IT WOULD BE SUPER GROOVY if pressing problems in our society went away when the White House stopped talking about them, but life doesn’t work that way. And thus, the issues that entangle so much of their constituencies—the myriad challenges contained in what we casually call The Immigration Issue—only worsen in the chilly space that falls in the footsteps of an unfulfilled promise. From the children who suffer in the aftermath of Homeland Security raids to states that enact draconian and ineffective laws targeting the undocumented, a terrible terrain grows.
Welcome to Arizona, “The Police State!”
Arizona is the first place we look to see what happens in the absence of action from Washington. As I covered in my latest News With Nezua video, Arizona is moving “SB 1070 Immigration, Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods” through their legislative process without a hitch. La Frontera Times calls Arizona’s little petri dish of creeping persecution a “Carnival of Evil.” If you want a thorough and easy read on SB 1070 for insight on how the Arpaio-Napolitano thread weaves together Federal, State and Local police on the loom of oppression, I suggest Alfredo’s article.
A Recipe for Discontent
As Marcelo Ballve wrote Tuesday, this increase of enforcement concurrent with legislative action brings “a potent mix of frustration and disappointment” currently “percolating through immigrant communities nationwide.” In my experience, that emotional blend also moves through many advocates and activists, today. Ballve goes on to list many reactions and planned actions as a response.
In a recent Weekly Undocument, I covered the shutting down of the Varick Street detention center (see last graf). ICE is apparently doing this to move across the river from Manhattan to New Jersey for the obvious rea$on$…or if not obvious, because when it’s too expensive to operate in one place, you seek out an area that will help you better thrive. Yet what is coming to light as national attention falls on the Varick street facility are the repeatedly seen cruel results of having inadequate medical attention in ICE’s detention centers.
In this latest New York Times piece, we see those same horrifying glimpses of what people are so often made to suffer in these places: one man has an abscess spread through his mouth as care is coldly denied, until the infection has spread to seven teeth and the man has been put on a liquid diet because he cannot chew his food. And still, ICE remains stoic, unmoved, unrepentant, unchanged.
The criminal Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona is now facing yet another lawsuit. This one is from a woman who was attacked by two men in ski masks while at work and thrown face-first against the wall. The woman’s name is Celia Alejandra Alvarez and the men in masks were tax-funded goons employed by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department. Celia dealt with injuries to her teeth, jaw, and face from this assault while in detention, but in those months she was there, she received no medical attention.
These charges, as horrific they sound to most of us who would be somewhat miffed to receive such treatment at our own workplace, come to no surprise to those familiar with the accused: Arpaio is currently under a criminal grand jury investigation for abuse of power as it is. It is clear from the way he treats the those in his jails that the man has some real cognitive issues, if not purely ethical and moral ones. Perhaps that is why the yarn of Ole Joe is slowly but surely beginning to unravel.
A Fractured Party
I am a very selfish man to feel any schadenfreude at all over any aspect of this issue. This is far bigger than my feelings. Which is why I often make appeals (for what that’s worth) to the GOP to come at this issue right. Bring the help, I hardly care what brand gets credit, when it comes down to it.
And yet, I admit some faint stirrings of a dulled satisfaction to see the GOP further divide itself, further weaken itself, over the issue of immigration. Bereft of the slightest idea how to move forward as a party or a nation, they throw what might’ve been called a Stink-In back when I was a child.
On one hand, you have the reasonable Republicans, who see the future. They have read the stats, they know that the Latino voting bloc will continue to grow, independent of immigration numbers. They understand that the lines about the economy and job growth being weighed down by immigrants are patently false, and simply political fodder. These GOP members know they better drop the blatant hate.
And yet, they cannot purge the party of that solid bloc of racists who delight in using the ole slurs n tropes n dogwhistles, and also have worldviews that are served through that approach. And so, as the article (linked above) on Republican resistance to the Jobs Bill details, “the schism in the Republican Party over Latino outreach and immigration reform is beginning to widen.” You’d like to think this would translate to legislative action from the Right, but of course in most cases, it will bring nothing more than cosmetic adjustments.
Your Papers, Please.
