While some others are busy celebrating Disney’s decision to cast an actual Chinese actress as the legendary Hua Mulan, we want to remind everyone that Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-Ca.) embodies the real thing. If you haven’t read the news carefully, Rep. Chu just got herself arrested — ARRESTED —while fighting off the very real danger of mass deportations, not special-effects monsters.
While the specifics are complicated, the broad reality is this: Trump announced earlier this year that he would no longer refrain from deporting young Americans (they’re Americans) who grew up here but were never naturalized by their immigrant parents. We call these young Americans “Dreamers,” after the proposed-but-never-passed DREAM Act which aimed to give permanent legal protection to such Americans. But because of shitty politics, what everyone knows should be done as a matter of basic decency — even two-thirds of Trump supporters agree — never got done, and Obama’s only response was basically to say: even though I’m supposed to deport these young Americans under the law, nobody can make me do it because I’m the boss, so I’m not going to.
Obama’s refusal to do what he didn’t have to do was called DACA. It’s not the law; it’s a Presidential decision to not enforce the law. This decision came in the form of a comprehensive program complete with cutoff dates and complicated applications, so it looks and feels like a law. But DACA is not a law. To qualify for DACA, Dreamers essentially had to make a gamble: should they identify themselves to the government, on the faith that the government would keep its promise? By identifying themselves, they were putting themselves on a list that could either protect them, or give ICE a complete list of people to round up, jail, and deport. The process is not a pretty one.
Almost everyone including Republicans and Trump himself are unable to say with a straight face that these young Americans should be forcibly removed, and so Trump let DACA expire while suggesting that Congress should pass a DREAM Act-like law to fix the problem. But this being the Republican Party, the proposals put forward are loaded with anti-immigration provisions such as funds for a border wall, increased immigration raids, more immigration detention centers, and an online citizenship registry. The push for a Congressional DREAM Act free of this Republican shitbaggery is called a “Clean Dream Act.”
A Clean Dream Act is what Rep. Mulan was protesting for on a blustery cold winter day on the Capitol steps, along with hundreds of other protesters. This being America, many were arrested for their efforts to promote justice. In fact, the protestors knew they would be arrested, and the Capitol Police allowed them to separate into two camps: those that would be bagged, and those that would not. Congresswoman Chu chose to be bagged, and bagged she was, along with nearly 180 other protestors. She was one of two Congressman to land in the tank that day, the other being Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.).
Judy Chu suffers no fools. When she asks Stephen Colbert a question, he stops acting like a smart ass and talks like a normal human being. She carries on the work of Cesar Chavez and uses her power to protect the most vulnerable among us: our migrant farm workers. She made Congress formally apologize for the Chinese Exclusion Act.
What have I done? I feel good just writing about her. The LGBT civil rights group Human Rights Campaign gives her a 100% rating. That’s an A++. But Judy is no grade grubber: the Koch Brothers give her a 4% rating. That’s a G- to be proud of.
Rep. Judy Chu reminds us that real politics and real leadership matter. We don’t have to have fictional representations of Asian women heroes when we can see them at work everyday. But we have to pay slightly more attention to “mundane” things like immigration policy, and less attention to spectacle.
I’ll take a Judy Chu over an ethnically-appropriate live action Mulan any day. Not that I don’t want both, but if you stop to think about it, Mulan was really just an ICE Border Patrol Agent in Ancient China.