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The gays versus the Latinos - why one group won while the other, not so much

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The Washington Post looks at two competing movement - gay rights and immigration - and why one ended getting a good chunk of what it wanted from the Obama administration, while the other didn't get much at all.

On reading the piece, it sounds like the immigration movement tried to parallel many of the actions we did in the gay community - angry private meetings, embarrassing protests, ticking off the entire community against the administration in an attempt to scare the President into doing the right thing.

But for the gays it worked, for the Latinos, it didn't.


I'm not entirely sure.  I do know that, as a community, we're awfully good at getting in one's face.  I also think we did a fantastic job over the past few decades of personalizing our oppression.  In part, we had no choice - AIDS did a fine job of personalizing our suffering all on its own.  But so did Don't Ask, Don't Tell - you can't find a more sympathetic victim than a US servicemember, in dress uniform, who risked their life for their country.  (Having said that, here's a sympathetic personal look at immigration in today's Washington Post.)

I also think that immigration advocates need to do a better job of selling their cause to the American people.  We're a country of immigrants, so in some ways you'd think there'd be a natural empathy there.  And there is.  But.  A lot of those immigrants came here legally.  The ones affected by immigration reform did not.  And I think it's an issue that needs to be better addressed.

I remember being told fifteen years ago by a Latino advocacy group in Washington, DC that there were somewhere between 15 million and 60 million Latinos in the US - the uncertainty being the number of those here illegally.  I remember being shocked by the size of the numbers - both by the magnitude of the potential illegal immigration and the uncertainty of the number.  A second figure equally surprised me - that 3 million people try to cross the Mexican border illegally each year and 1 million succeed.

Those are awfully large figures.

And while too many folks on the right seem only motivated by rJacism, sometimes I get the feeling that immigration advocates on the left don't want to acknowledge that there's a legitimate concern, among people who aren't racists, about the fact that a million people flow across the border illegally each year.  That number bothers me in terms of national security, but it also bothers me in terms of friends of mine (including Latino friends) who tried to immigrate legally and were turned down.  The illegal immigration doesn't feel particularly fair to those who didn't make it.

In the end, I think that's the challenge that immigration - Latino immigration - advocates have before them.

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