In June of last year, I wrote on the case of Stephanie Jiménez, 16 at the time that ICE confronted her and her two teen siblings on their way to school at a San Diego trolley stop and sent them to México—by themselves—instead. Despite claiming they did everything “by the book” at the time, kbps.org reports that a judge has dismissed the immigration case against the teens. Of course, this does not prevent them from being picked up tomorrow.
Once, Felipe Calderón said that the US would not have been able to advance as she has without Mexican labor. Yesterday, Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, was quoted by the Los Angeles times detailing some of that history. Gonzales talked of how immigrants “are vital to the economy in the Southeast, especially the agriculture, construction and service industries,” reports AP writer Kate Brumback.
“It started with the Olympics. Atlanta would not have been able to finish the construction in time for the Olympics without immigrant labor, and specifically Mexican immigrant labor,” he said. “After that, the housing boom that the Southeast experienced, and specifically Georgia, would not have been possible without immigrant labor.”
The context of the story is that Georgia’s immigrant population has doubled in the years since the Atlanta Olympic games of 1996. It is a population that came for the opportunities opened up by the need for labor, met the grueling challenges, and helped the nation thrive. Just as they do now with our entire agricultural economy.
Would the GOP prefer such an event as the Olympics not come to a US city? Would the Democrats who neglect this issue want the food on their table disrupted?
To call yourself “American” and yet systematically act and speak as if the myriad contributions that immigrants make to every facet of our nation’s health can be replaced with an image of deviance and parasitism is to be sociopathically dishonest about your history and politics. If life were truly fair, those dissembling politicians would be slaving in a dark, stinking meatpacking plant for 16 hour days under threat of deportation if they complained…at least for a month.
Not because I want to see them suffer, per se. But because then they might try to make the world a better place.
Our Ongoing Fight, Our Unfolding Victories
My Latino Voice has an article reminding us that amazingly, it has been fifteen years since Selena died. The piece goes on to talk about the conflict that faces so many with roots in Latin America and families in the US; those whose cultures straddle both worlds, and what its like for Latino youth to deal with this. Reyes speaks of that question—in one form or another—that follows many of us…Where are you from? Or as the author puts it, What Are You? It is a question that we ask ourselves. A question that sometimes collapses into gangs and teenage pregnancy and poverty—all specters that haunt Latino youth, as statistics show.
The article also speaks of Latino youth, ultimately, as an “unabashedly contradictory and unbelievably resilient” population. And I believe that is true. I wanted to post this here to say that if you are young, and you understand those feelings of being torn between two worlds, remember…you are not alone in that. Find other posts and sites that speak to your feelings, and give those feelings room to exist. You will come through whole.
Standing in Truth, Speaking Your Peace
Colorlines features an inspiring article written by Alberto Ledesma, who spent many years as living sin papeles—without papers. It’s a simple narrative recounting his attendance at a writers convention…but he communicates so well that feeling that happens when you think you are Part Of, and are suddenly Othered.
In the case he is talking about, by another “Latino” and at a “Latino” authors event! In the article he comes to a realization about his story, and about his role in telling it. His shame, his barely-contained passion, his bubbling over with realization and decision is moving. I’m glad he is out there taking the road he is, telling us about his experience.
“Don’t get me started with these damned illegals,” he said with a giggle. “I just think we ought to deport them all.”
The rest of us froze, then gazed at each other, as if each of us was waiting for the other to say something. Even the bartender stopped the flurry of his towel.
That pause, that moment while we waited to continue the conversation seemed to last forever. Now, the fatigue our eyes had betrayed just seconds before transformed to something different: anger, confusion, fascination.
• Voto Latino begins a push to educate and prepare gente for the Census. Let them know you are here and breathing, people! Speaking to assert that we remain on this land is far different than planting a flag. It is simply telling a story, and a truth of today’s world. And as the article above by Alberto Ledesma makes clear, we must all tell our stories, add our truth to the conversation unfolding.
On March 21st, we will march on Washington, DC to demand immigration reform. Our vision of reform includes immigrants and native-born U.S. citizens working shoulder to shoulder to achieve better wages, working conditions, and labor protections.
People from all across America will lend their voice in the fight for reform. We will come together as one voice on the National Mall for a strong America – for families, for workers, for businesses, and for security.
