It’s a rainy, Sunday, afternoon here in Las Cruces, New Mexico. What better motivation than to have the rain pounding on my roof to get my brain working, right? I could certainly be napping, but then again…I’ve been doing a lot of that the last couple of days. With a three day weekend coming to a close, sleep is probably the last thing I should be doing right now. (but it has been awesome!) Just ask my dog, Lennon. He’s been staring at me the last hour, his eyes and ears motioning for me to get up and take him out for his walk.
I’m here to apologize (once again) to my dear readers out there. It’s been more than six months since my last blog post. (that also sounded like a confession)
No. I have not been sleeping this entire time.
Full disclosure, I’m currently running the Las Cruces minimum wage campaign. So, the silence has not been for the heck of it. I’ve actually been kinda busy.
I honestly have nothing to write about. There is a lot to say and there are a lot of things happening that deserve some attention. But right now, I’m just spending most of my time thinking about stuff and what’s next.
I cannot say I’ve lost all hope in humanity. But we’re getting pretty damn close.
I gotta say, though. What gives me hope are the countless people, in Las Cruces for example, who come in each and every day and share their stories about this minimum wage campaign so far, and how they’re changing people’s lives, one person at a time. I’m also hearing folks ask, “what ‘s next? When we win in November, what will be the next battle?”
People are excited. We’re building community. No candidate could create this energy. This is organizing.
There are things happening at the local level, that as an organizer, keeps me grounded for the next fight. Although I’d like to keep my eyes and ears open for what is happening across the globe, there are battles that need to be won here at home that have the potential to contribute universally. So for all of you out there fighting the good fight. Stick to what you know and know that what you’re doing at the local level, certainly paves the way for some real and awesome transformation. Because that is where we win. That is where our communities win. That is how we really change the world.
Lots has happened since my last blog post this past summer. First and foremost, I’m sorry to all my readers who have desperately waited for a timely post from me. My apologies. It would be easy for me to just say that there was nothing to write about. But that’s not true at all. In fact, there was a ton of stuff to write about. I just couldn’t find the time to sit down and write. But that will all change. I promise.
Regarding my last post, we have yet to see the passage of comprehensive immigration reform, which I wrote about earlier this year. My last piece regarded an action organized by the Alliance for Peace and Justice in Roswell, right outside the office of our representative, Congressman Steve Pearce (R). Sadly, Mr. Pearce continues to be a disappointment. Not only did he recommend that those affected by the government shutdown go out and get a loan from the bank to make it through the shutdown, he spent most of the summer and early fall advocating for inhumane alternatives directly affecting 12 million undocumented immigrants already living in the United States. Which pretty much calls for a second class citizenry, which I countered in an op-ed in the Albuquerque Journal. I wish I could say he was the only radical conservative offering up some awful policies, but he wasn’t. Other conservatives in Congress join Representative Pearce in these same efforts.
Despite this lack of leadership from our Congressman, many see the immigration issue not yet dead (depending on who you talk to) In fact, some advocates still see the possibility for immigration reform, even if piecemeal — which many predict for 2014. This may be possible considering that next year is a big year in politics, as members in both the House of Representatives and the Senate are up for reelection and support of good policy helps garner votes. Also, there is President Obama who desperately needs a win.
My immigration post also coincided with my decision to move to Las Cruces — a move that was a welcome relief to friends and colleagues on the west side of congressional district 2. Despite what some may think, my hometown of southeastern New Mexico is not a lost cause for progressives like myself (I will be back). But with a burgeoning democratic base in the southwest, I can’t help but be excited about playing a role in a movement to transform this part of New Mexico. Our progressive homies north of I-40 should be paying close attention and take notes. When people think “New Mexico Politics,” Albuquerque and Santa Fe should not have the final word.
Despite being under resourced and underserved, CD2 shall not be ignored. In fact, it is ground zero for real change. This region has the potential to redefine politics in our state for years to come. It can also be a model for other states across the country, facing some of the same political and social challenges our region faces each and every day. We’re a rural, conservative region — separated by miles and miles of open space. Door hangers, social media and emails don’t win over the masses. It has to be much more holistic than that.
The secret is simple. It’s about building long lasting relationships. It’s about connecting with families and individuals about common values. It’s about community organizing.
