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New Mexico’s Congressional District 2: Who Said We Didn’t Matter?

December 2, 2013 Leave a comment

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.   

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Republican Party: Immigration Reform? SIKE!

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.

Picture courtesy of the White House

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.

Yesterday we got word that Representative Raul Labrador pulled out of House talks to bring an immigration bill to the House floor.

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.”

Senator Martin Heinrich Makes Case For Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Will Rest of New Mexico Delegation Follow?

March 18, 2013 2 comments

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.

You’ve Got To Fight, For Your Right, To Vote!

September 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Remember when the working-poor, students, the elderly, and people of color were committing fraud by falsely documenting voter registration forms in order to vote in an American election?

Yeah.  Me either.

The last year or so, we have seen an increase in voter suppression laws all across the country, so much so that it could be devastating to the electorate this coming election and hand the Republican party’s, Mitt Romney (and many other horribly selected Republican candidates), a clear victory on November 6 if we don’t do something to stop it.

“So, wait…what is going on?” you ask?

I know.  It’s confusing, right?  All along you thought you could just show up at your local polling place and just…vote!  I mean, this is America.

Wrong.

It’s not going to be that easy for millions of people this year, who may face a considerable amount of drama due to very repressive and restrictive laws keeping honest American’s from exercising their most basic right.

Ok.  So for the last year or so, leadership in states like Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, (and many, MANY more) insist voter fraud is incredibly prevalent across their communities and must be intensely scrutinized.  However, fraud is almost non-existent and nothing like described on the far-right.  In fact, there have only been a few cases of some questionable voting practices but nowhere near what Republican’s and conservatives on the right are claiming.  Instead, what we find is that your chances of getting eaten by a shark are greater than for there being any issue with voter fraud.

But these suppression laws have passed and although some have been shot down by a higher court or are facing the courts now due to appeal from many legal entities attempting to defend our voter rights, these laws struck down are still, believe it or not, being implemented by many across the state.

Ok.  So you’re sitting there thinking, “well, what’s wrong with showing our IDs?”  “What could honestly be the big deal?”  Well, there are many reasons why many of us defenders of voting rights find this problematic.  First and foremost, not all people have the privilege of having an ID.  Sure, it’s not something that’s denied to anyone, but not everyone needs to have one for everyday use and to get one just to vote would be costly for many. According to a study from NYU’s Brennan Center, 11 percent of voting-age citizens lack necessary photo ID while many people in rural areas have trouble accessing ID offices.  Furthermore, states that provide free ID cards are a great alternative, but what happens to those who can’t afford to pay for additional costs such as having to pay to provide additional documents to obtain this ID card they may never use after election day? (i.e. birth certificate) Finally, there is an incredible disadvantage for these groups as well as those agencies needing to provide the documentation.  Many of these laws were thrown into the law books way too far into election season.  Think about it.  Election day is in less than 40 days and many government agencies that usually provide these identification cards may or may not have the processing capability or capacity to provide these cards in a timely fashion.

This morning, Melissa Harris Perry made it very clear, this isn’t a “Fox News” moment.  Let’s not get all “conspiracy theorist-like,” but the issue is clear.  The demographics affected the most by these laws (noted above) are groups that have historically voted for the Democratic candidate.  So it is no coincidence that here we are, a few weeks away from an important presidential election and these laws could prevent millions of voters from voting.  More importantly, preventing those same people from voting for a candidate they voted for overwhelmingly in 2008.

BUT PRESIDENT OBAMA IS AHEAD IN THE POLLS?

So right now, yes.  President Obama is ahead in the polls.  But these polls mean absolutely nothing if people are unable to exercise their basic right to vote.  Think about that.  Also this about this.  If voting doesn’t matter to many of us out there unwilling to participate in this very basic right, than why is the Republican party doing everything in their power to take that one right away from us.

The Republican party insists fraud is occurring and that it is mostly coming from groups many progressives represent (like those mentioned above).  But check this out! Yesterday it was discovered that a consulting agency being paid for by the the Republican Party, may have committed fraud themselves.  According to developing reports, Strategic Allied Consulting, a firm collaborating with others who have a history of tampering with Democratic forms, has been fired by the Republican Party due to serious discrepancies in voter registration forms across the country.

