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The Movimiento Nacional de Pendejos y My Poem

By David Ramirez

Photo: David Ramirez (me) wearing a suit and tie at the NCORE conference as  Daniel Vargas”, fictionalized Communications Director of Common App, Inc. 

It took several months, almost a dozen people and several organizations (including Immigrant Youth Justice LeagueFreedom University and Fair Common App) to plan and execute the prank on Common Application Inc. – tricking three news outlets into spreading fake news that the corporation responsible for facilitating college application submissions had changed its policies towards undocumented students and issued a formal apology to the undocumented community. 

Information was received Tuesday evening that the video released on Thursday was of me, an undocumented activist, poet and a member of the Georgia 8. I did this because I am undocumented, my community is undocumented, and my community is under attack by the Common Application, which is stealing the hopes and dreams of my undocumented brothers and sisters across the country. I made the announcement because it needed to be said. I hope the Common Application repeats it word for word in the coming days.

This The Yes Men-style action was organized by myself and a group of self-described “undoculovers” in order to call attention to the barriers undocumented students face in all educational institutions – not merely Common App. Now it’s everybody else’s turn to rise to the occasion as a movement, take action, and engage in purposeful dialogue to move people to the Left, in the direction of the immigrant justice movement.

I also want to posit this as an opportunity for people to critique their caper and employ ever-more creative, innovative actions. Several tactics have been employed by the immigrant rights movement and this is the freshest and best intersection of art and activism that we’ve have been able to produce.

This action is a prime example of the bravery, innovation and determination undocumented youth and our allies have brought to the migrant and educational justice movements. Signing on to the action because of its part in a broader organizing strategy – one that included clear, winnable, and deeply-felt objectives, identification of targets who could give activists what they want, and selection of tactics that would get activists closer to their goals – I agreed to impersonate the Common App Communications Director. 

My performative embodiment of Daniel Vargas, a wry caricature of American citizen and corporate elite, received press from the likes of Colorlines.comVOXXI and Cuentame as if the Common App decision was real, and was trolled by a Huffington Post journalist on Twitter. 

Because of Georgia’s ban on undocumented youth enrollment in public universities, most undocumented students’ only option is to apply to private colleges. Unfortunately, over 400 of the private colleges partnered with Common App routinely discriminate against undocumented applicants by labeling them “international,” guaranteeing them a separate, unequal admissions process. According to one study, as few as 5% of undocumented students ever attend college. 

I have extended an invitation to Common App Executive Director Rob Killion to meet with them at the Georgia-based Freedom University, a volunteer-run project offering free college-level classes to undocumented students. Killion has not responded to my offer to discuss the hopes and struggles of undocumented students.

Reactions to my speech have varied, but the undocumented youth activist community has been overwhelmingly supportive of the action and view targeting of Common App as an important step in the fight for immigrant rights and educational justice. 

Mitzy, an undocumented Freedom University student, commented: “The Common Application oppresses our community, segregates our nation’s higher education system by immigration status, so our community is fighting back. I feel like the headline should read ‘Brown v. Board retracted: Supreme Court Blames Activists for Hoax Ruling.’”

My poem:

The Movimiento Nacional de Pendojos y Mamones Unidos, the organization I am president of, takes full responsibility for the planning and execution of this action. Jose Salaazar, acting Vice-President, was integral in building consensus amongst our members. He acted with such fierce competency that he gambled his position amongst our ranks.

DreamActivist Louisiana found us housing in New Orleans, our trip was guided by God himself, and our safety was secured by our love for one another. Together we march still. Marching marching marching marching. My name is Jorge Mena when he wears a beret, my father is Juan Mangandi, and I invite you to come out like me. Milk and Dada and a chorus of the merriest of illegal-lovers.

Extended thoughts: I think here we should move in the direction of our parents. By which I mean my undocumented ones. Let’s resonate with both demographics represented by each of yours when we consider messaging. Is that clear? We’re moving in the direction of inclusion in the ongoing immigration debate. Immigrants are a construction. “Undocumented immigrants” is our new base. We’ve come a way from “illegal-alien.”