When President Obama came into the spotlight and talked about his work as a community organizer in south Chicago, those on the right found this work absurd. There was that moment during Sarah Palin’s speech during the 2008 Republican National Convention when she laughed at the whole concept. Winking her eye at those of us watching. She laughed because like her colleagues on the right, they don’t understand this committment to organizing as being a tool for social justice and progress because this isn’t what its about for them. Engaging their community in discussions on making things better is the absolute opposite of what they want.
Think about it. Can you imagine Ronald Reagan sitting at a kitchen table, strategizing with close friends on how to make the world a better place to live for everyone? Him and his crew never sat around conducting a power analysis to demonstrate “people power.” They did power analysis to demonstrate how to take that people power away!
That’s the difference between us and them.
You transform the makeup of the political spectrum when you engage communities in conversations about real issues that affect our towns and villages. You build on issues that directly affect each and every one of us and overtime you see real change. Why? Because I whole-heartedly believe that our progressive values are values people believe in across the board. It’s just a matter of engaging our community in these one-on-one conversations and to act on them.
We win elections when we sit down and learn from each other, developing strategies around the ideas that come from those we directly serve. We develop leaders from our communities to bring forth change. We create opportunities for real change.
Will all this win elections tomorrow? No.
But overtime we transform ideas to greatly improve our communities. That is the goal.
This is the game progressives should play because it comes naturally. We are inclusive of everyone.
We are on the right side of history.
This I know.
But being an organizer is not easy. In fact, it’s one of the hardest jobs you can ever have. But the effects of organizing are long lasting, if we take the time to invest in it.
We win elections when our community stands behind us. When we demonstrate true leadership and hone in on what the overall consitutency needs and wants. Not what the few benefit from.
When we take on this philosophy, at all levels of leadership, we provide an outlet for our community to have real power. We do this and we will never have to worry about losing another election that stands for progressive values.
It’s important that I write all of this because we’re at a crucial juncture here in New Mexico. We rank last on all the good stuff and first on all the bad. Sure, it’s fun to see the other side implode, but what does that do for our community? I find it shameful when I attend these democratic/republican events and people are excited to see the other side looking foolish. What does that do for our neigbor who can’t find work?
Politicizing issues that are important to our communities do nothing but sustain a status quo. At what point do we say enough is enough?
My work in CD2 is crucial. I know I’m not the only one who believes this.
To be continued.
Immigrants Advocate While Democrats Infiltrate: Politics As Usual When It Comes To Talks On Immigration Reform
Yesterday in Roswell, the Alliance for Peace and Justice, a group of activists promoting equality for Roswell and all New Mexican’s, organized a vigil outside of New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce’s office. With over 60 activists in attendance, the Congressman was presented with a letter urging him to support their cause for immigration reform. In the letter, the Alliance states,
Over the past decade we have doubled the number of border agents and vastly expanded border security spending, and now by every measure our border is more secure. Now a common sense roadmap exists that includes responsible enforcement and a citizenship process making us even safer, and our economy stronger. To spend any more money militarizing our border would be fiscally irresponsible, and hindering the debate on immigration reform for the sake of ideology would be morally irresponsible.
While the group may not be able to sway the Congressman’s decision to support a pathway to citizenship, yesterday’s day of action gave a great showing of solidarity and support for the ongoing talks happening thousands of miles away in Washington. But while we’re on that subject of Washington, who is in charge of the fate of 11 million “aspiring” American’s, let’s talk briefly about how politicized this immigration issue has become.
As an activist watching the Senate debate the bill and now urging the House to take action and put the bill up for a vote, I can’t help but wonder about the suspicions I have had about why we’re still talking about this. I’m usually blaming the Republican’s for the gridlock in Washington, but now I’m not so sure if they’re entirely to blame.
Yesterday’s day of action by the Alliance for Peace and Justice was a vigil to urge Congressman Steve Pearce to support a humane and just bill that allows for a pathway to citizenship for 11 million immigrants already here. But for a minute during this vigil, the action turned into political theater when local Democrats infiltrated the vigil by campaigning against Congressman Pearce. Here all along, I was worried over the opposition to the issue, nativists and/or Tea Party activists showing up to defend their political puppet, Steve Pearce. But instead, what we saw was a carnival of self-involved Democrats, jabbering about “democratic values” and ignoring the fact that this was a non-political event, to demonstrate the need for reform for countless immigrants living in our communities here in New Mexico.
