Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Security! Security! Brown skin alert

    How to describe Congressman Paul Ryan's reaction when Ray Jose showed up at his Florida book signing?

    Let's say it was like a vegetarian who, suitably bibbed for a suitable meal, sees a rack of lamb slide before him.

    Jose is an organizer for United We Dream, a political group made up of young people for whom the DREAM Act was written.

     He's been in this country for almost all of his life, having been brought here by undocumented parents. He is eloquent. He is educated. He owes President Obama for the fact that he is not facing deportation.

    If Republicans like Ryan had their way, Jose would be deported to a country that is as foreign to him as it is to you and me.

   So it was not studious sycophancy that brought Jose to Ryan's book signing. It was the desire to have the congressman look squarely in the eye of the kind of person Ryan would banish with a vote he cast before heading out for recess.

   The vote was to abolish DACA -- Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – Obama's directive to delay deportation of 550,000 individuals like Ray Jose, for whom the DREAM Act would provide a path to citizenship.

   That path is paved with every quality Americans exalt: perseverance, scholarship, in some cases military service. The citizenship at the end of the line is a reward not just for the Dreamers in question, but for the nation itself, a tacit return for the investment it has made in them.

   The anti-DACA vote was a tea party-inspired jab at Obama based on the false assertion that DACA is why a swarm of young Central American refugees has shown up on America's door step. But in reality, the only U.S policy to which the surge of children can be linked is a broadly supported 2008 child trafficking law signed not by Obama but by George W. Bush. 

   The DREAM Act, blocked by GOP lawmakers, not only is compassionate but smart policy. It is the harvesting of America's best intentions. American exceptionalism? This is it.

    Ah, but it is opportunity of a different shade, one that leaves some congressional constituents less than enthused. An analysis found that virtually all of the 212 members of Congress voting to end DACA were white. Only three Hispanic Republicans voted affirmatively. Three Hispanic Republicans – California's David Valadao, and Florida's Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz Balart -- bucked their party.

   We know what message was being sent to milky constituencies back home. We also know what message is being sent to Hispanics nationwide.

   As Huffington Post columnist Raul Reyes writes, though some moderate Republicans have sought to find compromises on the immigration front, the DACA vote shows "the GOP has taken another hard lurch to the right, and Latino voters will not forget it." After the 2012 election, GOP strategists said they had to find ways to appeal to the burgeoning Latino vote. This is not the way.

  The same can be said for the reception Jose got at Ryan's book-signing, where security quickly ushered him away as he tried to engage the congressman.

   Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, faced the same discomfort at an Iowa campaign event when confronted by an eloquent young lady who remains in this country because of DACA. Visible in a You Tube video showing this, Rand Paul, in mid-bite of a barbecue sandwich, scoots away from the dire prospect of having to deal with the likes of her.

   Someone has to provide these policymakers protection, some buffer from such uneasy moments. To that end, I do think Texas Gov. Rick Perry has come up with an answer: the National Guard.

   Whereas Guardsmen have dubious value at the border, lacking the power to arrest or apprehend, in this case they can be invaluable: positioned at all campaign and publicity events to intersect the path of any person of brown skin who might turn a glad-handing congressman's complexion from fleshy to pea-soup green.

   Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

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