Aside from this situation itself, a very awful recording was discovered from a local Republican phone banker in Florida, stating the following:

Y’all sound like y’all are senior citizens, right? Yeah. We don’t want — you don’t want Obama. You really don’t want Obama because he’ll get rid of your Medicare. You might as well say goodbye to it. Yeah, and I don’t know if you’ve done any research on Obama or not, but he is a Muslim. He is — got a socialistic view on the, you know, the economy, the government, the whole nine yards. Um, if he had his way, we would be a socialistic country. Okay, really, do. Pay attention to Fox News. If you can get out and watch that movie 2016 do so. That has a lot of good information. Just really the newspapers and the Fox News will help you out; will help you. Okay, appreciate it sir. Thank you. Uh huh. Bye-bye.

Voter suppression laws are real but they aren’t real in the way the Republican party is portraying it to the rest of us.  Students, the elderly, people of color, and the low-income and working poor are not responsible for any decline in our democracy.  It is the Republican party and the shadiness that they continue to delve into in order to gain power and win elections.  This coming November we need to beat them with real power.

Our right to vote.

 

40 Days Left Until Election Day…And You Still Don’t Know Who You’re Voting For?

September 28, 2012 3 comments

Last Monday I drove to Missouri to visit my sister.  But before I could arrive to my final destination, I of course had to face a few interesting encounters along the way.  First off.  Amarillo, Texas.  I arrived around 8a, where I stopped to fill up Herbie’s tank with gas.  Here, I was introduced to an older gentleman filling up his own tank, who immediately began to complain about the high gas prices.  Instead of discussing the issue in a manner that was both fair and realistic to the issue itself, he continued to go on a rant about how we should bomb the hell out of Iran to meet his desires for low gas prices.  Unfortunately for him, I wasn’t going to stay silent.  Instead, I rolled my eyes and I railed on him for about two minutes, explaining to him that by creating a crisis of “bombing the crap out of Iran,” would only increase gas prices even more and where would he be then.  Why don’t people get it?

Perhaps my political explosion in Amarillo lead to some bad karma because right before arriving into Oklahoma City, I ran into a bit of a “problem.”  Around mile marker 99, heading east on I-40, I had what some people might call, a bit of a flat tire.  Fortunately for Herbie, a few minutes prior to this flat tire, I happened to notice a sign outside of Oklahoma City which read, “dial *55 for Highway Patrol.”  So, as someone not knowing anything about changing my tire, I decided the Highway Patrol was necessary and needed to save the day.  Well, fortunately for me, I only lost 15 minutes because a nice Oklahoman stopped and helped me out and changed my tire within minutes, not having to really need the patrolman.  But as he arrived, he did what I guess any other patrolman would do…put on some white gloves.

Seriously?  He looked down on me and my Obama bumper stickers with some trepidation. Which is why I convinced myself he was not going to help us out and he didn’t.  He just stood and stared and said not one word to me. Whatever, the Oklahoman gent was great so he redeemed my faith in the people of this great state.  As I coasted through the state in my fixed tire and Bruno Mars blaring from my speakers at my mom’s expense (she came along), it was between Tulsa, Oklahoma and Joplin, Missouri that a guy in an older black Honda Accord passed me full-speed, honking his horn and flipping  me off.  I was driving a a cruise controlled 70mph, VW Beetle,  so my only  reasoning behind it was yes…the Obama bumper sticker with the words “Latino’s for” before Obama.  Oh well.  I still believe in Oklahoma hospitality.

So there is a reason for this narrative and that is, how well will President Obama do in these states?  I mean, Oklahoma isn’t racing to be a blue state, that’s for sure.  But my question is, what will ever get them to become purplish?  I don’t know.

I’m also still wondering why people are undecided.  We’re less than 40 days from election day and people still don’t know who they’re going to vote for?  You either support the President and want to see him re-elected (and succeed) or you’re ready to go on with the next guy.  You’d think the last few weeks of funny and deplorable comments from the Romney campaign would help in making that decision, but apparently that’s not the case.

