Friday, January 11, 2008

Border 'Minutemen' recruiting 20-somethings

A picture can be worth a thousand words.... Interesting commentary below on how young students in the U.S. are much more liberal in their views on immigration, partly because they've grown up in a more multicultural, global world than their parents. -Dra. Valenzuela

Neo-Nazis try and join the Minuteman Project during an anti-illegal immigration rally in Washington, D.C., Feb. 8, 2006. About 50 demonstrators attended the rally.

Liz Clark, a protester, holds a placard as she listens to leaders from the Minutemen group speak in front of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., Feb. 8, 2006. About 50 demonstrators attended the rally which was held to protest illegal immigration into the U.S.

Border 'Minutemen' recruiting 20-somethings

By: Amy Taxin

Posted: 1/11/08

SANTA ANA, Calif. - At anti-illegal immigration rallies across Southern California, middle-age and senior citizens have been leading the charge for tougher immigration enforcement, taking their pitch to day labor sites and the U.S.-Mexico border wearing stars and stripes T-shirts and carrying American flags.

Now, a group of activists is starting a chapter of the border-watching Minuteman Project in a bid to lure 20- and 30-somethings into what has been a predominantly older movement.

The group, called "Operation Generation," is planning to use the Internet in a bid to spark interest among young people in the anti-illegal immigration movement. In an interview with a Minuteman radio show, Brian Gilmore, a 32-year-old electrician from Costa Mesa, Calif., said he decided to start the group after looking around the crowd at a rally and realizing he was the only one under 40.

"The whole patriotic red-white-and-blue thing isn't really cool with young people today. It's sad to say it because I love carrying my flag at the rallies but it almost chases them away … they're still thinking of what they look like, and what their image is," said Gilmore, who declined to speak with The Orange County Register. "I think we need to take a new approach to activism for young people."

Political experts say Gilmore may find a small but vocal group of young people who share his views, but doubt most young people will identify with the older generation's thrust for tough immigration enforcement. Rather, today's 20- and 30-somethings are less fearful of globalization and more comfortable growing up in a multicultural world than their parents, experts said.

While talk about immigration pervades the airwaves and the presidential campaign, only 3 percent of 18 to 24 year olds ranked immigration as the country's most important issue in a recent survey by Harvard University. In California, older voters are considerably more concerned about illegal immigration than the younger generation, said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll.

However, while younger voters tend to be more open to globalization, there is a core group who say they have strong concerns about immigration - one in five people polled in a similar survey by Harvard's Institute of Politics, said John Della Volpe, the Institute's director of polling.

Much like conservative political groups on college campuses, anti-illegal immigration groups have the potential to have a loud voice in the debate even though their numbers will likely remain in the minority, said Caroline Heldman, a political science professor at Occidental College. Heldman said the bulk of her students choose immigration as a topic for their class project in political science - but most research immigrant rights advocates, not the Minutemen.

"Most young people, especially those who have an inclination to be politically active, and college students are notoriously Democratic and liberal," she said.

It is unclear how many members Gilmore's group will have once he starts recruiting this month.

In the interview, Gilmore said half the group's activities will be online. For example, he is currently hosting a contest on MySpace to design an anti-illegal immigration flier that the group could then distribute in different communities.

In the Harvard study this fall, only 21 percent of respondents said they had attended a political rally or demonstration in the last year - but half had signed an online petition. Respondents were more likely to join a presidential candidate's MySpace or Facebook site than attend a rally, display a bumper sticker, wear a campaign bracelet or start a campus group, the survey said.

On the opposite side of the debate, young people have been heavily involved the last two years, at times alongside their parents, in marches to support immigrant rights. During this time, the Internet has played a key role, said Carolina Sarmiento, director of El Centro Cultural de Mexico in Santa Ana, Calif., recalling how high school students used MySpace to organize countywide walkouts in opposition to an immigration enforcement proposal.

Sarmiento said the Internet and informal community centers have also provided a means of expression for undocumented students who have grown up in the United States but can't vote.

"The difference is the strategy they're using, the methods," she said.

Several political experts say the current trend isn't just about people becoming more conservative as they age. Louis DeSipio, a University of California-Irvine political science professor, said young people today are more comfortable in a multicultural world than their parents - especially as immigrants have moved to new areas of the United States.

"For most of the country now, teenagers are growing up around people who aren't just like themselves," DeSipio said. "That means they may not like other aspects of immigration, but they aren't going to be just afraid of the presence of immigrants in U.S. society."
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