A project of the Center for Community Change

Immigration and the Unspoken Words at the DNC

Last Wednesday, the NY Times ran an article about the cuts made to various speeches at the DNC last week.

DENVER — It seemed like a typical Democratic line, one that would play well with the partisan crowd that has packed the Pepsi Center this week.

“Above all,” it said, “we can’t have a Statue of Liberty welcoming immigrants to our country as we build a wall on the Southern border. Instead, let us build bridges of friendship and cooperation with our Southern neighbors.”

But when Representative José E. Serrano of the Bronx submitted his three-minute speech as required to the high command of Senator Barack Obama’s campaign, the remark was excised. In fact, there was no mention of immigration policy, an issue of great importance to Mr. Serrano and his constituents in New York.

It was this unwillingness to confront the immigration debate head-on that drew thousands of marchers in Denver last Thursday.

While the Convention went on with business as usual, nearly 600 workers were rounded up, sorted by race and shuffled through our country’s “justice” system. Due process, civil rights and workers’ rights seemed to be far from the minds of the Convention’s delegates and speakers.

The experience of Mr. Serrano, an 18-year veteran of Congress and influential member of the House Appropriations Committee, provides an especially revealing look inside the scrupulous process. His speech underwent roughly four edits.

“They kept saying it was for space,” Mr. Serrano said. “They never said it was for content. They said they wanted it to be 280 words. But when you read it, they took out the meat of the message.”

Edited out, for instance, was a passage saying that the war on terrorism should not be used “as an excuse to trample on the civil liberties of our people.”

“It was not a bad speech, the one I gave,” Mr. Serrano said. “But it wasn’t a hard-hitting description of where the country is heading.”

On Thursday, Barack Obama briefly mentioned immigration in his acceptance speech.

“You know, passions may fly on immigration, but I don’t know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers. But this, too, is part of America’s promise — the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.”

While I applaud Obama’s effort to denounce the humanitarian aspects of the raid, I would like to hear stronger language concerning the legal aspects of what the current administration is doing. The violation of due process is something that should concern every American that values their legal and civil rights. Like Mr. Serrano so eloquently stated, this is not a “hard-hitting description of where the country is heading”.

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