The conventions held last month were pretty interesting.  Up until then, things were just politics as usual.  However, despite the apparent differences in reception from both sides, I think we have all come to the conclusion (at least I think we have) that the Democratic party is not facing an enthusiasm gap at all, like I once feared.  Perhaps it has something to do with the opponents Dems are facing rather than the progressive candidates themselves.  Nonetheless, the last few weeks have been interesante because during the ongoing post-convention punditry, it’s apparent that President Obama has held on to a significant bounce, which has sustained this far in the game.

Unfortunately, this optimism coming from the President’s camp and progressive campaigns across the country have really worried me a lot in recent weeks.  Yes, President Obama is ahead in the polls and Democrats are gaining speed against their various opponents in Congressional races across the country.  But really?  Declaring a win, less than forty days before the election, is incredibly stupid.

Polls are great because they can be very telling.  They have the ability give us a general idea of where we are.  The problem, however, is that it can also lead voters to become very complacent.  I’m sorry, but American’s don’t get as excited about voting the way they do when refs screw up a call during a Sunday night football game.  I’m sorry, but that’s just reality.

(Which is why I have such an issue with the electoral college during election night when pundits declare California blue when the polls haven’t even closed yet…but that’s another blog post)

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  Voter registration deadlines will end in less than two weeks and get out the vote efforts are so important because we need to keep those people we’ve registered, engaged enough to go straight to the polls.

It’s not over.

Presidential debates begin next week and these will be a major events for those independents not yet sure whom they’ll be voting for to evaluate the candidates and see who will be their choice come November 6.  Will President Obama be as successful in the past?  Will Mitt Romney continue to bury himself?  We shall see Wednesday, October 3 when the first debate takes place at the University of Denver.

As I drove up to Colorado yesterday, a guy in a silver Toyota passed me, honking his horn and giving me the thumbs down…I’m assuming it was my Obama stickers (again).  I was sad about it for a seconds until I realized.  I guess it’s better than being given the bird.  That’s progress.

The GOP: When “Taking Back The Country” Really Meant “Let’s Take Back Our Country.”

So this happened today…

Barack Obama has been President of the United States for under four years and not once have I been under the impression that the city of Lubbock, Texas, of all places, was a great threat to this Socialist and/or Marxist takeover of the United States of America.  Apparently, though…people like this Texas Judge are truly scared.

In fact, these whack jobs have managed to replace substantive debate on real issues for the last 3.5 years with radical and incredibly sickening anti-women, anti-immigrant, anti-gay…anti-everything rhetoric that could have incredible repercussions for the future of this nation, if elected.

“Legitimate rape does not often lead to pregnancy because the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Ok.  So yes, this seems scary, right?  Some would accuse me of fear mongering right before an important election.  But c’mon?! Who goes around declaring “legitimate rape?”

The right does.  In fact, however preposterous Rep. Todd Akin may sound, he’s not far from where many of his colleagues in Congress stand.  Paul Ryan, the current Vice Presidential nominee under the Mitt Romney ticket co-sponsored a bill with Mr. Akin calling for the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” in which they invented the new term, “forcible rape.” I guess for Republican’s, rape isn’t rape, instead there are degrees of it?…

These are our so-called “leaders.”

Have we, as a nation, become so numb that we now allow for people to be this outrageous?  Do we no longer have standards?  Have we really fallen this far behind that we’re willing to allow a party, such as those in the GOP, to say some of these incredibly awful and vile things?

This is not fear mongering.  This is our reality.

If progressives are struggling with an enthusiasm gap for this year’s election, look no further for some motivation.

Who needs to talk about Romney’s taxes (or lack thereof) to end his political career when you have his own party to thank for that?

The right to vote is that much more important this election season.  Let’s not let our children down.

My Recent Post at United We Dream – DREAMers and the 2012 Elections

It’s no surprise that before Friday’s announcement by President Obama, enthusiasm for this year’s election was relatively low, so low Latino’s, for example, were ready to sit this one out. Republican’s like Senator Marco Rubio, who has not taken seriously the importance of comprehensive immigration reform, recently commented on this notion that immigration is not a number one priority for Latino’s.

Polls conducted since Friday’s announcement will tell you differently.

Read more here at United We Dream.