During the immigration reform debate, radio commentators and propagandists mascarading as news programs, like CNN’s Lou Dobbs, stoked resentment towards undocumented immigrants, repeating lies and perpetuating hateful images.
The defeat of the comprehensive and humane changes to immigration laws was the triumph of a deafening slander that never met much resistance.
This outcome forces us to think of the strategy for the next steps toward an immigration reform that considers legalization for the millions of working families who, from the shadows of illegality, contribute to the well-being of Americans. This year the topic of immigration reform in Washington is dead, despite attempts by a group of Republican senators to revive only the most restrictive clauses, and by piecemeal provisions that deserve to succeed, introducing the bills AgJobs and the DREAM Act in budget-related measures.
However, the discussion on immigration should continue, because anti-immigrant sentiment grows daily across the country. The National Conference of State Legislatures estimates that 48 bills were introduced this year that restrict the activity of the undocumented, while locally more than 100 ordinances were introduced last year.
The failure of reform has aggravated this negative trend, as anti-immigrant forces capitalize on people’s frustration with Congress. A law approved in Arizona, for example, prohibits employers from hiring undocumented immigrants. Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano said she enacted the law after Congress failed to act on immigration reform.
Fortunately, the courts are setting things right for the time being. Yesterday, the anti-undocumented ordinance approved in Hazleton, Penn. was declared unconstitutional. The federal judge kept an unjust law off the books. But the responsibility to promote a just law falls on the shoulders of the immigrant and Latino community. The marches were impressive; the collection of signatures demonstrated that getting out the vote is crucial for the future. However, there was no response to the hysterical lies promoted by conservative hosts on talk radio.
The repeated lies from comparing the law to an amnesty, to blaming undocumented immigrants for all the ills of society were not challenged at the same level, and they convinced thousands to pressure their senators to reject reform.
The lesson is that we must respond to these talk shows, unite in an effort to confront them concretely and not allow this to happen again.
Reprinted from La Opinion. Translated by Elena Shore.