A Response to Breitbart.com’s Critique
Unfortunately, the incredibly expected has happened: a jerk got ahold of DRM’s name. When Mayra Hidalgo went up in front of the CNN cameras, she talked about her story and feelings on immigration from a very genuine place as her entire life pivots on this issue.
Mayra Hidalgo was promptly criticized in an article by a lame right-wing blogger, Hack-In-Chief Larry O’Connor at Breitbart.com.
If you read some of the comments on Breitbart’s page, you’d come to the conclusion that it caters completely to idiots who have insulated themselves from the merits of the other end of the immigration debate, as well as any other political debate. Reading the comments on that blog is more like going to an anti-immigrant rally where skinhead after irrational, scared old white lady complains in anecdotes about their sons being hit by an undocumented driver and other similar stories that have nothing to do with immigration policy. These are the same voices we see in the documentary film 9500 Liberty, where the immigration debate around an SB 1070-like law brings out the worst and most ignorant elements on the political spectrum to be as loud, angry and crazy as they possibly can be in Prince William County, Virginia.
In the interest of time, I’ll address his two biggest inaccuracies as directly as possible: Firstly, DRM is not, nor has it ever been, a lobbyist organization. For those like O’Connor who haven’t benefited from my years of legal study, I’ll break down the basics of what a lobbyist organization is: Registration as a lobby is required when a lobbyist is employed or retained to make lobbying contacts for a client if the income earned or expenses accrued passes certain monetary thresholds. First there must be a person who qualifies as a “lobbyist”: a lobbyist is an individual (not firm or association) who is employed or retained by a client for financial or other compensation for services that include more than one lobbying contact and his lobbying activities for that client must amount to 20% or more of the time that the individual spends on services to that client over a three month period. This doesn’t apply to us.
Secondly, he didn’t fact check his title: you put “Undocumented College Student” in quotation marks. Either you’re a very sarcastic hipster that is making a comment about irony, or you’re insinuating that this is inaccurate. Marya Hidalgo was born in Costa Rica, brought here when she was younger than a year old and has spent her entire life since in the United States. She will be attending classes in college in the Fall.
The misleading doesn’t stop there. You portray that it doesn’t make sense that someone who CNN profiled as the poster child for the DREAM Act would show up at a Romney rally. DREAMers have been showing up to Romney rallies since at least the New Hampshire primaries before he was even a candidate, where I watched several DREAMers approach him about the DREAM Act on the tail of his promised veto. Since then, it has been a steady stream of pressure against Romney, largely because of his anti-immigrant rhetoric, promised veto of the DREAM Act and his actual veto of the Massachusetts DREAM Act. Marya Hidalgo has been active in immigration politics as a member of United We Dream and going to rallies long before she was a part of DRM. The DREAMers have formed a strong political network, and have been using it to push their issues.
DRM is an organization which Cesar Vargas and I started, along with other organizers we had met along the way. It was 8 months ago, we were fresh out of law school and had spent our last year helping there organize nonprofits in low-income, immigrant-rich areas in Queens. We’ve spent our time on the road following the political trail, sleeping in the cheapest motels imaginable, complete with cockroaches and a Dateline NBC van doing a special in the next room. This was because we barely had enough money to make it from one city to the next to cover the political events and help organize.
We’re still far removed from the wealthy Washington firms which O’Conner wants to paint us as, and we still do grassroots campaigning. We started a business instead of a nonprofit because we wanted to engage in political action. Although we find ourselves with the odds stacked against us, pushing uphill against Washington lobbyist titans like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), we still feel that this was the right decision, and will continue with our political mission.
To be smeared with “journalism” of such poor quality is insulting, it is unfair to me and my coworkers. Twenty minutes on Google with the right questions would have given you the corrections long before you left the chore of doing so to me.