After being virtually ignored by the media at the beginning, the "Occupy Wall Street" movement is finally gaining attention, thanks in part to the heavy-handed response of the New York City police in arresting some 700 peaceful demonstrators at Brooklyn Bridge. This over-reaction by the police, incidentally, should have come as no surprise to those who remember the mass arrests of people peacefully protesting against George W. Bush near the Republican convention at Madison Square Garden in 2004. (No one could have imagined then that the Bush era would be regarded with nostalgia by America's immigrants and their supporters only a half-dozen or so years later).
The goals of the Occupy Wall Street movement may be vague, conflicting, and, in some respects, unrealistic or even absurd in the light of today's realities, as Financial Times columnist John Gapper (who supports the protests nevertheless) points out in the October 6 issue of that paper. But no one can argue with the fact that OWS expresses a genuine anger against corporate greed and a political system which many perceive as favoring the wealthiest Americans at a time of economic anxiety and distress among ordinary people that is now beginning to be compared with the era of the Great Depression. This is why the protests are spreading to other parts of the country beyond New York.
OWS is also, without doubt, a genuine popular movement, in contrast to the Tea Party which, if not actually created by right wing big corporate interests such as Rupert Murdoch's Fox News and the Koch Brothers, was quickly taken over by them. The OWS protesters want real reform of a system which they believe to be based on economic injustice and inequality. The Tea Party, on the other hand, opposes "big government" when the government tries to protect ordinary consumers, homeowners, the uninsured, and the environment.
However, when it comes to "enforcing the border", to use the expression of some right wing politicians who otherwise claim to know English and actually support making it America's official language, the Tea Party is in favor of not merely big, but enormous government. In its zeal to close the borders and deport 11 million minority men women and children, the Tea Party has no hesitation at the idea of turning America into a police state.
OWS, and, increasingly, the rest of America, are protesting against greed. But where are the protests against hate, the other principal cause of inequality and injustice in our country today? True, there have been some protests by immigrants and their supporters in the main citadels of anti-immigrant bigotry such as Alabama and Arizona. But where is the nationwide movement for immigrant rights? Where are the peaceful marches, demonstrations and parades such as the one a few years ago which had such a powerful effect that even Lou Dobbs, as I recall, blamed unauthorized immigrants for keeping their children home from school for a single day out of protest?
Alabama is now forcing unauthorized parents to do what Lou Dobbs himself condemned, by keeping their children home from school. Where are the protests, the marches, the demonstrations and the outcry against hatred and bigotry? Are immigrants and their supporters too cowed by "Secure Communities" and other symptoms of the cruelty and repression of the Obama administration to take to the streets legally and peacefully, as they are allowed to do by our laws and our Constitution? If so, not only are members of immigrant communities in deep trouble, but so is America itself.
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years.