Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Reading, Late Night TV, Senate Hearings & Another Example of a Broken System

Monday, October 12, 2009

The last couple of weeks I have gotten into more of a pattern for reading, and that’s been great. I would like to write some notes on the books I’ve read. Although I need a less serious title for it than “reviews.” The last couple of weeks I read Postville, USA and Jonah, Jesus, and Other Good Coyotes. This week I’m starting on Coming to America, which is quite thick, and Pedagogy of the Oppressed. It’s really great to have the time to do this kind of reading and have mental space for lots of connections to be made.

I read an article yesterday on the New York Times that explored some of the sharper criticism that seems to be coming against Obama from the Late Night Television Circuit. As everybody tries to measure the impact of everything from the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the failed Olympic bid for Chicago, it’s hard to figure out what is really an indication of what. There’s an image from the Late Night scene that has stayed with me, though. It’s from Jon Steward of The Daily Show. Highlighting the ongoing refrain that the President has “too much on his plate” as a way to call for patience on a variety of issues, Steward said basically, “OK, so start eating and clearing some of that plate.” I think that’s something that needs attention from the immigration conversation. We cannot continue to wait and assume that there is too much on the plate. There is a need for action and for pressing for change. 

The hearing by the Senate subcommittee on immigration that focused on “faith perspectives” was hopeful. It was rather thin because of limited time, but significant in some of the statements made. From what seemed like a specific choice, primarily “evangelical” Christians made up the panel (with the exception of a Catholic Bishop). It was disappointing that no other “faith perspectives” were brought in, but what I understand from others is that the intent was to highlight the fact that even the more “conservative” parts of Christianity – perhaps assumed by many to oppose immigration reform – are changing their tune. So timing seems to be right, and we can’t wait for the plate to be any less full. There seems to be broad – and growing – consensus on the religious front. The telebriefing by the Opportunity Agenda on their media and Web 2.0 scan indicated a significant change in both of these media from what used to be dominated by anti-immigrant reporting and postings to the complete reversal toward a dominant positive view of immigration. The time is right. We must act.

Locally, we have a commitment from Senator Harkin’s office to have someone present at the Breaking Bread, Breaking Barriers event but no commitment that Harkin himself will come. We will have a potluck and town meeting combination, where various community members whose lives have been shaped by immigration will speak. It’s coming together pretty well.

Another significant development in the last couple of days has been Hoa’s arrest, one of a multiplicity of stories around the country that point to the desperate need for reform in the immigration system. To the devastating events in Postville last year (and their ongoing repercussions in our community and region) is added the bizarre situation of Hoa Nguyen. Hoa is a stellar 2003 graduate from Luther who is originally from Vietnam, has been in the U.S. for 10 years now and is pursuing her masters at the University of Minnesota. She married Dan Hanson, also a 2003 Luther Grad, in November of last year. Following a mess-up on her paperwork, Hoa is now in detention awaiting deportation... There was an article about it in the Decorah newspaper, and her husband has set up a Web site to seek support for her at www.freehoa.org.

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