Pathways to Citizenship through Tik-Tok Crowdsourcing`
On Valentine’s Day this year, a young TikTok star inspired thousands to take part in nationwide “Days Without Immigrants” protests. This breaks my heart.
Alexis Valeriano Hernandez
Why? I am heartbroken because this is the hallmark of the decades-long struggle to achieve major federal immigration reform.It’s been so long that we’ve seen intergenerational Immigrant construction workers, farm workers and warehouse workers supported the protest and movement on a relatively new social media platform.
This form of nonviolent civil disobedience attempts to bring about immigration reform with a general strike in the form of choosing not to go to work, school, or spend money on one of the most economically active days of the year. If this protest sounds familiar, it’s because it draws on a playbook used in the historically massive immigration protest of the same name in the spring of 2006.
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By contrast, the 2006 “Days Without Immigrants” protest was played by Spanish-speaking radio DJs and shared via the new technologies of the time, including text messaging and Myspace. Likewise, TikTok videos under the Spanish hashtag #undiasininmigrates for “Days Without Migrants” have amassed more than 88 million views this year, including strong followings on other social media platforms, all of which appear to be grassroots.
The latest protests, backed by more than 2,600 small businesses and held in 24 different cities across the country, were not enough to rival the massive 2006 vote.
Despite low turnout, the grassroots immigrant rights movement remains active. This idea is supported by Sophia Wallace of the University of Washington and Chris Zepeda-Millan of UCLA, who have studied how Latinos remain involved in immigration despite years of disappointment.
Interestingly, this protest comes at a time when Democrats control both houses of Congress and the White House, as if to say that immigrants won’t be fooled by the false promises of a party that predictably flirts with immigration reform every election cycle.
When our politicians play politics, we are organizing. My former teacher, Marshall Ganz, a senior lecturer at Harvard, put it succinctly when he talked about the missed opportunity for progressives to create lasting organizational power: Home, there is nothing to survive on but campaign debt. “
Ganz noted that progressive candidates and the consultants they hire place too much emphasis on ad impressions rather than “building political power.” With our politicians letting us down and a pandemic, organizing online by creating and sharing short videos seems like an option for many immigrants.
Using TikTok for immigration reform may sound like a silly strategy, but most people following the protest don’t seem to be using TikTok to address politicians. Instead, they target other immigrants. It’s an online movement by and for immigrants where people get organized every day by talking to family, friends or followers.
Similar to the misguided counseling classes that Gantz criticized, many of today’s specialized immigrant rights groups have been playing the insider game for far too long. Walter J. Nicholls of the University of California, Irvine; Justus Uitermark and Sander van Haperen of the University of Amsterdam found in their analysis that specialized organizations with a centralized and national social movement infrastructure are “risk-averse, unequal, and prone to internalization.” Conflict” leadership.
They also describe that even though specialized organizations have a grassroots unit, once they are in Washington, D.C., they basically forget what that means. Instead, they put their values on political capital and access to the White House for scarce insider information and a seat at the table.
Of course, I’d worry about any part of the movement that lives on TikTok, wondering if it’s going to be as brief as its videos.
On the other hand, I can sense a new excitement from the protests of ordinary people who are simply expressing their feelings and needs rather than political calculations. The rumble of larger protests that erupted in Washington and elsewhere on May 1, marking the anniversary of the climax of the protests in 2006, suggests that more work is to be done.
As things stand, more than anyone else, I hope the average immigrant on TikTok doesn’t hold back or doubt themselves when it comes to claiming a pathway to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country. Imagining this might be more than the status quo might be my desperate statement.
Or, it could be the start of a new chapter in the immigration reform fight.
Alexis Valeriano Hernandez of Denver is a Mexican immigrant and immigrant rights organizer.
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