Join thousands from across the country in the March For America in DC on March 21st, and demand Congress act NOW to pass immigration reform and move quickly to put all Americans back to work
Where: Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC
When: March 21st, 2010 – Interfaith Service at 1:00 pm, March at 2:00 pm
• You can read of three good reasons to march—none of which are to bring about “comprehensive immigration reform”—at La Frontera Times.
• Regarding Arizona’s SB1070, an amigo Carlos E. Galindo fills in some important info:
There is a “Mirror bill” to SB1070 in the Arizona House of Representatives that was heard today at 9 am: B2632 immigration; law enforcement; safe neighborhoods, House Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee
SB1070 will not need to go through the Arizona House of Representatives (that’s why it’s not assigned to committee) if the mirror house bill is already moving forward. That is why they do this as a short cut in order to avoid the bill going through the other chamber as normal process.
Once the mirror bill passes the house it won’t have to go through the Arizona State Senate. That means both bills will be consolidated and fast tracked to the Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. That is why we know it’s going to the governor for possible signature. That’s also why contacting the Governor of Arizona is crucial to stopping this detrimental and offensive set of bills. We know that the AZ House of Representatives will pass it very quickly so we must start the calls to the Governor of Arizona NOW!!!
Please call the Honorable Jan Brewer and tell her NO signature (veto) on SB1070 and NO signature (veto) on HB2632.
Honorable Jan Brewer
So there! You feel frustration? Anxiety over where this will go? Anger at the big talk and tiny movements? I don’t blame you. Let’s do our best to channel it positively. And again, if you need a break, or to let others pick up the slack for a while, that’s totally cool and often tactically smart. After all, this is not about any one voice, one website or one org; not even for a minute.
Keep the heart and mind healthy, and follow your bliss. And keep on, keep on. Keep fighting for what is right.
WE GRANT THE STAGE ENTIRELY TO THE INFAMOUS Sheriff Joe of Maricopa County, Arizona! Covering the latest headlines and happenings involving Mister Arpaio, this vid was crafted mostly before my trip the Canadian border…which will be chronicled in next week’s episode! The fun never ends here, but you know this. Check the video above for some insight into the rogue lawman, a character our amigos over at Cockroach People call “Obama’s George Wallace.”
(PS: The video is not 38 minutes long as the pop up will show when you hover mouse over play button! That’s a leftover marker in the code from the first time I rendered it, accidentally including about a half hour of black at the end. When I edited that out, for some reason, the piece of code for the hover tip remained.)
THIS IS A TRAILER FOR A VIDEO GAME called Flower. It really looks wild, and is not the typical video game construct. Flower is a Playstation (3) game, but reminds me more of Nintendo. Playstation is generally drive, shoot, blast stuff, and Nintendo is a bit cuter and smarter. To generalize. Anyway, the trailer is fantastic. It is about the environment, and industrialization, and places you in the role of what seems to be an energy, or wind, or spirit. Or maybe just a petal with consciousness. Your task is to spread flowers, life, greenery, in opposition to creeping decay and concrete. That’s what I get from watching the trailer and the 15 minute gameplay video posted lower on the page. Wikipedia has a page on it which lets you in a bit more on the nuances of the game, which reveals thoughtful and beautiful elements working together in this game.
I watched the lower video first. For all fifteen minutes. I wasn’t sure I was going to, but I kept wanting to see what happened, and it kept drawing me in. As well as make me wanna go lie in a field under the sun! (Though, I have to admit that while the opening city scene in the gameplay video below makes me want to be in the city…though I don’t think that’s the intention! Its supposed to feel like a choked, cramped hell…I just miss the city!) Seems like Flower would be good to bring down your blood pressure. Or maybe after a solid Quake session, or a day playing World of Warcraft, or an evening wrangling small children. But it really inspires me in the sense of video games beginning to break out of the handful of stories/ideas that proliferate the market. Plus it has a soul, it has a conscience. A derisive YouTube commenter made me laugh out loud by typing “This is Al Gore’s favorite game.” But clearly, a viable market for more intelligent games like this exist, as demographics reveal. The largest group of social gamers is women in their 40s, not kids with Dorito-breath in the carpeted basement, or frat-boys, after all.