Although this parade of politicization didn’t last long, it did leave me with a very lasting impression of what I was already struggling to accept, but never wanted to admit to. When it comes to issues of immigration or any other issue around social justice, neither party really cares. I’ve been an immigrant activist for 15 years and in all those years, we’ve come so close to reform, but in the end it’s always shot down. Why is that? Sure, let’s blame the Republican’s for everything but Democrats are responsible too.
Immigration reform is not a game. Eleven million aspiring American’s are not here for your political enjoyment. Our issues are not here to keep you all entertained. But it sure is keeping you employed, huh?
Democrats: This is why American’s choose not to vote. This is why your base chooses to sit out important elections like in 2010 and 2012. Realize this when 2014 comes around because you all are going to be given the shock of your life when you lose another major election.
We certainly expect pandering from the right. I guess we should start to expect it from the left as well.
“Today, we have no political or national will to end injustice.”
The problem with this statement is that there are people in this country who believe that there are no injustices. Seriously.
But every issue we face as a nation, comes down to some form of discrimination and many just don’t see it that way. Instead, most see our call of injustices as an excuse.
You can look through my Facebook timeline and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Growing up in a conservative, rural town in New Mexico, most of the families appeared to have the same things, same experiences. Disparities in wealth, health, etc existed, but as a young child I didn’t see it and no one was really there to tell me otherwise. It wasn’t until I left for college and graduate school and my work with communities across the country the last fifteen years, that helped me to think critically and see injustices for what they really were.
Yes, we have choices. But our choices are predetermined by who we are as a people because it is embedded in our society. Not one person in this country can tell you what justice looks like, because not one person has ever seen it. While people continue to internalize and justify racism and discrimination, we will never see it, at least not in my lifetime.
Our upbringing didn’t help us either.
During my EMERGE NM class this week, I learned something from our instructor, jona olsson. It is something I’ve known for a long time, but I could never put it into words. She couldn’t have put it any other way:
“we are expert scholars in the propaganda our parents taught us.”
Powerful, right? I mean, really. Think about that statement for a second.
Not to blame my parents for everything, but we’ve been taught so many things from generations before us, particularly on how we treat other people and how we’re supposed to be treated and we can’t seem to shake it. Thinking about it this weekend, I go back to comments and statements made by family and friends overtime, stereotypes they hold to be true, and it makes me angry. So angry, I choose to not surround myself around that as much as possible. But Saturday night’s verdict in the George Zimmerman trial didn’t do anything to lessen this feeling.
The “Stand Your Ground” law in Florida is the dumbest piece of state legislation I have ever read (we’ll leave Texas law out of this conversation, because Texas is just another freak of nature). The law is one thing we need to argue about, however to see people sit back and say that Travyon Martin, a young black kid, was not targeted and discriminated against by George Zimmerman, a known violent person and racist, is absolutely outrageous. The verdict wasn’t so much the surprise, it was the shock and awe I felt from those who decided to come out in support of the murderer’s actions and characterization of Travyon Martin.
With the character assassination of the murdered child, the quote above brought it home to me the night we found out the verdict. I knew George Zimmerman would not be convicted. I knew because 1) Stand Your Ground is way too broad and 2) our justice system in this country is jacked. What I was not prepared for, however, was the utter carelessness of loss of life from those around me, especially from communities of color, who were ok with the verdict or did a *shoulder shrug*, like it was no big deal. Some said, “get over it.”
Get over it? As a person of color, we are devalued in our country because of who we are; the color of our skin, our language, what we wear and even our name, and yet we defend the system that is built to keep us oppressed? What the “get over it” people did, was show me that once again, they have drunk the kool-aid of oppression. They actually believe that there is no such thing as injustice in this world and that we each have control of our own destiny and that those with privilege are actually good people and looking out for the best of us. Racism is over. GET OVER IT!
