Race and the Digital: Racial Formation and 21st Century Technologies


Initially, the DREAMER movement began through the efforts of organizations that identified a niche within the larger movement for “well-integrated undocumented students” (Nicholls 2013). The D.R.E.A.M. Act was championed through these efforts, and even though it did not become legislation, it sparked the movement. The radical change occurred within the movement when youth themselves took control and asserted their own “autonomy and control over their own struggle and their place within the immigrant rights movement” (Chock 2014). Now at the forefront were the very oppressed people themselves, they made the movement theirs, reminiscent of Paulo Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”.  This leadership was a pivotal point and key component to the success of the DREAMER campaign which spearheaded transmedia organizing within a convergence culture (Chock, Jenkins).

In his book, Constanza-Chock says, “I have proposed that transmedia organizing is the strategic practice of cross-platform, participatory media-making for social movement ends. DREAMers, like many grassroots activists, have organically developed effective transmedia organizing methods.” Not only have DREAMERS engaged in different media platforms (e.g. various social media sites), they have taken lessons from the larger immigrant rights movement (which makes heavy use of Spanish television media), and integrated new media like Facebook and Twitter. This is called convergence culture, which according to Jenkins is, “where old and new media collide, where grassroots and corporate media intersect, where the power of the media producer and the power of the media consumer interact in unpredictable ways.” Indeed, the engagement of new media and media activism has been an incredible asset to the DREAMER movement. Firstly, it has allowed for the expansion of the DREAMER network across time and space, linking DREAMERS from all over the country with one another Moreover, through the use of new media and participatory media (employing social media like Facebook and Twitter), DREAMERS have been able to participate in the creation of content (Chock 2014). This content has largely focused on the dissemination of DREAMER stories, human stories told by the humans that live them, in the way that they want to present them (Valdiva 2013). Additionally, the use of the online platform has been a mode of communication and organizing that is less restrictive than physical space, because there are no borders (at least in the same sense than there is on land) and restrictions based on one's legal status on the web. Finally, the use of this media has been complementary to direct action. Direct action refers to the physical manifestations of the movement, including the symbolic congressional office sit-ins and the defiant walking across the U.S.-Mexico border in a cap/gown, as well as marches and protests with the intent of arrest (Chock 2014). Other internal campaigns like the “undocumented and unafraid” (with an accompanying hashtag) were created by the DREAMER movement through which DREAMERS defied their undocumented status and blatantly risked deportation by “coming out of the shadows” and revealing their lack of status (Nicholls 2013). It is these brave and unprecedented actions that stirred politicians and the public alike. 

It is this use of new media [activism] and direct action that have contributed to the shaping of the public that now surrounds the DREAMER movement. This can be broken down into three components. Firstly, DREAMERS are innocent children brought by their parents who, therefore, did not make a conscious decision to break the law and immigrate illegally to the United States. Thus, they do not deserve to be punished for a decision they did not actively make. Secondly, DREAMERS are American in every way except on paper, given the fact that they have grown up in the U.S. They are not foreigners, they are assimilated. Deportation for them would mean sending them to a country they most likely have no recollection, or deep knowledge, of. Thirdly, these children and youth strive and dream of being able to work, buy, and attain higher education, thereby contributing to the nation that became their home. (Nicholls 2013) Thus, media activism, direct action, and public narrative all acted simultaneously to create political pressure. Initiated by the D.R.E.A.M. Act and continued, more vigorously, by the three aforementioned elements, political heat increased. The invigoration of this stream is the third element in the Kingdon Model that prompted policy changes and increased political efficacy. Even though the D.R.E.A.M. Act did not come to fruition as legislation, it was vital in the string of events that prompted other policy changes. At the state level changes occurred in favor of the DREAMER population, for example, the offering of state financial aid for higher education. Even more importantly, it led to the most recent immigration policy change: the implementation of DACA (which grants deferment of deportation and the opportunity to work to childhood arrivals).

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