Text Transcript

“COMMON APP” PRESS RELEASE:

The Common Application, Inc. announced two changes to the upcoming version of the Common App, the college application used by high school students across the country. The 2013-2014 version of the Common App (CA4) will become available Aug. 1, 2013 and will include these changes: 

  1. “Undocumented American” will be added as an option in the demographics portion.
  2. “Undocumented status” will be added to The Common Application Inc.’s non-discrimination clause, which legally binds the 527 member institutions who accept the application (2013-2014).

COLORLINES.COM ORIGINAL POST:

Undocumented students won a major victory in their fight for higher education access last week. On Thursday, The Common Application, Inc. the organization which organizes the unified college application students can use to apply to over 400 colleges, issued a formal apology to undocumented students who they’ve excluded from their work and materials for 35 years.

You have been duped. The undocumented community has been the butt of the joke by American-made-media for too long. And now the joke is on citizens. 

COLORLINES.COM UPDATE: Common Application Director of Outreach Scott Anderson has confirmed to Colorlines that no changes have been made to their widely-used college application. “The Common Application has not made any announcement regarding undocumented students,” said Anderson. Anderson also confirmed that despite a splashy announcement to that effect made at a higher education conference by a person claiming to be named Daniel Vargas claiming to be employed by the organization, “There is no one named Daniel Vargas on our staff or Board of Directors.”

The announcement of the changes is a hoax. Late Tuesday activists revealed that Daniel Vargas is in fact David Ramirez, an undocumented immigrant and activist. Ramirez addressed participants at the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education last week posing as a representative of the 35-year-old organization. Ramirez also claimed to be the communications director for the organization in a press release, which included a fabricated quote from Killion.

VOXXI also released a correction early this morning:

Late Tuesday the Common Application was forced to reply. Rob Killion, Executive Director of the Common Application, stated: ‘There is nothing [new to share] about the way the Common App has approached undocumented students,’ and explained that undocumented students continue to be excluded from the organization’s non-discrimination clause. 

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

DANIEL VARGAS: “It is an honor to be here at NCORE. Today is a historic day and it is fitting for this moment to take place at this conference. Represented here today are faculty and administrators from some of the most prestigious colleges across the country, many of which are members of the Common Application. The Common Application and NCORE share a commitment to the values of equality, integrity, and access within American higher education.

“I am here today to announce two changes to the Common Application that will greatly increase college access for an entire community. But before I reveal what the future has in store, I need to address the past. Not too long ago, it was brought to our attention that we, The Common Application, were not upholding our own values. Today we apologize to the undocumented American community for years of discrimination.

“Every year thousands of undocumented students learn what it fully means to be undocumented when they realize that they have a 5% chance of attending college. Yes, according to one study, currently only 5% of undocumented youth ever attend college. A key reason for this is because private colleges unfairly and inaccurately label undocumented Americans as “international,” which guarantees them a separate and unequal admissions process. This practice has been permitted and facilitated by the Common Application- until now.

“Today I’m here to announce that the upcoming Common Application is taking the necessary steps to make sure that all students, including undocumented students are treated fairly when it comes to college admissions. The updated demographics section will include the term “undocumented American,” allowing these students to better self-identify. We are also updating our non-discrimination clause to include “undocumented status.” This will ban admissions discrimination at over 400 colleges nationwide.

“In the coming days, people will call this change many things. But we gathered here know that equality is not radical but is common sense; and the undocumented American community, which is represented here today, knows that this change could not come soon enough. So for both NCORE and the Common App, our commitment to equality, integrity, and college access cannot end here. Indeed, this is where it begins. I encourage everyone here with twitter to take a second using the #UndocuEquality to show and voice your support for this change. Furthermore, I encourage all of you to help lead your institutions in welcoming this change and more importantly- in welcoming these students. Thank you.”

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David Ramirez

Undocueverything

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organizing

immigration

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published

June 05, 2013

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