Thursday, June 30, 2011

A New "Coming Out"

Earlier in the week, NPR did a story on Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who has written for New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, and San Francisco Chronicle, who just "came out" as an illegal immigrant. In an interview on All Things Considered Vargas states: "I am sorry for breaking the country's laws — my country's laws...I am no different than anybody else in that I wanted to live my life and I wanted to survive and if I didn't tell those lies, I couldn't have gotten work and I couldn't have survived."

Coming out is the latest tactic taken on by DREAMer activists as a way to put pressure on Congress who voted down the Dream Act bill this past December. As Viridiana Martinez--an activist inspired by Jose Antonios Vargas' story--states: "The biggest obstacle we have is fear. So, coming out is a declaration that I am dropping the fear. I am taking my struggle in my own hands."

And perhaps in response, ICE has taken a surprising and hopefully promising turn with a new "memorandum granting its agents 'prosecutorial discretion' to extend leniency to DREAM Act-eligible people and others while cracking down on those who pose 'a clear risk to national security.' Leniency would take the form of deferred deportation, usually for up to 12 months, at which time individuals could request an extension and potentially reapply every year."

This new coming out is definitely the latest form of civil disobedience to take to the streets, not unlike the Montgomery bus boycott or the lunch counter sit-ins from the Civil Rights Movement of the '50s and '60s. As Thoreau said in his essay Civil Disobedience, "I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government." Let's hope Congress does right by these young people who have proven themselves smart, able, and willing members of our society, and lets hope they do it soon before some of these brave kids get deported.

In other news, Georgia recently voted in a SB 1070 copycat law, but Federal Judge Thomas Thrash blocked parts of the new law--scheduled to go into effect July 1--because "the state is enforcing immigration law that should be left to the federal government."

Two days ago DREAMers took to the public streets of Georgia and "Six young illegal immigrants were arrested...after they sat down and blocked traffic near the Georgia state Capitol to publicly declare their status and to protest state policies targeting people who are in the U.S. illegally, the latest in a string of such 'coming out' events."