I remember a story my dad tells me and although he means well, when he tells it, it really infuriates me. My father was a farmworker for all of his life until retirement over a decade ago. During his career, he worked for a gentleman here in Lake Arthur, New Mexico, a farm owned by a family that my dad had strong ties to. To say that my dad was loyal, is an understatement. He was so loyal that one day, one of the owners of the farm came by where my dad was burning weeds along the area where he was farming. The owner fell into the burning brush and my father jumped in after him and saved his life. My dad insisted that this man go to the hospital while my dad stayed behind, letting his own burns heal on their own. The infuriating part about this narrative is that when my dad tells this story, he shares it in a way that makes him nostalgic for those days. You know, the good ole’ days? What he never mentions, or does not want to argue, is that his boss never provided him basic health care, he worked six days a week, from 6a to 6p, and managed acres upon acres of farmland on his own. When he retired, he was so proud to have learned that his former boss hired three guys to do what he had done on his own! For him and my family, this “built character.” Sure, it did! But the toll it must have taken on my dad physically. This story also reinforces this mentality that we we don’t deserve to be treated fairly and equally. So when I bring this up, I’m told to not say more.
It’s just an excuse.
When you pass this farm that my dad managed for so long, it’s no longer the beautiful land he once cultivated. Instead, the land is unkept, without nourishment, and saddens my father each and every time he passes through. The owners of this land are now extremely wealthy, living off the money they made after selling the water rights to the farm my dad worked so hard for.
I love my dad. I love him because he worked hard to make a better life for me and my family. But his hard work also lead me to question the system and think critically about what and how we are treated. We are two very different generations and we see the world differently. What he sees as loyalty and being a good hired hand and worker, I see as an employer taking advantage of a man and exploiting him to get what they could out of him.
When I tell my dad that this is an “injusticia” it aggravates him in the same way others treat the idea of injustice all across this country.
It’s just an excuse.
The murder of Trayvon Martin, the attack on women’s reproductive rights, the nativism we hear and see during immigration debate and the justification we make for “random” acts of violence are consequences of a misogynistic society. We refuse to see it for what it is: oppression.
Racism and discrimination may not be as obvious as it was in our history books for many American’s, but to say that it doesn’t happen, especially from people of color, makes it even more impossible to initiate a national or political will to make our society better.
It’s ok to talk about it. It’s ok to say we have problems in this country and that we need to make necessary steps to figure it all out. But I worry that we may have to go through a series of challenging events before the “get over it” group finally realize that they were wrong all along.
They came for everyone else and you didn’t care. Who will be defend you when they come for you?
So what do you do when the highest court in the land rules that married same-sex couples are entitled to federal benefits as well as the freedom to marry in states that already allow it? For most cities across the country, you move on, right? I mean, the Supreme Court of the United States of America just made some pretty good and compelling arguments in support of equal rights.
Well. In Roswell, New Mexico…issues like this don’t just go away quite as easily, or as quietly, as the rest of the nation. Earlier this week, many of us got word that the Roswell City Council had been considering a resolution that would define marriage as only between a man and a woman. Savino Sanchez, Jr, Associate Pastor at Church On The Move, an evangelical church in Roswell, and the Chair of Roswell’s Police Committee, introduced this resolution (despite the higher court’s recent ruling).
Oh! Did I mention he did not attend tonight’s hearing?
Before tonight, there had been massive confusion regarding the resolution. Yesterday we heard that it had died in committee, but there was talk that the resolution was still on tonight’s agenda. To add to even more confusion, only five members of the council showed up tonight and there needed to be six to reach a quorum to resume with the business on the agenda.
So what was going on exactly?
Roswell Mayor Del Jurney explained that “due to changes to rules for city hearings, the agenda for tonight’s meeting had to be made public before we had an up or down vote in committee. That is why this resolution was on the tonight’s agenda and will remain on next Thursday’s agenda, but there will be no vote on this resolution. This resolution is dead.”
Great news! So what are we still doing here?
Mayor Jurney was compelled to hear out the concerns of those present and asked that people who had signed up to speak, should do so tonight, next Thursday or both.
Roughly, forty community residents were present at tonight’s hearing in support of marriage equality. One by one, residents from the city of Roswell, provided personal and passionate stories for their support for equal rights. Allies, such as Sara Mitchell, stood in front of the five council members, visibly disturbed by this resolution.
