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.”
What story can I use from my own life experiences to apply to my organizing in hopes of connecting with the community that I’m trying to serve?
For the last 15 months, that’s a question I’ve been asking myself on a daily basis. I’ve been working on my story of self and it’s been a major challenge. As an organizer, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to work on because it’s a story I want my community to relate to and this is critical.
After months of thinking about my own story, it finally came to me a couple of weeks ago during my first class with Emerge New Mexico in Albuquerque. I won’t elaborate on the specifics because I don’t want to give too much away, but the focal point of my story is me, sitting in front of the television at the age of nine years old, watching George H. W. Bush give his State of Union address and me translating what he’s saying to my monolingual, Spanish-speaking parents. As a nine year old, translating the English language to my Spanish-speaking parents isn’t unprecedented. Many families, who come from immigrant ancestry, either generations ago or just recently, experience this all the time. It’s not a unique situation. It does happen and in some places, it really pisses a lot of people off.
Roswell, New Mexico is one of those places.
As much as I love southeastern New Mexico, I can’t help but become overwhelmed with frustration knowing that a small fringe, help to define who we are as a community to the rest of the state. Although more than half of Roswell’s population is Latino, according to the 2010 United States Census, and many of which speak Spanish, there is also a zero-tolerance attitude for diversity among a very small group of people living along the the Pecos Valley.
Today, my friend approached me and told me that his mother had an appointment at a doctor’s office here in Roswell. His mother was shocked to find some questionable propaganda hanging from the door and walls of this particular doctor’s office, mostly geared to our Black President (shocker) but also a range of questionable English-only paraphernalia Neither one of us was exactly sure how bad things were, so we decided to take a drive this afternoon, down to 1600 SE Main Street in Roswell. Here, in Suite 3, is the office of Dr. Jackie Graham, MD and at the entrance of the office is this sign, which states,
We do not speak Spanish in this office. If you do not speak English or have a qualified translator to help you, we have some requirements you must meet before being seen:
- find a translator that speaks English well and will come to your appointment.
- learn the language
If you cannot do either of these
- see another physician.
My apologies for the picture and its poor quality. I took the picture with nervous hands, scared that someone from the office would come out with a loaded gun. Because you know? We liberals are all out to get your guns.
On the right hand side of the flier is a very poor Spanish translation of what is stated on the left in English.
Dr. Graham, if you or your staff need any help with that translation, please feel free to contact me and I can help you out with that, ok?
Which brings me to my point. Although I truly believe that my community has great potential because it is represented by a very diverse and wonderful group of citizenry who embrace the diversity that exists within our great state of New Mexico, we, unfortunately, also have some racists. While some will be pretty blatant about it, others will go in the direction of Brad Paisely’s “Accidental Racist” mumbo jumbo and attempt to “defend” their racism and make excuses for it.
Bottom line is that racism exists in our community and people should be called out for it.
Let’s take Alaska Republican Congressman Don Young, for example. Just a few weeks ago, he described workers at his father’s farm by saying, “My father had a ranch; we used to have 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatos.” He later apologized for using the slur, but defended it by saying, “it’s a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in Central California.”
By the way, if you’re sitting there not sure which word Congressman Young used as the “slur,” then you’re part of the problem.
Listen, I would love to live on the planet you’re living in if you think that racism died back in the 1960s.
What I am writing to you today is real and it’s happening in our own community. A small minority of people in Roswell, wish to have things the way they were back in the day…when people of color and women were suppressed and old, white men made all the decisions.
This country is diverse and will continue to evolve into a more diverse nation as more immigrants come into this great nation. There are tens, if not hundreds of languages being spoken in this country each and everyday because every nation on earth is represented in our communities, and that is a beautiful thing. But while I think this is incredibly awesome, we have the Dr. Graham’s of the world who are frightened by this idea of an “invasion of foreigners,” who will trounce on the greatness that is “Americuh” and turn it into the third world country they left behind.
This is false.
Because it’s the Dr. Graham’s of the world, who remind me every day, that while they spew their hate, intolerance and ignorance, it’s also a dying fad. There will be a time when our children and grandchildren will never understand or comprehend how any of this could have even been possible because they will not define a person based on their race, color, gender, language, sexual orientation or creed. Instead, they will define a person on the content of their character. A philosophy that may not hold true today in Dr. Graham’s office, but does in the hearts and minds of countless others in our community, which will hopefully sustain our humanity for generations to come.
