Duke has already written a better post about Tam Tran then I will ever be able to write, so I’m going to write about this from the unique perspective that I bring.
First, ICE is the most frightening enforcement agency within the U.S.’s borders. ICE is accountable to no one and it has far too much power. Second, Tam Tran is a stateless individual like so many others on the earth, today. She can’t go back to her country because she doesn’t have a country to go back to. What is her place in the world? Is she worth nothing like so many others that weren’t born within the borders of a prosperous country? Third, Congress need to pass the DREAM act. There are problems with it, sure, but I can’t look in the faces of the many young migrants that have their hopes tied up in the DREAM act and tell them I don’t support it. Migrants need a victory, and we’ll fix the problems with the DREAM Act later.
It is with that in mind that I’ve taken a series of the best nine videos on the DREAM Act and dedicated them to nine senators that hold the fate of the legislation in their hands. Below is the video that I got from the Illinois Coalition on Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), which I’ve dedicated to Senator Mel Martinez.
ICE’s job is enforcement, but it’s actions show that it is working as an engine of political intimidation as well. ICE isn’t only enforcing the law, it is fighting a political battle as well. If a migrant speaks up, ICE will find a way to deport that migrant. Think Progress has listed some of the many times in which this is the case:
Since Bush crony Julie Myers
took over ICE, the agency has increasingly become known for its
willingness to retaliate against immigrants who publicly discuss their
situation in the United States. Arrests have been made after
individuals spoke out on everything from immigration reform, to workplace rights, to the right to fair wages, to the right to report crimes without fear of retaliation.
The clearest example I can think of is that of Elvira Arellano. She was left untouched for over a year when she took sanctuary in a Chicago church, but as soon as she decided to leave and speak out about the U.S. immigration policy, she was deported.
ICE will always say that the detentions and deportations are not politically motivated. Yet, in effect, there should be no doubt that they serve to silence dissent. Is that the kind of “America” people want to live in, where political dissent is thrown out of the country? ICE manages it’s information like a dictatorship. The agency gives information to no one and is very selective about the information they do give. Couple ICE’s lack of transparency with the enormous power they have and it’s a recipe for abuse. Abuse that’s hard to imagine occurring within the U.S.’s borders. The latest reports suggest ICE is now drugging migrants before they are deported.
This brings us back to Tam Tran, who’s family was detained after her appearance on the front page of USA today. Rep. Zoe Lofgren accused federal officials of “witness intimidation”. Anti-migrant advocates will say that Tam Tran, who was offered a spot in a Ph.D. program, should go back to her country. The problem is Tam Tran doesn’t have a country. She is stateless. Her testimony before the judiciary committee says it better than I ever could.
I hate filling out forms, especially the ones that limit me to checking off boxes for categories I don’t even identity with. Place of birth? Germany. But I’m not German. Ethnicity? I’m Vietnamese, but I’ve never been to Vietnam. However, these forms never ask me where I was raised or educated. I was born in Germany, my parents are Vietnamese, but I have been American raised and educated for the past 18 years.
On application forms when I come across the question that asks for my citizenship, I rebelliously mark “other” and write in “the world.” But the truth is, I am culturally an American, and more specifically, I consider myself a Southern Californian. I grew up watching Speed Racer and Mighty Mouse every Saturday morning. But as of right now, my national identity is not American and even though I can’t be removed from American soil, I cannot become an American unless legislation changes
Graduation for many of my friends isn’t a rite of passage to becoming a responsible adult. Rather, it is the last phase in which they can feel a sense of belonging as an American.
We can look at Tam Tran’s case as an exception, but it is not. We are no longer living in a world where citizenship can be the sole guarantor of rights. I could be considered stateless like Tam Tran, but I’m lucky enough to have a U.S. passport. As long as I am worth more because of my U.S. passport than my Guatemalan passport, everyone loses. Every problem that progressives care about, from racism to workers’ rights, has it’s root in this fundamental global inequity.
That is the larger problem. But the immediate problem is the fear that 12 million migrants live through every day they live in the U.S. They need a victory. They need alleviation from that fear. And the solution with the most political capital right now is the DREAM Act. I turn back to the words of Tam Tran:
Without the D.R.E.A.M. Act, I have no prospect of overcoming my state of immigration limbo; I’ll forever be a perpetual foreigner in a country where I’ve always considered myself an American.
There are problems with it, sure. XP wrote my favorite post on the green card draft and he’s most recently voiced his opposition with an embedded video highlighting the techniques of military recruiters: “there’s peer pressure and then there’s military pressure”. During better days, I would agree with XP, but I can no longer look in the people like Tam Tran in the eye and tell them my ideology should get in the way of alleviating their suffering.