A friend passed me the link to Flower, or actually, it grew out of some ongoing sessions with a few amigos. You may be used to seeing the XOLAGRAFIK stamp on film/video, but another area that XOLAGRAFIK fantazmalicious art is getting more involved in lately is video game development. So I work with the Digital Stonework crew on that end. Currently, we are working on a game which is pretty deep, and if all keeps moving on track, gonna see daylight before long. It’s very satisfying work as they are all supercool cats with super-high octane imaginations and brains (so our jam sessions just burst with nuttiness, really good stuff), all people of color, all interested in raising consciousness with our work, not just feeding our faces, not with being stahz (so the energy and direction and purposes of the games are jibing with each other, as well as nourishing to the heart), and all with aligning or at least not conflicting worldviews/spiritviews on life. It’s less like a new company and more like a tribe! It’s actually a beautiful thing, and I’m positive that we will bring that energy to the games we will be making. So keep an eye out, because I most likely will ask the help of friends and readers to spread the word when it’s time, in what ways you can or want to.
This second video I’ve posted here is fifteen minutes of Flower first person view that lets you sink into the feeling of gameplay in realtime. The world, and its phases feel very big and varied, judging by the trailer up top, but these fifteen minutes simply show the process of forming one flower. It takes place in day/meadow terrain. All the while, you are rejuvenating patches of barren/dried ground, culminating in magical rebirth of a tree on a hill, and one flower being born anew under that tree.
Finally, if you wonder what that music in the top trailer is and why it sounds do Dylanesque, that’s because it’s Donovan, of course, with Catch the Wind. Ah…reminds me of that night in the hotel where we all drank and played guitar and then someone broke some glass in the street and Bobby got…oh wait. That’s not my life. That’s Dont Look Back, the documentary. Hunh. Okay. Gotta go ride some petals into the night. Peace.
WALKING on a morning after the rain falls for hours, I find worms strewn everywhere. Or I used to.
I’m thinking of Syracuse, New York. Neversink, New York. Gaithersburg, Maryland. And a few other places on the East Coast. I cast my mind back to the other places I grew up: New Mexico, Miami Beach, Massachusetts, San Diego…I don’t remember the worms. I don’t see them do this in Oregon…though that may be simply because the rain either falls all day and night, or the sun shines hotly for weeks at a time.
But maybe the call and response is the worm’s nature everywhere. Mother nature’s musical tears charming the earth-bound snake. Perhaps the conga-taps and pebble-bone raps of la lluvia that dance atop the woolen roof of their mud-sky dome home call them to the light. Is it a song that seduces? Is it a hammer that challenges? Is the sound of the rain—like the machines drilling down into Zion and getting nearer by the moment—a threat that demands they rise? Or is it a murmuring bass-laden call that undulates their five hearts into a loam-cresting shape? Do they respond but all the while attempt to escape?
There is another call and response that brings us far worse than worms. Worms, after all, churn the soil with their passage and their ingesting and filtering of the earth. They are useful and productive creatures. I speak now of a vile force in our culture today often benignly titled “those opposed to immigration.” Not “those concerned with the growing amount of poverty on the continent,” and not “those who fear losing their insurance.” I’m not talking about “people who wonder if all that stuff FOX says is true,” nor am I referencing “people who miss the way their town was before all the immigrants came.”
Because being aware of the culture changing and having feelings over it is not offensive. It is human. And normal. And all and any of us might feel that way. Change challenges the human creature, who seeks stasis often, even though s/he is an example of flux moving matter into motion until it melts away into dust…dust that never stands still but soon rises with the next breath of wind, and is breathed in again by the living. Perhaps it is because we are but an ever-fluctuating body of rivers and masses; drinking in, giving back the earth; aging, changing, growing, shrinking, spreading; our very molecules leaping out and trading places with those of the objects and people we surround ourselves with—that we seek some containers limiting the flex and flow of our lives. The preference of one type of culture is evidence, too, of that desire. The unwillingness of the aging to see that their world cannot last, and is everyday being reshaped by the younger…this is understandable. And a piece of that. The conservative mindset, too, is one you can reason out. It appeals to many because it soothes us in that sense. It is a lie, at heart. But oh, all the energy that is expended in creating the illusion that it does what it means to: contain, conform, civilize and stand as a bulwark against dawn drum-circle dances of expansiveness and transformation.