Mitchell said, “the reason this resolution angered me was because it is a waste of your time and our time. This resolution is pointless and is intentionally malicious.”
Like her, countless other individuals stood up and stood firm, passionately voicing their concerns, mainly in disbelief that something like this could come out of the city of Roswell, a city in which many advocates have grown up in, love dearly, so much so that they’re raising their families here. How could a city known for its history of embracing the idea of “extraterrestrials” and life on other planets, now have difficulties coming to terms with humans and their love for one another?
Tonight’s meeting was an inspiration to many advocates across the state. Mainly because for a community like Roswell, located in a region where you feel like you need a passport to come down here, proved tonight that there are forward thinkers who go to such lengths to make positive change.
As Sara Mitchell pointed out after the meeting, “I was proud to be in the same room with so many passionate, well spoken, equal rights activists. Whoever put forward this resolution, like-minded people should note that the citizens of Roswell will not let their town become known for hate, ignorance, and marginalization. I don’t need my marriage affirmed at the price of denying others equal rights.”
Yesterday I participated in a meet and greet with New Mexico State Senator Tim Keller. I really wanted to write a whole post about that, considering that it’s super rare to get any state-wide candidates or leaders to come down to our region of the state. However, because of today’s news dump, I realize that the campaign for New Mexico’s Office of State Auditor is going to have to wait awhile.
In addition to the ongoing NSA scandal and the mission impossible chase of Edward Snowden, today we all awaited news from the Supreme Court on various cases, more importantly related to the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 decision. As for Snowden, we have absolutely no idea where he’s at. Apparently he never made his flight to Cuba and is MIA. There is, however, David Gregory, who wants to arrest Glenn Greenwald and the Supreme Court ends up deciding to keep us all in absolute jitters by going another Monday without decisions on DOMA and Prop 8.
While we wait around for important outcomes of stories mentioned above or watching mainstream media ignore the important, non-sensationalist stuff, many of us sat through the torture of what we all call, the United States Senate.
Immigration reform has a better chance of passing Congress this year than any other year in my fifteen years of advocating for reform. Reasons are simple. Latino’s scared the crap out of the Republican Party during the November elections, when an overwhelming amount of Latino voters came out in huge numbers, in support of President Obama. While many of them voted, those who couldn’t vote encouraged friends and families who could, to do so with a simple request. Vote Democrat, because the likelihood is that they won’t say boneheaded things about your community. So here we are. President Barack Obama was reelected, the Senate remained a majority of Democrats, both insisting immigration reform was a priority and necessity. The House, well…that’s a different story.
The Senate came up with its bill in April and after debates in the Judiciary committee, has finally made its way to the Senate floor for, up until Friday, we all believed that most of what many of us asked for (i.e. pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants) would stay in tact as it headed for the House for a debate. I mean, come on? The Republican’s need to do what we’re asking from them, right?
Friday around noon, when all the Senator’s had left DC for their home states for the weekend, an amendment was introduced, now known as Corker-Hoeven, that overhauls border security in a way no one was expecting. (womp womp)
In 2012, the Department of Homeland Security reported that the border was as secure as it possibly could be. Politically, however, we know that we can’t depend on Republican support without them insisting on more security. So the initial Gang of Eight bill not only provided for increased border security, but the President and Democrats made security a priority when the entire conversation began. Well, I guess a “beefed” up border was not enough because what Corker introduced was border security on steroids.
As someone who follows Congress, I get that we have to compromise because that’s how our system works. I get that our process makes it impossible for one party to dominate it all and pass exactly what their supporters expect. But as an activist, who works day in and day out to defend and protect those that don’t have a voice, to what extent do we compromise and at whose expense? When do we just stop handing over everything to the Republican Party, especially when they’ve been hijacked by extreme nativists who do not want immigration reform?
When the initial bill came out, a group of activists from across the state of New Mexico came together to develop a state platform and border security was one of the components we were worried about. After speaking with New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich, we insisted, and he agreed, that the border was as secure now as it ever will be. However, although we were very concerned with the discussion of border security back in April, in no way did we expect it to reach today’s levels. Not at all.
