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Posts Tagged ‘New Mexico’

Thoughts From The Office and the Campaign Trail

April 26, 2016 2 comments

Ok, so I am talking about another office.

Last night I finished watching the series, “The Office.”

The reason I mention this is because 1) I am sad that I have to say goodbye (yet again) to Jim and Pam and 2) it reminded me once again of how simple, and yet happy–life can actually be…outside of politics.

With 41 days left in this primary, I have been reflecting a lot on this entire process. Not img_6338just as a candidate, but as a woman of color who is trying to balance ego-mania and imposter syndrome, all at the same time.

Late at night, after a long day of work and RubioNM35, my favorite thing to come home to is another episode of this funny sitcom–coming at us from Scranton, PA. (Which by the way, today is the Pennsylvania primary)

I can’t lie. I sometimes ask myself, “couldn’t you just have worked in an office supply profession?”

Life would be so. much. easier.

When I first decided to run back in November, it was a tough decision and one that I did not take lightly. As an alumni of Emerge New Mexico, I have learned and toted that insane statistic of, “women must be asked seven times to run for office.” For yours truly, it took about 30,000,000 times.

And I finally said yes–on the condition that I would run on my own terms. As an organizer, there was no way that I would compromise my values just to win an election and I have remained solid in that promise.

Here is the thing. I am the candidate to beat in this primary. So it is no surprise that rumors are swirling about what sort of attacks will come my way during the end of this primary election season. And c’mon? I shouldn’t be surprised, right? It happened to my good friend and candidate during the non-partisan Las Cruces Municipal races back in November–when hundreds of thousands of dollars of out-of-state money, trickled in, trying to defeat her and other progressive candidates in these races.

img_6299-2Let’s be real. I certainly expect it to happen in an election cycle like this one–where Republican’s have no viable presidential candidate and have no other option but to invest in state and local races. They will also try to do it in a primary, particularly supporting candidates that are less progressive than I am. Yes. Even in a democratic race. They obviously have the money for it.

Being politically involved in my community for most of my life, I understand that this is a game to a lot of people. Furthermore, this game is insanely expensive and in under 41 days, you will begin to see what that amount of money looks like and what it will buy. It will be disgusting.

You will also see what they will do to me–and many other good people like me, just as they have done to those that have come before me. As sad and upsetting that might be, I will be ok. I have family, friends and supporters who know what I stand for and are committed. Win or lose. We will all survive this–and so will every other woman who ever decides to take on this very hard and yet important role. We need you.

Then….together, we’ll change the shit out of politics for the long run. And for good.

So yeah, this work is not easy. It is nothing like another funny episode of The Office that you can just watch for 20 minutes and turn off until the next evening. But this phase in my life is certainly an episode–and sometimes a very funny one, with chapters just waiting to be written. But I will be the one to write them.

Until then, the campaign continues and the stories of folks in the community must be heard and acted on.

(I also promise not to take so long to write next time.)

But for now…

Below are some pictures of some very important events with family and friends in both my personal and campaign life from the last few weeks. These people mean so much to me and are the rock that I need for this very challenging and yet exciting process.

Follow me and all the things here on my blog at The Rubio Dispatch or on Twitter at @anrubio or on Instagram at @anhellykah 

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.   

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.

Supporters of Marriage Equality Kick Bigotry In The Ass…Again.

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?

*scratching head*

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.”

 

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.

SE New Mexico: The Drunk Uncle Who Is Never Invited To New Mexican Family Dinners

April 15, 2013 15 comments

Image Source: Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia

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,

No EnglishATTENTION ALL PATIENTS: 

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.

It didn’t.

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.

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?

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.

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.

Planned Parenthood, Socialism, Fat People, Oh my!

Normally, I get my inspiration to write from information or news I read online.  Other times, I am inspired by some of the

Little Texas

conversations I am a participant of or overhear something crazy from some random person at the restaurant or bar.  Yesterday I went to  lunch with my sister and my parents.  While we chatted and ate our food, two couples of Senior’s were seated in a booth right behind us.  Not to be nosey, but I could not help but overhear the conversation between these four individuals.