But the clan I speak of is not one of these people concerned with change. That would make them rational to a degree. These I mention are…no longer rational. If they ever were. These ones stepped away from that land at some point, now paddling manically over the stagnant swamp of hate. The group(s) to which I refer will overlook a story if it does not mention their chosen targets, but become sudden activists if the same story brings in those they choose to hate. And then they will appear, and advocate such things as watching people die in front of them; or suffer from lack of medical attention or lack of food, because they are Other. Because “they shouldn’t BE here” or because “it’s their own fault.” And so on. And so on. And so on. Visit any article online that discusses immigration, immigrants, or familes identified with a Spanish last name!
Because you can call these ones forth in a flock by the simple framing or titling of your post. It’s like a turkey call…if turkeys frothed blood and lived on handfuls of mescaline corn, that is.
Unlike worms, when any topic online touches on IMMIGRANTS or the USE OF SPANISH or (heaven forbid) BOTH….a horde of loathing, greed, fear, and inhumanity will flock to the article as if horseflies sniffing out an open wound. And there they will alight, and seethe, and with gangrenous lungs, heave. And they don’t just live online, unfortunately.
Nor does it matter what their pseudonyms, URLS, or station call letters proclaim. Like the NeoCons of late, these types employ language not to express the essence of their intentions, but to disguise them.
Yet, we know who these people are. We have all met them in our lives…haven’t we? If you are black, if you are white, if you are golden, brown, red or some shade in between all these, you have met them. No matter. Because we all were once young. And if you were ever young, weak, or alone on the wrong street, you’ve met them. If you’re a woman, you’ve met them. But it is true, there are some, perhaps, who have been very lucky, and never actually had the opportunity to be there, in the middle of their circle. At the foot of their leer. On the end of their chain. They are the group with sticky fingers who use bright stickers to disguise the meat locker. They are the sullen faces that sag with the sensual anticipation of your pain. They are the hands that lift you up out of your own shoes and bind you, and beat you. They are the enemies of the vulnerable child. They are the plunderers in the home of the host. They are hateful to all mankind, because they can turn equally on anything and anyone; they channel an energy that needs no real reason to destroy, but drools at the opportunity. They wear crosses. Or bent crosses. Or crossed pikes. Or stiff collars.
Their arguments fall hollow. Their logic gapes with holes. They are not there to understand, reason, enjoin, connect, uplift, receive, exchange, or otherwise communicate or make progress. They are there to exterminate.
They find the presence of (A, B, or C, and here it is the Spanish Language and the people they perceive as MEXICAN) objectionable for whatever reason, and all they say and do is done and said in the name of removing that presence, in denigrating it, in casting it as an infectious or deviant light, in extirpating and erasing this OTHER element they find so very repulsive.
And they move with great mobility. Because those who harbor this energy do worm their way into our politics, and our culture, our courts, and our laws…. And they are aided by a culture of celebrity-priority, reaction and momentary concentration…and yup, racism.
When a virulent anti-immigrant (which is seen largely as Anti-Mexican and thus draws as much as a yawn in the larger culture) is allowed to flourish; when so much talk of ENGLISH ONLY and ENGLISH FIRST and OFFICIAL LANGUAGE is hammered forth by everyone in politics including the President of the United States of America; when ICE is allowed to do its dirty work without a massive media rejection and inspection…an ugly force moves through our nation.
And its’ tendrils reach out and choke people. This is not an abstract notion. This force materializes in myriad forms on our plane. For a moment, I’m speaking of online comments, and then in the next breath I talk of sheriffs and schools and banks that target the Brown™. Just as the ugly entity I describe can suddenly inhale and then breathe itself out into the shape of human beings where it can further its ugly ends.
TODAY’S STORY BEGINS at Devonshire Elementary, a school attended by 500 students. A little over 200 of those children are Hispanic. As you can see by the screenshot [below] taken of the website, the school boasts of its “various academic programs that are in place to reach students from a variety of cultural backgrounds,” including the “bilingual Girl Scouts.”
In 2006, a woman named Ana Ligia Mateo was hired as a bilingual secretary for the east Charlotte school. This is useful, obviously, so that she can serve as a liaison for the part of the community that speaks Spanish more comfortably.
