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Issue Date:  January 25, 2008

Immigration debate goes online

New America Media

To counter a fierce anti-immigration presence in cyberspace, immigrant rights activists are taking their campaigns online, where they hope to change the tone of the immigration debate.

New America Media sponsored a conference call with reporters and editors of ethnic media to discuss this issue.

Liza Sabater, an established blogger of Culture Kitchen and the Daily Gotham, said that as immigrant rights activists throughout the United States use the Internet to get out their message and expand their network, they are getting support from ethnic bloggers.

Even those who don’t consider themselves political are writing about immigration issues, she said, because the issue is part of their everyday lives.

Kimchi Mammas, for example, a Korean “mommy” blog site, frequently holds discussions that “amplify the pro-immigration movement online,” Sabater explained.

Marian Douglas, an African-American woman who hosts blogs at, is one of many who use online social networks, such as Facebook, to mobilize pro-immigration activism.

Latino pro-immigrant writers such as Alisa Valdes ( have tried to “detach themselves from the idea that immigration means Latino, because it really doesn’t.”

“It is a much larger discussion,” said Sabater, who attributes this conflation to anti-immigration groups who, she said, “want to sell the immigration movement as an invasion of ‘these dirty, stinky Latinos coming into the United States.’ ” One of the most prominent of these organizations is the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, which was recently classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“FAIR has been the leader in raising anti-immigrant law at the local and state level,” said Henry Fernandez, senior fellow with the Center for American Progress. “While much of the nation’s concern has been on illegal immigration, FAIR simply uses this issue to open the door to tell its hateful stories that all immigration, whether legal or illegal, is bad for America.”

An abundance of pro-immigration voices from the Asian, African-American, Middle Eastern and Native American communities is now gaining visibility nationally, in addition to voices from Latino communities.

This is becoming increasingly present in the blogosphere, said Devin Burghart, director of the Center for New Community, based in Chicago. “At the same time that we’ve witnessed a marked rise in the number of state and local anti-immigrant organizations … we’ve also been overwhelmed by the response of people of good will around the country who care about American values and the threat that new nativist groups, like FAIR, pose to those core American values.”

Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, describes FAIR as “an organization with a long history of bigotry, one-sided reporting, and of connections to white supremacy groups.”

Anti-immigration groups, meanwhile, have cultivated their own minority bloggers to voice their messages, in what Sabater called the “browning of the face of anti-immigration.” These include bloggers such as Michelle Malkin, [an American citizen who writes a blog on a variety of issues from a conservative viewpoint], and numerous African-American bloggers.

National Catholic Reporter, January 25, 2008   [corrected 02/08/2008]

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