I need to give you a quick update on where I actually spend most of my days.  I live in southeast New Mexico and for the most part, it is the most conservative region in the state.  If you study New Mexico politics, you will learn that this area of the state is called, “Little Texas.” Simply put, it is an area rich in oil, little men who drive around in large pick-up trucks and girls like me are looked down upon for their “hippie” politics.  One reason why this region is so conservative (other than the oil conglomerates) is because it a place where many retiree’s come to settle.  Fortunately for me though, this conservative demographic is gradually losing its strength in numbers and I am beginning to see an increase in faces that look my age and people with the complexion I should probably have if I stopped wearing cardigans in the summer.  

Back to lunch…

These four individuals were discussing issues related to health care reform and the ongoing debate taking place throughout the country, on this one year anniversary of #HCR passage.  The way I heard the discussion was how I envision the Tea Party discussing the overall issue, with death panel fear behind each and every spoken word.  They discussed the direction President Obama had taken on the debate and their belief that health care should not have been passed because it is not the government’s responsibility to take care of the matter.  Instead, we should blame all our health care problems on fat people. (cough, cough)

Me being awesome!

I am going to go out on a limb here and say that I do not fit the description of a super model.  Yes, I could use to lose weight and perhaps exercising should be the first goal in doing so, but hearing these couples look down on others and not looking at the underlying reasons as to why we really need health care for all, made me think that the Republican Party and those on the conservative side supporting the Tea Party, are really out of touch with reality and definitely on the wrong side of history.

I can see the frustration people have with heavy people (talk to my sister, the exercise fanatic)  But rather then just blaming “fat people” for all our problems, why not look at the overall picture?  If you identify those with the greatest weight issues across the board, studies show that communities of color, primarily those in low income communities, have a higher percentage of obesity because they lack access to services or resources then those in affluent communities.  When you look at low-income communities you will find more fast food eateries and liquor stores at every street corner, and very few grocery stores with fresh produce creating this phenomenon we call, “food deserts.”

Let me give you a visual.  I lived in Los Angeles for five years and 2.5 of those years, I lived in East Los Angeles, in a neighborhood called Boyle Heights.  Going to the grocery store in Boyle Heights was always a chore and I dreaded the day I needed to go because the lines were always dreadfully, long.  The vegetables and fruit were never of good quality and most if not all the time, I had to get into my car and drive to Silver Lake and shop at Trader Joe’s in order to get what I really needed.  I never had problems finding good produce there.  The thing is though, I could get in my car and drive to Trader Joe’s.  For families living in Boyle Heights, where poverty is high and public transportation is unreliable, options for traveling up Sunset Blvd and on to Hyperion to grab some fresh produce is never an option.  Furthermore, the country faces an epidemic of lacking preventive health care, where  it is almost non-existent in many communities of color.  What is even more scary is the fact that organizations like Planned Parenthood, (currently being targeted by GOP) an entity doing so much for women’s health, is now

"I stand with Planned Parenthood!"

under attack.  For agencies providing services to the poor.  If the Republican Party has it’s way, Planned Parenthood could be forced to stop providing preventive exams, prenatal care and disiminating information to countless women all over the country.  Instead of focusing on these groups and cutting real pork (like the Defense budget) Republican’s are attacking a woman’s chance of living.

Looking back and dissecting in my head the conversation held by those two couples yesterday makes me so angry because there are thousands if not millions of people in this country, blaming certain groups for the ills of this country.  Although it is easy to find a target and use them as a scapegoat to make a point, the overall picture is ignored and we  never accomplish anything when we ignore the root of the problem.  Why not really look at the issue, like “food deserts,” for example, or supporting the First Lady, Michelle Obama in improving school lunches for children?  We should work to improve the overall access of health care for all, rather than limiting it to just a few and letting those few judge the rest of us for not having the privilege to afford health insurance.  Yes, we should work to improve our health and take personal responsibility for our own progress, but we should not ignore the millions of people who have no access to the resources that could help them make better choices.  When we find solutions to those issues, then the idea of universal health care for all will not sound as scary as the Republican’s have made it out to be.