But wait—do I need to break this down? To that non-reasoning group I mentioned, it won’t matter, even if I do. If I were now to introduce a story where, for example, the secretary was critiqued by staff for speaking Spanish, the Vile Group would strongly side with the opposition. It wouldn’t matter what she was legally hired for and it wouldn’t matter why she chose to speak Spanish. This anti-Spanish clan will bellow forth, starchy shorts tweaking their vocal chords, fuming about Official Languages—as if this is all an ego game, or some war of lingual conquest. We might remind them that many American citizens speak Spanish more comfortably and that there are no standing laws against doing so, and that especially in an emergency, people can revert to the language that comes easier. So you would definitely want a Spanish speaking person as secretary in such a population.
To the Vile Group—again, if they had interest in meeting your mind (or their own morality) to begin with—you might paint an example. For instance, if you were vacationing in Mexico (as many US immigrants, or, I mean “Expats”) and you were not so great with language and you witnessed a violent crime (because rememeber, that’s what happens in Mexico!!!!), you might find yourself babbling in English to the neighbors, or to the police. Trying to get help. You might not even have the words to speak in time, to save a life, or right a great wrong.
Thought exercise: If people in the US read of an Ex-Pat living in Mexico…who tried to report a crime in English…and was publicly criticized and lost their job in Mexico for speaking English as they reported that crime…and the criminal got away, but the Ex-Pat had no job anymore…what would readers say about that? I imagine they would be incensed. It sounds surreal, doesn’t it. We can’t imagine it happening in Mexico.
No, that is the sort of thing that happens here in the US, though.
At Devonshire Elementary, two years after Ana Ligia Mateo was hired as a bilingual secretary, a new woman, Suzanne Gimenez, took over as principal. Note: Gimenez is not Latino/Hispanic; her name is, through marriage. And sadly, just as in the case of Lou Dobbs and his Mexican Wife, it seems the intra-cultural marriage has resulted in the non-Latino member of the couple becoming active in an anti-immigrant or anti-Spanish language/anti-Latino culture agenda. It’s sad, it’s wrong, and it’s just nasty to watch.
Like Gimenez’ sudden dictum that no Spanish was to be spoken by the bilingual secretary anymore.
Unless dealing with a situation where using a language other than English would endanger people, or harm the business, this is simply a ridiculous thing to require. But if another language used in a given moment would prevent harm to individuals or companies…what then? Would the Vile Group still protest its use?
We see the English-Only rule instituted more and more, but not so much for the professed (and the only legal) reasons, though they provide cover for individuals feel they are reinforced finally for their own nasty preferences. These types feel reinforced by gauging the people and media around them. And when killerscommit hate crimes against the Spanish-speaking/Latino community, especially when the guilty parties are let go or exonerated…it sends a message. When the victims of hate crimes are violently abused and violated and harmed…yet the case is not ruled a Hate crime…and they live but kill themselves later…the shadow over gente grows.
This hostile spirit that lives in many people is allowed to bloom when the individual believes the ground is fertile. And the rampant anti-immigrant:mexican:latino:hispanic:spanish-speaking energy is given voice and presence in many ways.
But I was telling a story about a bilingual secretary, sorry! I don’t mean to get off track.
So, two years after Ana Mateo was hired as a bilingual secretary for a school that celebrates cultural diversity on its website homepage with groups like the Bilingual Girl Scouts, a new principal is hired. And she demands no more Spanish be spoken.
When Mateo continued to aid parents by translating English or speaking Spanish to them when necessary, she was repeatedly told to stop by Gimenez, and forced out finally, before Gimenez’ first year with the new school had lapsed.
There’s that force, working to crush, squeeze out, eradicate my people’s culture. And not just mine. Boriqueños cultura, too. People from Spain, in fact, who aren’t even Latino. Many of us are connected to the Spanish language. And a smaller group keeps trying to make us feel vile…when it is they. They are the Vile Group.
Oh, I forgot one detail. The event that precipitated Mateo leaving the school.
One day in September, a parent came to Mateo, crying. “Distraught.” Understandably distraught. She was telling the school secretary that one of her sons’ classmates had been sodomized with a stick by another child at the school. She was trying to report a sexual crime against her son. Of course, she couldn’t speak English.
