Immigration Misinformation

A follow up to my writing on the MegaMarch

A lot of email friends forward me “chain” emails. Often, they are harmless (and sometimes very funny) jokes.Sometimes, they are heart-wrenching stories of little children in need of kidney dialysis. And, now and then, they are political treatises, begging me to understand an issue more and pass the email along to others.

Experience has taught me that, except for the jokes, many of these email-chain messages are complete fabrications. They are faux-heartrending-stories about fictional children. They take sometimes real quotes from sometimes real people, and either embellish them or take them out of context.

The reason I am writing about this today is that last week I got an email that was allegedly about the recent immigration rallies across the country. It purported to be a series of quotes from Latino/a leaders that, taken at face valued seemed very incendiary. The implication of the email was that these quote were given in the context of the recent nation-wide rallies, and that they signified the sentiments of those who attended. Because I what I will say below, I will not reprint the quotes here.

But, as I said, the collection of quotes was quite inflammatory. Even I, as a friend to many a Latino/a person, was concerned as I read the email. There’s just one problem: every single quote appears to be taken out of context and misconstrued to stir up fear among white people. Some of the quotes cannot be verified by any independent source, and those that do appear to be accurate are from a completely different historical time and place…

These days, when I get these emails, unless they are the harmless jokes type I always turn to the website, Snopes.com. This is, in my opinion, one of the best online repositories for understanding “urban legends.” An “urban legend” is a tale that takes on almost mythic proportions sometimes, but is almost always untrue.

For example, perhaps you have gotten the email that says that Bill Gates/and or/AOL is giving away money to folks who forward an email. The Snopes.com folks have shown that this claim is false.

Once upon a time, I also got an email that said Target stores “do not support veterans.” The email also said that Target was owned by the French, and cuts off benefits to reservists who are called to active duty. Once again, Snopes.com was able to show that all these allegations are false.

A lot of these internet rumors get spread during political campaigns. For example, during the last presidential campaign, there was picture floating around that purported to show John Kerry and Jane Fonda on stage at an anti-war rally in the 1960s. But, as you can see from this Snopes investigation, the picture was a complete fabrication.

Such ugly rumors have also made the rounds on the internet concerning George Bush too. For example, there was a rumor circulating by email some years back that George Bush’s house in Dallas (in Preston Hollow, literally about ten streets south of where I lived as a kid…) had a “deed restriction” on it that would not allow him to sell it to a black family…and that he supported this restriction.

The truth was far differrent:

Yes, Bush’s house did have such a restriction on it in the 1930s when such racist restrictions were considered legal. (Fifty other houses in that 300 house subdivision also had them…).

But, no, such a restriction was not valid today, nor did Bush support it (or even know about it) until somebody mentioned it to him. Read about it here.

Well, the point of all this is to strongly encourage you (as strongly as I can) to always check out email rumors before passing them along….and especially before believing them. Like I said, a short trip to Snopes.com can often settle the question for you, and you won’t be guilty of passing on erroneous, or even intentionally false information, to others.

So, as I said, last week I got a forwarded email about the recent immigration rallies. Because, as I will state below, I believe the email to be a dangerous gloss of the real facts, I will not reprint it here. Sufficed to say that it was a collection of quotes from various Hispanic leaders. The implication was clearly left that these quotes were recent, and that they were given in the context of the large rallies that have taken place all over the country.

It took Snopes.com about a week do so some research on these quotes. And what they have found is that in fact…
1) some of them are true…
2) some of them cannot be verified as true
3) ALL of them are taken out of context.

Virtually all of these quotes come from the 1990s, not 2006, and were a part of the debate in California over Proposition 187. You may recall that this was an incredibly controversial ballot initiative in California. It was passed, but it was later overturned by the courts. Some of the other things that are alleged in the email also happened; but are, again, taken out of context.

The facts are that the recent immigration protests were incredibly peaceful…in both word and deed. If you have not done so, please read my own summary of my experience at the Dallas rally. Half a million people converged on downtown, and there was not ONE arrest. That should tell you something.

Hopefully, it tells you that the event was peaceful. Hopefully, it tells you that the kind of harsh rhetoric cited in this email is of another time and place.

And even it if WAS of this time and place, hopefully you the reader are smart enough to know that the thoughts of a few radical leaders cannot possibly sum up all the beliefs of 500,000 marchers!!!

You can read Snopes’ research on this topic here.

So, you have to ask yourself the question: why was this email created, why is being circulated, and why is it all happening NOW?

The answer: to try to make white people afraid.

Whoever created this email knows that many Anglos are justifiably shocked by the sheer size of these immigration protests. (most people of all colors are..) Perhaps they are even a little fearful about whether such crowds might get out of control, or cause mass social chaos. Whoever created this email knows all of this. And so, they have taken some truths, some falsehoods, and a lot of things out of context, and created a potent dose of FEAR.

Please, do not buy it. Please, do not forward it to others.

Please remember: 500,000 protesters. Not ONE arrest.

Please remember: A sea of white shirts, intended to symbolize peace.

Please remember: More American flags than I have ever seen in my life.

Please remember: Chants of “USA, USA!!!”

The immigration issue is being raised NOW to try and incite white people to be afraid.

This damaging email was created for the exact same reason.

Don’t buy it.

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He has been Senior Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas since 2001. During his tenure, church membership has grown almost 30 percent, and a completely new church facility (sanctuary and education building) has been constructed. Northaven is a leading progressive Christian congregation in the Southwest. Northaven is an eclectic collection of gay and straight families, artists, musicians, theater folks, academic theologians, lawyers and judges (go figure), socially conscious community activists, people who don't "check their brain at the door," and a wide array of others who either see it as their "last chance" inside the "institutional church," or their first trip back in decades. Eric is an avid blogger and published author.  Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's an engaging live performer whose first CD was released in 2000. His songs have won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. (As always, if you like this post, then "like" this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too...)

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