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A Voice Beyond the Vote

2:34 pm in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

Undocubus protesters demonstrating at the Democratic National Convention (Chandra Narcia via Facebook)

Originally posted at CultureStrike

Immigration has been catapulted to the front lines of the presidential race in recent months, thanks to a groundswell of grassroots organizing, mass mobilization by a charismatic movement of undocumented youth, and high profile media coverage of some of the immigrant rights movement’s most dramatic struggles (not to mention its ugliest opponents). Add to that the changing complexion of the electorate, with the expansion of Latinos as a major voting bloc, culture wars over politically conscious public education, and the nationwide right-wing backlash that has spawned critical civil rights debates over fair elections and voter suppression.

Here are some dispatches from the pre-election political fray. Though the election may influence the dialogue or the prospects for certain policies, these issues will continue to burn long after November 6, no matter who gets elected.

CultureStriker Jeff Biggers, a longtime chronicler of Arizona politics and author of State Out of the Unionblogs about the browning of the American electorate in ground zero of the immigration battle:

When 20-year Phoenix resident and businesswoman Maria Maqueada turned in her emergency ballot today at the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office, thanks to the assertive efforts of Citizens for a Better Arizona, one more vote was cast in what observers are already calling a record Latino vote in Arizona.

Whether such a grassroots surge in the Latino vote will be able to overcome out-of-state contributions and Republican hijinks, including the latest report today on misleading robocalls to Arizona Democrats on polling stations by Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Flake, a determined network of Latino and community groups galvanized by citizens fed up with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s notorious reign and the state’s SB 1070 “papers, please” immigration policy has already shifted the political landscape in tomorrow’s election — and beyond.

The reversal of the Arizonification of America is in full force. Read the rest of this entry →

Immigrant Scapegoating: Not Just an American Pastime

1:15 pm in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

Cross-posted from

Around the world, as long as people keep moving, politicians will continue to talk breathlessly about the immigration “crisis.” It’s a campaign trail standard in the U.S., but in Britain and Western Europe as well, political figures waste no opportunity to project voters’ deepest fears and wildest misperceptions onto whatever group of newcomers is most visible—whether they’re Egyptian, Roma or Polish.

Here in the U.S., all the GOP presidential hopefuls are racing to brandish their nativist street cred. But Mitt Romney has pulled ahead in the meme-fest coming out of South Carolina’s primary. Despite his own immigrant lineage (due to his Mormon missionary roots), Romney has checked off all the boxes: supporting E-Verify, promising to beef up border security, and smacking down the DREAM Act for undocumented students. Appealing to law-and-order types, Romney touts the endorsement of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who helped craft Arizona’s SB1070 law. (South Carolina, too, boasts an SB1070 copycat bill.)

Not to be outdone, Rick Santorum has argued that once you’ve crossed the border illegally, regardless of what you do or the family you raise thereafter, “everything you’re doing while you’re here is against the law.”

The resurgent Newt Gingrich has touted a relatively “humane” reform plan based on a vaguely defined screening process that might legalize “about 1 million” undocumented immigrants. Though the plan would expel roughly “7 or 8 or 9 million” to their home countries before they can apply to return, even this proposal was immediately decried by rivals as “amnesty.”

But immigrant-bashing isn’t just an American pastime. Although Europe’s far-right movements have generally laid low since Anders Breivik’s murderous rampage against “multiculturalism” in Norway, the hard right remains a vocal minority in several countries.

France—the country the GOP vilifies as a bastion of wine-swilling egalitarian liberals—has stepped up deportations, according to the Washington Post. President Nicolas Sarkozy, himself a descendant of immigrants, has pushed for more deportations as he approaches a tough election. Squeezing the president even further to the right is the hardline National Front party, trumpeting a fiercely anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant platform. Read the rest of this entry →