(Mateo) asked Ms. Gimenez if she could translate for the parent. Ms. Gimenez refused and told the parent her seven-year-old son could translate. The parent continued to cry and eventually left without having her issue resolved because she could not understand Ms. Gimenez’s responses.”
The suit says after an encounter with another distraught parent who could not communicate, Gimenez “screamed at (Mateo) that she could not speak Spanish to any parents.”
Mateo was sent to a conference room, the suit says, where Assistant Principal Kimberly Vaught told Mateo she knew Mateo could empathize with the parents because she “crossed the border just like them.” Mateo, who is described in the suit as a U.S. citizen who is “Hispanic/Nicaraguan,” said that was not true.
Even when they are trying to be reasonable, certain types of people let many categories blur together: Hispanic, Nicaraguan, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Immigrant, Spanish, Border-hopper, Criminal, Bad, bad, bad. And for people who have no issue collapsing the boundaries that stand, logically, between all these areas, the same kinds inevitably insist on so many impassable barriers in our culture and on our land.
I don’t know about Assistant Principal Kimberly Vaught, but the kind I spoke of above do not employ logic, but a type of racial or cultural psychosis. And they are not just pointedly harmful to the presence, peace of mind of Latinos…were the rest of the People a bit more focused and thoughtful about it, they’d see that these types are the enemies of all good People. To use your position of power to silence a victimized child and all in the name of lingual hegemony?
The principal and assistant principal of Devonshire Elementary are not fit to hold office or wield power. They will be removed or heavily disciplined, I imagine. Most people, I do believe, will see this type of authority as a danger to the growth of our society, a society these types would sooner see stunted or rife with harm, than take a shape other than what they prefer.
ALEX SANCHEZ, the vato who does such good work at Homies Unidos has been freed from jail after he was scooped up by authorities for a wiretapped phone call which improperly placed him behind bars. This is very good to see, as he is such an example of someone doing good for the community, especially on a level so needed, fighting back against the vacuum tractor beam of crime and gangs that scoop up so many young gente. Above is a beautiful little (exclusive) video from Cuéntame.
I am Joaquín. When I was eight years old, I changed my name to Jack. I didn’t intend it as a political statement, of course. I just wanted to fit in with everyone else.
With everyone else in the suburbs of Maryland, that is. That’s where my second family lived at the time the court proceedings were finalized for my legal adoption. My father, a politically-minded poet in his late 20s by then, was gone. Gone to the West Coast; gone to the South. Gone to the jungles of Chiapas, machete and pen in hand. He was meeting with ancestors and kin; photographing and writing about the Mayan Indians.
And gone from our lives. He and my mother (she’d say) had been Too Young to work things out. No doubt that was true. My mother was a Jewish girl from New York, and my father a Chicano vato from El Paso. They met on the campus of UCLA in the summer of 1968. I’d not begin to understand until much later the size of the cultural gulf that surely stood between them, as well.
At eight, I imagined I’d become anew. Cast away those things attached to my old life. It was a new time, a new life. I had a new name. And I could be a new self. I’d learn one day that changing who you are is not as simple as changing your name. But for the moment, I thought with these changes to birth certificate and social security card and school attendance sheet, I might finally fit in.
The feeling that I didn’t fit in had grown in me for a few reasons. One was my name. A name that on the East Coast in 1978, was an anomaly. A name that defies the rules of the English alphabet, and so, one that many people will mispronounce. My teachers were some of them. It was a name my peers would either fail to remember, or would in many cases ridicule. In class after class of Brians and Joshuas; of Lauras and Jennifers; of Matts and Tonyas, you learn something from being the one with the weird name. You begin to infer. You understand that you are apart from the others in more than just one way. With every souvenir license plate keychain in every gift shop that ignores your name; with every approach of roll call from a new teacher and every introduction to a new person bringing dread to your belly, you are reminded you are Other.
By itself, who knows how much it would matter to have a name rare among your peers. And if it were a difference not attached to the many others that would not vanish from my eyeline over time, I imagine not much. Were this the only example of how I tried to conform to the dominant culture’s desire to eradicate my culture and history—and self—it would hardly matter. Here, it serves well as a symbol. And isn’t that what a name is for?
