. Seeing the faces of millions of hard-working immigrants saying "we are not criminals" is pretty powerful. Seeing the faces of their children reminds society that these are real people with families they are trying to protect. I admit being in the camp Chris talked about that thought this might be ill-advised because it might lead to a backlash against immigrants. It appears I was wrong.

Of course, the hard-liners don't see it that way. A "Minuteman" was quoted as saying their plan for the day was to work and pay taxes so illegal immigrants could get free education and health care. But their numbers were few at the demonstrations, and their message was drowned out by an outpouring of support for immigrants and their families who are just asking for a little dignity.

And of course a few cynical right-wing politicians took advantage of the situation to bluster and bloviate, going so far as to introduce meaningless Senate resolutions to curry favor with the Bush Administration and the 30% dead-enders who still believe in its failed policies, and presumably the tooth fairy, too.

The only thing they have succeed in doing, however, is to expose themselves as shrill, divisive panderers to public opinion polls, which they apparently aren't even paying attention to. And the people aren't paying attention to the increasingly irrelevant dead-enders any more, either. Instead, they are being forced to confront the realities of the situation, with compassion and a better understanding that comes from looking into the faces of immigrants and their children who Congress wants to declare "felons" and "security risks."

So all in all, it appears May Day was a pretty good day for progressive immigration reform. And it appears that Chris was correct, and that the only backlash was a backlash against divisiveness and social injustice.

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