Resistance Strategies in the Immigrant Justice Movement
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Topics of immigration reform have created deep polarization. To some degree, these political and societal divisions regarding immigrants’ place and ability to remain in the United States drove the Republican successes in the 2016 elections and carried Donald Trump to the White House. When political conservatives called for decreased migration and increased deportations of immigrants already in the United States, progressive politicians and advocates for immigrants did not present a unified and thoughtful response. I discuss this failed narrative strategy in an earlier publication, in which I decry this historic and contemporary lack of cohesive strategy. I end Narrative Reform Dilemmas by observing that the process of creating a cohesive strategy must include an understanding of what fuels contrasting viewpoints and a recognition that reform will only occur when it benefits the most politically powerful majority. Hearkening to the pioneering work of Derrick A. Bell and the phenomenon of interest convergence, I discuss how immigrant advocates must consider how to create and effectuate a strategy that furthers humanitarian immigration reform while also incorporating the divergent views of other political and societal actors. In this Article, I continue this discussion about crafting a strategic narrative. Part I begins by defining a goal for immigrant advocates. Setting a goal or purpose is a crucial first step for any group engaged in a strategic plan. Without delving deeply into the historic difficulties that constrain the struggle for equality for immigrants, which ultimately must question broad concepts of citizenship and borders (and is best left to another scholarly project), I discuss a framework for preliminary steps. At its foundation, success must embody justice for immigrants, which entails a legislative and political system that embraces fairness through membership identity. Membership would include affiliative and contractual aspects, as Hiroshi Motomura details in his writings, while also ascribing to humanitarian ideals of fairness and justice, as Joseph Carens and Martha Nusbaum espouse. But creating membership identity must not continue the ostracizing effects of past narrative tactics that only pay heed to seemingly positive attributes, as in some of the “Dreamer” and DACA strategies, which Elizabeth Keyes describes. Part II then explores past efforts to craft immigration narratives for proimmigrant reform and the ways in which these strategies consistently fell short. Despite well-intentioned efforts, each strategy failed in part by not confronting the deep history of racism and discrimination against immigrants that essentially makes comprehensive change only possible when the change mechanisms also benefit the political and societal majority. With this recognition, Part III emphasizes that immigrant advocates need to shift the strategy away from a passive normative framing and capitalize on the robust resistance movement currently moving reform conversations between new collaborators. This era of political resistance and awakening has led to new and vibrant connections between constituencies. By focusing on commonality of membership and the power of collaborative action, the road to reform will be smoothed. Part III provides case studies of organizations and movements that have successfully created connectivity between non-traditional partners and exhorts immigrant advocates to consider similar processes. Finally, Part IV provides a roadmap on what the new immigrant rights narrative strategy may contain. The narrative can be crafted through different means, but to be politically successful, it must acknowledge the past incomplete efforts and realize the fervor for change that is now gripping the nation. Moreover, we must critically examine the effects of crafting a narrative, including the common consequence that oppresses a sector of the community through efforts to uplift another sector. As this Article concludes, through this process, we will create a message that unifies diverse communities, actors and groups fighting for fair and just immigration reform.