Advocating a cause using the New Media may actually help to get things done. It may allow citizens to circumvent the muddled political system and permit even the voices on the outermost margins to be heard, but it may also make a cause another part of the political game played in Washington. DreamActivist.org is a website that incorporates all aspects of the new media from facebook and YouTube to blogging and encouraging activism online like petitioning and donating to promote the passage of the dream act and other forms of legislation that attempt to fix the US immigration system.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio just introduced a new version of the Dream Act that would have similar conditions to the versions that have been previously drafted except that it would “legalize” undocumented immigrants instead of granting them citizenship. Some would say that activism including DreamActivist.org has helped this issue gain the attention of our representatives and therefore has indeed aided the democratic process. However, there is another way to view Senator Rubio’s actions. It could also be that Senator Rubio and his fellow Republicans are making a play to Latino voters in the upcoming election. It could be that, in the words of Prerna Lal of Dream Activist, “the GOP does not want to grant citizenship to 12 million undocumented immigrants because it has much to fear from our votes, much to gain from our disenfranchisement,” but that they want to make some sort of appeal to the Latin American community to steal some votes before the election.
As an op-ed in the New York Times put it, Republican proposals all “seem to shimmer with promise but lead to the same no-future dead end.” And ultimately, “this idea is nothing more than some newly invented third-class status—not illegal, but not American.” It will create a class of Americans that are legal in the sense that they will have a social security number and the power to claim tax credits but all without representation. Ultimately, if this bill passes it will create a class that is taxed without representation, one of the main causes of the Revolutionary War that led to the founding of this country; our history, it appears, is not devoid of irony.
So what does this all mean for Dream Activist in particular and the New Media in general? It can certainly help bring people together and unite for a common cause or spread stories like this one.
And it seems that it can help to force our representatives to recognize these issues that matter to us. But ultimately, as Prerna Lal says, “undocumented youth continue to serve as [a] mere political football to be tossed from side to side.”
I hope some meaningful legislation passes that could demonstrate the enormous potential for the New Media to give everyone a voice in this country. However, until this happens, I’m forced to believe that politicians will only make calculated plays at these polarizing issues, careful to never go so far as to alienate their base. In any event, I’m sure the contributors of Dream Activist won’t stop blogging, YouTubing, and facebooking, I just hope at the end of the day they have something to show for their massive and praiseworthy efforts.