I’m been following the immigrant rights movement since 2000 or so. However, my interest in the movement peaked in 2006 while I was in Los Angeles and it has been of great interest to me ever since. As an activist and an organizer, I am 100% committed to a pathway to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants here in the United States. It is absolutely the right thing to do. But as the Senate’s Gang of Eight release the first draft of the immigration bill on Tuesday, as a blogger and social media person who spends a lot of time following those within the movement, I can’t help but wonder what the responses will be from them once the bill is released. Massive disappointment? Or a great place to start?
Although I’m optimistic, as a blogger and social media person observing the movement from the outside, I am also worried. A year ago I could see a very tense and divided movement. On the one hand you had activists coming out for building on the foundation of working with Congress to pass something meaningful, continuing the work from previous years and attempting to show a solid bi-partisan commitment to reform. But on the other hand, you had activists who were not happy with the results of 2006 and beyond and they split, moving forward with a more radical and non-traditional form of protest against the political status quo. Civil disobedience (which many of us would agree is what led to President Obama signing off on deferred action for DREAMers) is what many feel was necessary to hold the Obama Administration and Democrats and Republican’s alike, accountable, but it was also an attempt to go about the issue of immigrant rights to a completely different level. Why focus on the political and pushing policy when we know Congress doesn’t function? Why should we wait on the government to do anything?
Steps were taken to move in a different direction by the latter group and many of us, especially me, felt compelled to give these young DREAMers props for what they were doing. No longer were they interested in doing things the “traditional” way, but instead spent days protesting in President Obama’s campaign offices across the country or risked their lives by purposely getting arrested and put into deportation proceedings to show the world how brutal detention facilities are across the country.
Now, while all of these examples show incredible bravery and have helped to shift the momentum for youth pushing for a pathway to citizenship for all, I can’t help but wonder how these two different methods from two sectors within the movement (with similar goals) will affect the conversation in the coming weeks. A year ago I wasn’t worried. A year ago I felt that things were moving in a separate but productive and effective process and that at some point after the election, these two ideologies would manage to come to fruition. But in recent weeks, my observation is that this is not the case. These two philosophies are coming head to head with one another and challenging chances for real reform. We’re facing a devastating shift in momentum which could lead to much less than what we are bargaining for.
This is the United State of America and we know very well that our Congress cannot agree on anything and hasn’t during the last four years. However, since the election in November things looked different in terms of immigration. We had both sides of the political spectrum seeing the impact of Latino turnout and we were confident that policy makers understood our commitment to seeing reform through, capitalizing on what we stand strongly for. But with the school shooting in Connecticut, the ongoing debate of gun control, in conjunction with the sequester and this division among the movement which I have been observing, makes me feel extremely worried about the prospects of immigration reform this year…
or at least being satisfied with a good foundation.
Soon after the the Gang of Eight introduces its bill on Tuesday and after all the amendments have been added to the bill and after all the debating and politicizing of the issue is made by both sides, will we again be disappointed like we were in the past or have the differences of methods among the immigrant rights movement laid the groundwork for something much more promising than even I have ever expected?
We’ll find out on Tuesday.
New Mexico Senator Tom Udall Visits Roswell, Hosts Roundtable With Farmers And Ranchers Affected By Drought
As Congress takes a break from Washington, DC, many are returning to their home districts to talk with constituents on a variety of issues. Today, New Mexico Senator Tom Udall was in Roswell, hosting a roundtable with local farmers and ranchers currently struggling with the, I’d say, devastating drought facing the entire state.
Honestly, I was not fully prepared for this discussion. I am in no way an expert on the issue of oil and gas, farming, ranching, nor the dairy industry for that matter, so most if not the entire conversation was a bit daunting.
A common theme amongst those in attendance was a passion for the work. Regardless of my own person feelings on the environment and what we should be doing to slow down the effects of climate change, I had to admire their conviction. Of the ten or so in attendance, all had been farming or ranching their entire lives or their families had a long history of holding down their respective lands. Experts in their respective fields, I’d say. While there were hints of forward thinking in terms of technology, efficiency and lowering carbon footprints, it was also clear that the same tired old ideas of yesteryear are still in play when it comes to energy here in southeastern New Mexico.
