DIA(B)LOGUE: Your Responses to “Is Dream Act Messaging too Exceptional?”

Aaron Patrick Flanagan • Jul 19, 2011

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas has become an emblem for the Dreamer movement. His rise to cultural saliency was cemented by a recent appearance on The Colbert Report, where Vargas stated, “There’s been enough arguing going on, and not enough solutions. The [immigration] system is broken. You know it’s broken.”

Colbert, seemingly doing his best impression of Mark Krikorian, Kris Kobach, and the anti-immigrant movement en masse, responded in kind: “I don’t know that the system is broken because it’s working for me. My job is to argue about it, and it seems to be working for me.”

And with that, Colbert captured a schism within the John Tanton Network of anti-immigrant groups. For instance, Kobach and Kriokarian have been warring about which option, E-Verify/Federal bills or State level bills, is more vital to their strategies. Similar cracks concerning the Dream Act are emerging between key figureheads of this movement, as well.

Krikorian recently correlated potential Dream Act beneficiaries with convicted murderers; however, Roy Beck, one time Washington editor of The Social Contract, Tanton’s own journal of white nationalism, wholly disagreed: “If you’re going to have an amnesty, they [Dreamers] are the people who should get it.” A nice sentiment, but let’s neither forget Beck’s past nor his present leadership role at NumbersUSA, an organization which was founded as a Tanton Network project.

Many have noted that in order to counter the anti-immigrant movement’s demonizing of immigrants, Dream Act messaging has focused necessarily on the exceptional among us, like Vargas. Which is why we posed the following question via Twitter: “Does pro #DreamAct messaging focus too narrowly on ‘exceptional’ folks? Y/N? Why?”

And thanks to all of you, here are several of the engaging and impassioned responses we received.

  • @redhotdesi: “Yes, of course[,] it’s the narrative of American exceptionalism and exception. You should read this - And the “good moral character” designation that veils the criminalization of migrant bodies needs to be deconstructed. Stories of DREAM miracles also conceal or forget discourses of neo-liberalism and the development of underdevelopment. I’m sure Dreamers are going to be a welcome addition to the fabric of American empire. I think most people convince themselves that they are different and their lives don’t serve those goals. IDK.”
  • @lullumave: “There is also a lot of Dream eligible people that want to be exceptional, all they need is an opportunity.”
  • @TrojanTopher: “Although exceptional stories are inspiring, do they set a high bar for others to match? Provide hope? Both?” From his question, we then asked him: “And, if it does @ all, how does this bar translate into the “deserving” versus the “less- or not-deserving?” To which he responded: “Exactly! Which gets into larger philosophical notions of who’s “worthy” and salvation + glamor of confession/misery in culture.”
  • @Ksramirez3: “Yes, b/c it’s necessary 2 focus on these folks, so people can understand why the DreamAct is so important 2 pass.”
  • @JudgePlatypus: “If we didn’t focus on the exceptional cases, there would be millions of stories of us [just] trying to get an education.”
  • @DomenicPowell : “There’s an immigration reform campaign & an immigrant rights movement. One tokenizes, the other doesn’t. Guess which is which. I’ll concede that the division might be purist or intellectually convenient, but whatever.”
  • @rahartwell: No, it is only part of a larger needed package. A bite of the elephant that must be eaten. It is a small part of needed reform.” We then asked: “Interesting to think of it as a sub-angle within a larger mission. So then, what angles are missing?” Here’s what he mentioned: “Sensible work visa program, pathway for citizenship or green card without 10 year penalty for those already here come to mind.”
  • @DreamAct: Please note a previous point of ours on that subject: (we’d like to thank @DreamAct for retweeting our question, which was undoubtedly helpful.)

Also, thanks to @kacike1931, who directed us to – a name which references the Migration Policy Institute’s estimated percentage of potential Dream Act beneficiaries who will enter a branch of the US military rather than a college or university – and to this video detailing the efforts of Bay Area group 67 Sueños.

During that video, Pablo Parades, an organizer with 67 Sueños, mentions how the far-right’s criminalizing rhetoric of the “illegal” and the progressive media’s alternative viewpoint of the “exceptional” has a polarizing effect. Between these poles, in Parades’s experience, lies a group of unrepresented youth. For them, he says, “The struggle is the same struggle, and one deportation in [a] family affects the entire family.”

Imagine 2050 Newsletter

  • translate

    English • Afrikaans • العربية • Беларуская • Български • Català • Česky • Cymraeg • Dansk • Deutsch • Eesti • Ελληνικά • Español • فارسی • Français • Gaeilge • Galego • हिन्दी • Hrvatski • Bahasa Indonesia • Íslenska • Italiano • עברית • Latviešu • Lietuvių • 한국어 • Magyar • Македонски • മലയാളം • Malti • Nederlands • 日本語 • Norsk (Bokmål) • Polski • Português • Română • Русский • Slovenčina • Slovenščina • Shqip • Srpski • Suomi • Svenska • Kiswahili • ไทย • Tagalog • Türkçe • Українська • Tiếng Việt • ייִדיש. • 中文 / 漢語