SAN DIEGO What were they thinking? We'll probably never know. But from their actions, we can figure out who they were thinking about. Themselves.
Young illegal immigrants brought here as children and raised in this country the so-called DREAMers are often just as self-centered as some of our homegrown kids. Why not? They've been marinating for years in the same juices of disrespect, narcissism, entitlement, arrogance and contempt for authority. It's all about them. Many teens and "20-somethings" worship the holy trinity of Me, Myself, and I. The immigrant kids are no different.
Even so, heads are still shaking in the Latino community over the embarrassing spectacle that recently marred the House Judiciary Committee's long-anticipated hearing on immigration reform. Just seconds before committee members were supposed to hear testimony from San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, three young people who were sitting in the back of the room stood up and declared themselves at the top of their lungs: "undocumented and unafraid." They were quickly escorted out of the room for disrupting the proceedings.
Undocumented and unafraid, eh? They got it partly right. They forgot unsophisticated and apparently unconcerned with hurting their own cause.
And what exactly is their cause? They didn't say. They were so busy announcing themselves to the world that they never got around to declaring what they wanted. Mostly, it seems, they wanted attention. That's how the young people of today roll. The new national motto might as well be: "Look at me!"
Presumably, the protesters want lawmakers to create a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented. We know this because DREAMers haven't exactly been shy in making their demands. And this isn't just about three people. Some of their outbursts have happened all over the country.
A lot of us agree on the need for a path to citizenship. What's odd is that the three protesters thought that showing contempt for the members of Congress Democrats and Republicans was a good first step to getting there.
Instead of embarrassing themselves, why not just let the elected officials talk and embarrass themselves? That is especially true of Republicans, who don't seem to have come up with a new argument against legalizing the undocumented in the last 20 years.
Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, asked: "How do we avoid creating an incentive for people to continue to come here?"
Here's my answer: "Dear Congressman, if you really don't want more people to come to the United States illegally, the solution is simple. Go back to your district and call a town hall meeting of soccer moms, housewives, ranchers, farmers, owners of construction firms, restaurants and hotels and tell them to stop hiring illegal immigrants. Problem solved."
Whether they intended to or not, these rowdy youngsters also wound up showing disrespect for Castro, who had been invited to offer his opinions on immigration. There is the message for our youth: "Want to get on the evening news? You can go to Stanford University and Harvard Law School, get elected mayor of a major U.S. city, and deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. Or, if all that sounds like too much work, you can simply pick up a sign and make a scene at a congressional hearing. Either way, the camera will find you."
In the end, the protesters looked foolish and pitiful. They also came across as selfish and reckless that is, willing to play games with what some say is the best chance that the undocumented have had in decades to legalize their status. They might have jeopardized support for the whole deal, and they didn't seem to care a bit.
And spare me the argument that this was somehow in keeping with the great American tradition of civil disobedience. Not so. Civil disobedience is about defying an unjust law and then accepting the punishment. That means submitting to authority, not rejecting it the way the protesters did.
This unfortunate tantrum was more in line with the actions of the petulant Florida teenager recently sentenced to 30 days in jail for cursing and "flipping off" a judge. The ill-mannered Penelope Soto later offered a tearful apology to the judge, who dropped the contempt-of-court charges and vacated her jail sentence.
So when will the immigrant protesters apologize for their outburst? It'll never happen.
Why? Because being in love with the sound of your own voice means never having to say you're sorry.