Monday, August 17, 2009

A Long Look in the Mirror

Last Friday night around 11:30 PM, an unidentified Latino man walked down Division Avenue in Patchogue NY.

As he approached the intersection of Division and West Avenues, three white teens hanging out in a nearby parking lot called out to him. Seconds later he was struck in the face, knocked to the ground, and as the teens shouted racial slurs, robbed of cash and other personal items. .... Just another case of "beaner hopping" in Long Island's Suffolk County.

Nine months earlier, within a stones throw of last Friday's incident, Marcelo Lucero was walking with a friend, minding his own business, when seven teens decided he would be their next, and final, victim in a long night of physical harassment of Latino neighbors played out as sport by the gang of marauding racist youths.

Within moments, Lucero lay on the ground bleeding to death from stab wounds….wounds inflicted as part of a sick, racist, game.

Despite international outrage, investigations by Justice Department, changes in police personnel, and various other attempts to stem the tide of anti-Latino violence in an area so notorious for its racist attacks that the Mexican government has long warned travelers to avoid it, the attacks obviously continue.

But, should we really be surprised.

What has really changed since that night back in early November when Marcelo Lucero's life oozed out onto the cold Long Island pavement?

The Hope? …The Change We Can Believe In? … The chants of Sí Se Puede and the promises made with them? … The awakening of the "Sleeping Giant" that drove Latinos and immigrant communities to the polls in record numbers? … The election of a black man, the child of an immigrant?

All of this has meant nothing to those held in the tentacles of the ever-expanding immigrant detention industry.

It's meant nothing to those profiled by local authorities at traffic stops and street corners around the country.

It’s meant nothing to those hoping against hope that they, or love ones, can simply live their lives without fear of deportation.

It’s done nothing to protect those who only want to work and make a better life for themselves and families, free from exploitation and abuse.

And most of all, it has done nothing to stem the tsunami of violence and hate that has afflicted this nation for years.

It's easy for Liberals, Progressives, and left-leaning media types, to point self-righteously at the obvious knuckle-draggers that lead the charge against social change and a more equitable society.

From the "birthers" to Sarah Palin, to Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck and a new generation of "dixiecrat" politicos from deep red states, the easy targets are abundant.

They're painted as ignorant, hypocritical, hillbilly, hold-backs, who represent not the views of the majority … but a small, yet vocal, minority of dinosaurs riling against the inevitable march of time.

Yet, these same Liberals and Progressives, so smug and self-righteous, fail to look in the mirror for even a moment to see that they are just as much responsible for events like those that happened in Patchogue, as any hirsute hillbilly or plasticized pitchman from the far-right.

They have not only accepted the racist frames and exclusionary rhetoric of the right on issues of immigration and immigration reform, they have embraced them.

When Rahm Emanuel(the son of an Israeli immigrant) first uttered his famous statement that "immigration is the third rail" of politics and should be avoided for political expediency, and that only a get-tough message would assure electoral victory, he telegraphed not just capitulation to the right, but willingness to accept their worldview.

We now see that the acceptance of the "immigrant as criminal" philosophy so prevalent on the right has morphed into the "get-tough" policies of the Obama administration and its surrogates like Chuck Schumer.

While Obama and his DHS move to increase raids, deportations and detentions in hopes of ploughing the way for legislative compromise, Schumer embraces the rhetoric of the right and calls for not only get-tough measures, but acceptance of terminology that reinforces the idea of the undocumented immigrant as criminal interloper

The first of these seven principles is that illegal immigration is wrong—plain and simple. When we use phrases like “undocumented workers,” we convey a message to the American people that their Government is not serious about combating illegal immigration….

… Above all else, the American people want their Government to be serious about protecting the public, enforcing the rule of law, and creating a rational system of legal immigration…

… People who enter the United States without our permission are illegal aliens, and illegal aliens should not be treated the same as people who entered the United States legally….

… Second, any immigration solution must recognize that we must do as much as we can to gain operational control of our borders as soon as possible. ….

…. Third, we must recognize that illegal immigration will never seriously be stifled unless and until we end the job magnet currently engendered by the seriously flawed I-9 regime. As we speak, any individual who steals a social security number and has access to a credible fake ID can get a job in the United States. ….

… Only by creating a biometric-based federal employment verification system will both employers and employees have the peace of mind that all employment relationships are both lawful and proper….


Clearly, the talking points first rolled out by the right during the Sensenbrenner legislation battle four years ago are not just still being thrown around … but have now somehow morphed into a "liberal," pro-reform platform. …a platform accepted not only inside and outside the beltway by both politicos and advocacy groups, but by the broader, supposedly left-leaning, universe.

We hear little push-back against this acceptance of "immigrant as criminal" framing outside of ethnic media and the "bomb-throwers" of the Latino/ pro-migrant blogosphere.

But until the broader progressive movement starts to reexamine its honeymoon with Obama's immigration policies and more importantly takes a long look in the mirror to see where their acceptance will lead, the growing pattern of violence like that in Patchogue will be just as much on their heads as those of the knuckle-dragging bigots who at least wear their racism on their sleeves for all to see.

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