Pass the DREAM Act now. We’ll fight the green card draft later, with the help of the thousands of college students that benefit from it. I want to say that getting sent to Iraq with the certainty that your life is your own, is better than living every day with the prospect of having your life uprooted at any second, but the whole point is that I don’t have the right to say that. Migrant youth have too much hope and
activism locked up in the DREAM Act for me to tell them that it’s wrong.
There are nine more videos where the one from above came from. Please look them over and give them to people you know living in the relevant states, and hopefully we can spread these virally. I got the senators names and numbers from Duke’s Hot 19. Give these senators a call and tell them you support the DREAM Act.
-DUKE’S HOT 19 –
Murkowski (R-AK) 202-244-6665
Stevens (R-AK) 202224-3004
Pryor (D-AR) 202-224-2353
Martinez (R-FL) 202-224-3041
Inouye (D-HI) 202-224-3934
Brownback (R-KS) 202-224-6521
Landieu (D-LA) 202-224-5824
Collins (R-ME) 202-224-2523
Snowe (R-ME) 202-224-5344
Conrad (D-ND) 202-224-2043
Dorgan (D-ND) 202-224-2551
Dominici (R-NM) 202-224-6621
Voinovich (R-OH) 202-224-3353
Smith (R-OR) 202-224-3753
Graham (R-SC) 202-224-5972
Johnson (D-SD) 202-224-5842
Cornyn (R-TX) 202-224-2934
Rockefeller (D-VA) 202-224-6472
I’ve used Moe Train’s punk-cover of La Bamba for all the videos because the song has a Creative Commons license, and I’ve used videos made by various individuals. I tried to get in touch with the filmmakers to ask for their permission, but they didn’t get back to me and the pro-migrant call-ins start on Monday. If anyone has a problem with it, contact me using the form on the front page and I will take the corresponding video down. I also encourage people to RSVP to the facebook event “education not deportation” that is staging a national call in from Oct. 22-24. Over a 1000 people have already responded.
You are right that America would be a better place if the DREAM Act were the law. Folks like Tram ought, in my view, be permitted to become permanent residents or citizens. Of course, I don’t see that the DREAM Act would help Tran’s parents, unless I’m missing something.
What I find particularly interesting about this case is that after leaving Vietnam, the family stayed for a time in Germany, where presumably they were not in fear of whatever persecution they had suffered in Vietnam, and then decided, for reasons that are unclear, to come to the U.S. This is actually a recurring problem in asylum cases. The purpose of asylum is to protect people who have a well-founded fear of persecution in their home countries. But many asylees, even after they find refuge in a safe country such as Germany, proceed to come to the U.S. anyway. Why should the second country (in this case, the U.S.), have to accept folks who had already received asylum elsewhere?
To address this problem, some countries (e.g., the U.S. and Canada) have signed “Safe Third Country” agreements or have made the “safe third country” concept a part of their asylum law, requiring refugees to apply for asylum in the first safe country they find themselves.
In my view, the U.S., Canada, and the European Union should enter into such an agreement, so that, for example, a South American refugee who made it to America would have to seek asylum here rather than proceeding to Canada or Europe, and by the same token, someone from an unsafe spot in the Middle East or the Balkans who made it to, say, Germany, would have to seek asylum there rather than coming to America. This would make the global asylum scheme more rational and ensure that asylum is being used for its intended purpose, namely emergency protection from persecution, rather than as a ticket to travel to a country of choice.
I’m completely for a more global solution to the problems associated with migration. Approaching this from a more global perspective, taking into consideration all of these complexities, is the only way to address migration in my opinion.
Trust me, I get down on EU immigration policy all the time at the same time they do approach the problem from a more global perspective. They’ve recently been investing a lot of aid in North Africa in efforts to address the root of the problem and when they expanded the EU to take in Eastern European nations, they basically implemented the equivalent of a Marshall Plan for these countries, which is exactly what the U.S. should have done when it signed NAFTA.
Only activists in the U.S. look so far inward they find themselves looking up their own behinds.
I should add that German law, which does not automatically grant citizenship to people born in Germany, seems ridiculous to me, but it is in line with much of the rest of the world and is an example of ways in which the American law of nationality is decidedly on the liberal end of the spectrum. Germany, in the Tran case, seems to deserve much of the blame. And it seems that the U.S. has recognized the plight of stateless folks like the Trans by granting them withholding of removal, as there is no country to which they can be sent given Germany’s refusal to take them.