So here is the question. Do we end our mission for reform because of plan to militarize the border, creating a greater nightmare for all those living along the US/Mexican border? Or do we suck it up and move forward despite the fact that a pathway to citizenship will come at a very tough cost?
NEXT UP…THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
If today’s vote reflects anything we’ll see on Thursday on the Senate floor, it will head to the House. But the question remains. Will Speaker Boehnor get his group of Republican’s in the House of Representatives to support this plan and send it to the President for his signature?
Remember. This Congress has done absolutely nothing when it comes to public policy and bi-partisanship in the last four years. As awful as this updated immigration bill is, can we actually rely on Congress to get it to the President and sign it into law?
The next few days are crucial as Democrats seek out Republican’s to get those critical 70 votes in the Senate for a final vote on the floor. Unless Senator Ted Cruz manages to coerce his Republican colleagues and convince them to agree with his awful justifications for denying 11 million people their turn for citizenship, the Senate bill should be heading to the House.
Living in conservative, southeastern New Mexico I am surrounded by a saturation of individuals from an older generation. Because of my surroundings, I frequently hear comments or am part of conversations in which this generation attempts to discredit the motives of my own generation and those younger than I. Their observations claim that we have an inability to adequately “make a difference” in this nation, unlike the difference they made and seen only by those before us.
I blame Tom Brokaw for his enabling of the so-called “greatest generation.”
While my elders criticize our motives and perpetuate this notion that we don’t care, I’d like to deliver a strong message. We are a generation unwilling to conform to the standards set forth by those who have destroyed any hope of a promising future. We will conduct ourselves in a way that we find satisfactory to our surroundings, not adhering to a certain recipe followed by those before us. Instead, we will take things into our own hands and accomplish what we know is right…our way.
That being said, we are seeing youth taking to the streets all around the globe, including here at home. We see it here at home where countless undocumented DREAMers, young people who have lived here for most of their lives, discarded any idea of following a political process because the idea of it is broken. Instead, they are focused on finding alternative methods to remedying a really bad and jacked up system and it is unraveling before our eyes. Look at all the states taking on drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants!
This isn’t a coincidence.
Last summer, President Obama signed off on deferred action for the countless undocumented DREAMERs living in the country. While many will continue to politicize the reasons why, thousands of activists took to the streets and to political offices all across the country and made deferred action possible. The last few weeks we’ve seen the same level of intensity as the Senate takes on the immigration reform bill and even more so as debate hits the floor, possibly today.
President Obama and Vice President Biden met with activists in the Oval office last month. But there is one important detail. In order to enter the White House, you have to have certain documents to get in because the Secret Service has to do its necessary checks to obtain entry. DREAMers, unless they’ve been given deferred action, cannot enter. One individual did. Justino, who has received deferred action, is from Los Angeles and has been advocating for immigration reform for as long as I’ve known him. I know him through our training last year with New Organizing Institute and it was a great and awesome thing to see him at the White House, talking straight to the President, representing the countless millions and their families who can’t make it through those doors of the Oval Office.
Earlier this week, I asked Justino what it was like to be a part of this meeting with President Obama and Vice President Biden and his response was simple, yet direct:
It was an honor to have represented the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. The meeting would not have happened if the immigrant community, pro-immigrant rights organizations, and DREAMers had not organized, advocated, and mobilized for our rights like we did in the last decade. The meeting was a testament to our growing electoral power and influence in the legislative process, more specifically, in crafting the bill’s language.
We’ve been underestimated by those before us.
Oh wait, but that’s not all.
Today, the Republican party, specifically, the great Representative of Iowa and sponsor, Steve King, introduced and passed a “self deport” bill in the House of Representatives, which in essence targets and defunds the DACA program signed by the President last year.
We’ve been underestimated by those before us.
What Justino is talking about is that a strong and large collective have come together to fight for immigration rights, including deferred action and have been doing so for over a decade. It was successful because of unconventional thinking and organizing, which is leading the way to some great progress and we will be successful.
It will not be done like those before us.
Today’s vote on the House floor is a huge slap in the face to activists and youth across the country, but it in no way, deters the incredible strength in numbers, passion and conviction that the youth of this country have.
So, the next time an elder tells me that we are nothing like them. I will respond with a simple, “no, we are not.”