Archive

Posts Tagged ‘activism’

Immigrants Advocate While Democrats Infiltrate: Politics As Usual When It Comes To Talks On Immigration Reform

July 18, 2013 2 comments

7:17:13 Day of Action 1Yesterday 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.

7-17 Day of Action 2Although 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.

Advertisements

Why Worry About An Outward Bigot, When It’s Your Own You Have To Worry About?

January 24, 2013 1 comment

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.

Undocumented, Unafraid, and Unapologetic

March 14, 2012 1 comment

As many (or some) of you know, I write quite a bit on immigration and how it pertains to the political and national narrative in this country.  Recently, I published a piece on the media’s use of the term “illegal” and how it affects the national debate.  Overtime, I’ve also attempted to make the case for the DREAM Act and why it is so important, not only to the young undocumented people who will benefit, but for the nation as a whole.  In retrospect, it’s been a good run.  Stories have been shared, stats have been presented, all in an effort to give a compelling yet not too biased account of what I think about the issue.

However, none of it has prepared me for this week.  A week that can shift the dialogue within the immigration debate in 2012, especially during this election year.

This week, thousands of youth across the country will be coming out as “undocumented” during Coming Out Week of Action.  For months, activists have been preparing for this major campaign, providing an atmosphere and a safe platform for youth all across the country.  It’s an opportunity to “come out” as undocumented, unafraid and unapologetic.

Recently, I had the incredible honor of meeting a few of these individuals in Washington, DC and while the campaign seems scary and risky, it’s necessary.  For over ten years now, immigrant activists have been heavily involved in the debate, attempting to fully engage the public and Congress on finding humane solutions to a broken immigration system.  While there have been some instances where it looked like we’d see some success, something incredibly disappointing occurs (like Congressional gridlock) and the road to some kind of reform collapses.

Undocumented immigrants coming out this week know that time is running out for them and millions of others.  Congress and the President of the United States have not and may not prioritize the issue again this year, moving along with a very little sense of urgency.  With no solution at the federal level, states are taking every effort to victimize undocumented immigrants, who are enduring a maddening game of tug of war, gone utterly wrong.  Just when you think the right thing is going to be done and reform looks promising, the other side yanks hope away, leaving activists with mud on their faces.

The harshest opponents to immigration reform are becoming much more critical these

Picture by Emma Hernandez Courtesy of Walk Against Fear Facebook Page

days and are taking those who were once sympathetic, with them.  All across the country, state houses have seen an increasing number of anti-immigration legislation introduced and in some places, have gone so far as to signing them into law.  States like Arizona, Mississippi and Alabama have shown that no immigrant is welcomed…but more importantly, persons of color are seen as outsiders in their own communities.

Alabama’s infamous and the nation’s strictest anti-immigrant law, passed last summer in the state legislature.  The Alabama law not only gave law enforcement the right to “verify a person’s immigration status during routine traffic stops and/or arrests, if “a reasonable suspicion” exists that the person is in the country illegally” but it has also created a temperament of fear all across the state and throughout the deep South.  

On Sunday, a group of young immigrant activists, many of whom are undocumented, set forth on a 200+ walk from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi.  The Walk Against Fear, which brings awareness to civil rights violations immigrants suffer today due to anti-immigrant laws, is a march that is attempting to also capture the same resilience Civil Rights leaders had when they too made the journey. James Meredith, a Civil Rights activist and the first African American admitted into the University of Mississippi during segregation, was part of that march 50 years ago.  In the next few weeks, these activists will be confronted with the same objections Mr. Meredith faced during his time and risking their lives to end racism.  Gaining civil rights for all is not easy, the Civil Rights movement proved that.  Activists like Ingrid Cruz and Patricio Gonzalez, understand this as they walk towards Jackson today.  They too can no longer wait.

People around the country argue that perhaps when we discuss the issue of immigration reform, we should not focus too much on the human side of things and instead debate the issue objectively.  (I’ve never understood this concept, but whatever.)

Al Rojo Vivo con Maria Celeste reportaje - 389 Miles "Living the Border"

However, if we want to look at this thing “objectively” then it is necessary to take an hour of your time today and watch the film, 389 Miles: Living the Border by my friend LuisCarlos Davis. In this brilliant film, LuisCarlos depicts life along the Arizona/Sonora border, exposing the true stories of those living on both sides of the border, learning about the actors who risk their lives every day, facing human predators and dangerous terrain, to only succumb to defenders of a broken system.

You cannot help but carefully listen to both sides of the story and not be sympathetic.  As an incredibly passionate supporter of the plight of the immigrant community,  I was once again taken aback by the resiliency many have when crossing into the unknown.  All the while I could not help but also feel utter outrage towards our society and our unwillingness to look beyond color and focus on the true nature of what brings people here.  LuisCarlos film captures the angst on both sides, showing that even after years of debating this issue, people still do not have the answers.

This week provides us all with an opportunity to learn and fully understand why immigrants come here and why they fight to stay.  Those individuals coming out of the shadows all across the country, activists Ingrid Cruz and Patricio Gonzales marching on to Jackson to fight racism, and LuisCarlos who took the risk of making and sharing his film to the world, are people who can no longer wait for government to find the solution.

Let us remember that as this young generation of activists move forward to share their own personal stories, they carry with them the stories of 12 million human beings still too scared to share theirs.