Regarding energy, for example. A local farmer from Roswell, who explained that he wears a variety of different hats, including expertise in gas and oil, said that, ”if we get away from producing coal, it will be a huge cost increase that cannot be solved.” Senator Udall did not provide a response to this, but I immediately felt discomfort with this comment. I’m immediately reminded of what the priorities are for this region of the state when it comes to any energy plan.
Livelihood vs. Climate Change
Just last year, President Obama was in Maljamar attempting to sell his comprehensive energy plan and sort of catering to gas and oil here in southeastern New Mexico. But since his reelection in November, he’s not only talked about climate change, but he’s also prioritized it, both in his inaugural address and at this years State of the Union. So my question is this. How do you sell the effects of climate change and the deterioration of our environment to local gas and oil people who depend on this as their livelihood?
Especially here in southeastern New Mexico?
To find a successful solution to climate change, policy makers need the backing of those who attended today’s roundtable with Senator Udall. But to be on board also means supporting an applicable piece of long-term policy that will make a significant difference and not just an attempt to squash an issue temporarily with some watered down piece of policy. We can no longer continue to ignore this idea that perhaps oil and gas have contributed to our current drought challenges. It is the incredibly large elephant in the room, except no one with real political power is willing to point that out. Especially in this part of the state.
We don’t have a drought just because mother nature decided to take a break. We have a drought because we, as a society, have done very little to produce alternatives to energy. Instead of finding solutions to help pull ourselves away from our dependence on oil and gas, we continue to increase and at a very rapid speed, which in turn directly impacts our land. Unfortunately though, we don’t talk about climate change in these parts the same reason you don’t bring up the gun issue. People get real upset. At today’s roundtable with Senator Udall, there was desperation from those at the table, who were worried. Not so much about what may come from this drought, but how much more government may interfere with their businesses if the issue become much more serious.
The question remains. To what extent do we push the limits on the environment before we can finally say, “it’s time to do something?” Around here, no one is willing to take a stab at that question which will be very problematic for any future debate on energy.
Senator Martin Heinrich Makes Case For Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Will Rest of New Mexico Delegation Follow?
Today I participated on a call with United States Senator, Martin Heinrich from New Mexico, along with various organizations from across the state, many of which are involved on issues related to social justice, human and immigration rights.
The Senator’s office invited many community leaders to participate on this call because it was around a hot topic that could finally mean something in the coming weeks and months: comprehensive immigration reform.
Following the plight of immigrants in my own family and as an activist for the last ten or so years, this call was important in a lot of ways. First, it tells me we might see some results this year. Second, it says that as a border state, New Mexico is at the forefront of the conversation on border security and that our opinion on the issue should matter. Finally, despite the horrendous record of our own Governor (must I remind you), our congressional delegation (minus the guy who’s last name rhymes with fierce but is not) have an opportunity to be leaders in ongoing discussions around the issue. By contacting those of us on the ground to participate in a dialogue, my hope is that we can help the Senator frame his policy on this very important matter.
I had an opportunity to pose a question to Senator Heinrich prior to the call and the question was repeated almost verbatim throughout today’s conversation and that question was, “what is the Senator’s stance on deportations and the separation of families?”
His answer was simple.
“Illegal crossings [on the border] are down 90%. We must recognize what works and we must have real consideration for our communities”
An activist from Santa Fe made it clear, “the border is already secure,” Senator Heinrich may have confirmed it with this very simple statement.
But why does the Obama administration, Democratic Senator’s like Charles Schumer and those on the right continue to insist that we have to incorporate an overhaul in border security in order to make comprehensive immigration reform happen?
At the local level, we have seen horrible injustices to families who have been separated because of a horrible immigration system. Actually, “system” is giving the federal government too much credit. Instead, what families are experiencing, and have been for many years, is a bottle neck of uncertainty. Laws at the local and state level continue to deprive individuals of basic human rights, being subjected to intolerance and racial profiling at the hands of law enforcement who have no idea how to handle culture-sensitive issues or any immigration issue for that matter. More importantly and you would think this was common sense, but law enforcement should not be dealing with these issues.
Calls (and visits) with congressional leadership should continue and while Senator Heinrich was very happy to continue this dialogue from now on, it is important the we continue to push the same debate with the rest of the New Mexico delegation. It is obvious that if the President is talking “border security” and continues to deport millions of people by separating millions of families, those of us working on the ground in New Mexico should be facilitating this debate and encouraging our leaders to do the same.
But we’ve been here before. The question though is what will we do to make sure that promises made are no longer broken? We must no longer rely solely on the a broken system of checks and balances. We must demand that these promises be fulfilled by organizing our communities.
