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Posts Tagged ‘CIR2013’

Let’s Militarize the Border, They Said. It Worked for Nation-Building.

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)

Image

Courtesy of Center for American Progress

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.

The measure would double the total number of patrol agents and add more than 700 miles of fencing along the US-Mexico border at a cost of $38 billion.

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.

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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.”

Pathway To Citizenship for 11 Million: Dead On Arrival Or Inevitable?

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.