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02-08-2012, 12:03 AM #1
When Activism Extinguishes Public Conversation
By Dominique Peridans, February 7, 2012
The Washington Post recently offered a profile of immigration activist Jaime Contreras, who arrived illegally in the United States in 1988 at age 13, and currently chairs the Capital Area District of 32BJ, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union. It is actually difficult to understand the purpose of such a profile, especially since there is nothing specifically new on the horizon regarding the focus of Mr. Contreras' activism. It is perhaps intended to be a(nother) touching story on bravery – the activism equivalent of a tale of "rags-to-riches". Wait, there is one specific current issue mentioned in the article, something that is to occur during the course of this year. Contreras "is leading efforts this year in Maryland to win approval, in a referendum, of the state's version of a Dream Act, which would grant in-state college tuition discounts to undocumented immigrants."
It should be stated, for the record, that this is incorrect. The Maryland State Legislature already approved in-state tuition for illegal immigrant students in April 2011 and the governor signed it in May (as reported by the same Washington Post). One might expect greater accuracy from the article's author, who surely holds such issues dear to heart. She is Luz Lazo, a native of El Salvador, and the first awardee of a new fellowship at the Washington Post, born of a partnership between the Post and the School of Communication at American University – an award, by the way, that offers Lazo full tuition, plus a $30,000 yearly stipend and the chance to work side-by-side with journalists at Post.
As the Washington Post reported in July of last year, Maryland officials certified that enough signatures had been collected to let voters decide in November whether or not the state's version of the DREAM Act is consonant with the common good. My perhaps naïve question is: should not all controversial bills be placed before the electorate? It seems to be a question of common sense. It seems to be a question of fairness. It seems to be a question of democracy. Is not open dialogue characteristic of government "of the people, by the people, for the people"? And yet, the push to let the electorate speak on this issue has been decried as unjust by some, such as CASA de Maryland, who reportedly have used terribly unbecoming tactics to extinguish public conversation about the DREAM Act.
What is perhaps most disheartening is the presumption underlying the need to quell dialogue on such an important, albeit sensitive, issue. There is a presumption that people are not basically good, and that, if left to their own devices, i.e. if not guided by an enlightened few, will act dishonestly, and will inflict harm. How interesting it is to discern how public policy is influenced by the vision of the human person held by those who espouse it.
One Old Vet
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