Thursday, May 03, 2007

Reframing the Debate: From creative strategies and alliances to human rights

Reframing the Debate: From creative strategies and alliances to human rights

By Gerald Lenoir

The main catalyst for the 2006 upsurge has been the increased violations of immigrants’ civil liberties and human rights and the threat posed by pending immigration legislation, especially the infamous Sennsenbrenner bill. Successive waves of marches in the winter and spring of last year inspired immigrants and their supporters to step up the pressure.

A major task is reframing the immigrant rights debate. The rightwing has framed the issue as one of “illegal aliens” crossing our “broken borders” and taking jobs from U.S. citizens. Immigration has also become a question of “national security.” This includes reaching the ethnic media on a consistent basis, penetrating the liberal media like NPR regularly, and making inroads with a progressive analysis into the mainstream media, like the New York Times and CNN’s Lou Dobbs Report.

Progressive activists must reframe the public debate on immigration within an international human rights context. The framing and messaging must popularize the role the U.S. plays forcibly displacing migrants from their home countries through bilateral and multilateral trade agreements. In particular, the role of the North American Free Trade Agreement allowing U.S. farmers to undercut the price of basic farm commodities in Mexico, resulting in the displacement of 2.8 million rural families since 1996 must be exposed as a major cause of the stepped up migration to the United States.

Within the immigrant rights movement, a concerted effort to battle the tendency to trade legislative concessions for compromises on “border security” must be waged. The gross violations of the human rights of migrants crossing the border must be highlighted with high level and grassroots border delegations and media exposure.

Allies with the African American community and the labor movement must be carefully cultivated and the momentum gathered in 2006 must continue into 2007. Creative strategies for mass mobilizations must bring immigrant and their supporters out and also have clear messaging and focuses are important.

All of this requires a greater degree of strategic collaboration and coordination within the immigrant and refugee rights movement. We must all be prepared to work collectively to present a united front against the right wing’s regressive immigration reform.

Gerald Lenoir is the coordinator of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. BAJI, formed in 2006, works to educate and organize support for the rights of the foreign born among African American and Black immigrant communities, engaging African Americans in a dialogue about the underlying issues of race and economic status that frame U.S. immigration policy.

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