The Senator ended the call with, “este es el año.”
We must make it so.
Imagine how much more effective our New Mexico Legislature would be if “legislators” in Santa Fe, were actually “legislating” bills that help create, oh, I don’t know…jobs, maybe? Instead, our legislators, who are currently in their second week of a 60-day legislative session, are dealing with the Governor’s attempts to once again, continue with her ongoing attacks on immigrants.
This is the third year in a row New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez will go up against immigrant activists and public safety proponents, targeting drivers licenses and attempting to repeal a law allowing undocumented New Mexican residents to obtain drivers licenses. For the third year in a row, Governor, you will be stopped.
But at what expense to the rest of New Mexicans who need to work?
“I am once again asking the legislature to repeal the law that gives driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants,” said Martinez, a Republican. “I am always willing to discuss this issue with legislators from both parties and explore ways to find common ground, but I believe the most effective solution is to simply repeal this dangerous law.”
Governor Martinez is in no way interested in any compromise, which Democrats in the Senate and House have attempted to do the last two years. While I am in no way in favor of the compromise being put forth by some legislators in the Senate and House, it is, by far, a much greater attempt for middle ground than the absolute repeal of the law. But that’s what the Governor is committed to. Full repeal of the law and going back in time.
This law allowing undocumented immigrants to acquire a drivers license, was brought forth to a vote and was made into law back in 2003 — way after 9/11 and way before this Tea Party, uber-conservative wave that swept the nation the year Susana was elected. The purpose of the 2003 drivers license passage had nothing to do with the state declaring “safe haven” for undocumented immigrants, but instead it allowed for a much safer and less-costly situation for New Mexicans paying for auto insurance. When you have a drivers license to drive in this state, you can acquire insurance, which not only reduces costs overtime for insured drivers, but you don’t have to deal with high costs that come with uninsured drivers during an accident. It’s a win-win.
Except for the Governor. Her only goal is to follow other anti-immigrant and in my own opinion, push very anti-Latino policies, in order to reach national political prominence. To do this, she is playing the role of “enforcer” and following the likes of Governor Jan Brewer in Arizona who will ignore the Federal Government to do her own thing in her own state, despite the numerous attempts, on both sides, to find compromise.
Susana Martinez became popular because she was 1) Latina 2) endorsed by Sarah Palin at the height of her own popularity during that “wave” I mentioned earlier and 3) she was a Latina going against her own.
Why have the anti-immigrant bigot do it when you can get an ambitious Latina to do it herself?
I’m absolutely appalled at this ongoing witch hunt the Governor has towards immigrants. More frustrating is we have to endure it once again, for the third year in a row. We have to have a meaningless debate rather than focusing on real issues affecting all New Mexicans.
Next week, many immigration activists, including myself, will be in Santa Fe, protesting this attack on immigrants and pushing our leaders and legislators to do the right thing: vote against the repeal if and when it comes to a vote. However, if legislators plan to move forward with a compromise, fine. But in the end, the Governor is not going to go for it. She wants the repeal and she will bet her entire legacy on it.
Let her. It will make her re-election bid that much more wonderful for the rest of us, who are going to work hard to make her a one term Governor.
But I’m currently reading, “Lincoln: Team of Rivals,” and the more I read, the more I feel a deep connection to President Lincoln. There are a lot of things he and I have in common. For one, we’re both very emo.
The author discusses President Lincoln and reports on his friends/family who made references to the President suffering between a cross of depression and melancholy.
The passage that hits me the most is this one:
“Periodically, when the distance between his lofty ambition and the reality of his circumstances seemed unbridgeable, he was engulfed by tremendous sadness.”
I can testify to this passage and how powerful it is. There are days in which I feel like I’m still waiting for my life to begin. Waiting for that one thing that is going to catapult me to the place I am destined to be. But what am I waiting for? Why do I stress over whether or not I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing at this exact moment? Why do I dwell on if I do this and not that, will it lead me elsewhere?
I’m a true believer in “you make things happen.” But I’m also a true believer of having no regrets. But like Lincoln, I am engulfed with tremendous sadness when the distance between my own lofty ambition and the reality of my circumstances, seem unbridgeable.
Goal for 2013 is to use my reality and circumstances to reach my lofty ambitions.
It’s that simple.
Or is it?
Ok…no questioning it. Just do it.