A name can tell us who we are. It can tell us where we come from, who came before us, and our place in today’s society. It can even offer glimpses into the future. A name will not always contain so many secrets, but mine did. And it had been left for me to discover this. I didn’t know it then—when I rejected it in favor of the plainest, shortest, easiest-to-pronounce and least-Spanish name I could think of—but it was as if I had been left a pendant with a treasure map to my own history and legacy inscribed upon it. I would some day grow to be very grateful to reach into my dusty pocket and find that map.
My father chose the name Joaquín from a poem written shortly before my birth; a poem important to the Mexican American community. The dramatic narrative foretold a confusion I was already experiencing as a boy, and portended a strength I’d need later.
I look at myself
And see part of me
Who rejects my father and my mother
And dissolves into the melting pot
To disappear in shame.
The name my father gave me tied me to my culture in the strongest possible way—by both naming me after Corky Gonzales’ quintessential Chicano as well as describing a path I was already walking. Come the day I turned to re-read the book my father gave me as a teen, I’d find my own past; my own troubled reflection, there in its passages. And I’d understand a bit more of those things that hence had only flitted about on the periphery of my vision.
Maybe I tried to vanish into the American Dream. Repurpose my outline. Maybe I wanted to become just like you; just like him; just like the boy in the poster, the one on the screen, the hero. I wanted to be the Fair one, the Right one, the Good one…the white one. I did not want to be the Mexican one. The one whom the world around me insisted was, instead, the Dark one, the Little one, the Bad one. The Criminal. The Servant. The Thief.
Culture is powerful. Media is powerful. For much of my life, the relationship was one-way. The current of news, opinion, metaphor, imagery, and storytelling was aimed at me. There was simply no way to wield that mechanism. The thick tongue of the dominant culture sang its songs into my mind and I sang along.
I thought that without a Spanish accent, divested of a Spanish name, and with lighter skin than my father, I could walk away from both my blood and what the world seemed to think of my blood. I was wrong. This cannot be done. You are who you are. Your family is your family. Your blood remains your blood. And whether you call it corazón or something else, your heart remains your own heart.
But I was right to understand that there were and are strong currents in place. Undertow that buoys a few, drowns many, and directs the rest into a preferenced route. We call the flow of information, evaluation, entertainment, iconography, story, and slant that is our collective conversation and counsel “the mainstream.” And depending on your relationship to it, you may be able to swim to your desired destination without much struggle. Or you may find yourself grasping for purchase and gasping for air.
At 18, I took my name back, and perhaps that was the first concrete step toward making my own path; toward standing strong against the tide that batters us daily. I’ve not looked back since then.
This is the terrain from which grows all the content and action launched from my blog The Unapologetic Mexican today. These are the issues that can be found informing the articles I write, the videos I make, the art I produce. The themes of values in culture, symbolism in media, messaging in news copy or slant; racism; human rights; identity; ethnicity; language, power; history; community; self. The day I began my blog was hardly a first step to empowerment and self-awareness. It was an important one, though, making possible many subsequent steps.
When I present at the Transforming Race Conference in March, I will speak about these themes and in what way I’ve been able to engage them, to make change; about the four years I have been keeping this blog, and all the ways in which it aided me in reclaiming a feeling of pride, and a greater understanding of how I can support and inform and empower the communities to which I belong.
New Media is nothing by itself; it is a hammer without the dream of the carpenter; a garden hose on a hot, arid, dusty day. All alone, New Media is but form awaiting function. But given you can access it to a reasonable degree, you can stop being a passive imbiber of the media and all its messaging. You don’t have to shout at the screen, you can speak your reply or alternate view from the screen, too. You need not rest at bemoaning the media’s slant because you have a greater ability to replace it. And you can add your strength to a purpose enjoined by many, and together, affect our common society.
This new format we call “blog” is not like a pad of paper; not like a radio station, not like a community bulletin board, not like a classroom, nor a movie theater, nor a newspaper, nor a meeting room. It is all these things and more.
My father said “in my day it was mimeographs and in yours it is la bloga.” He was speaking of the activism begun in El ChicanoMovimiento, the era from which the poem Yo Soy Joaquín sprung forth. It is no longer 1967, it is now 2010. The shape of la lucha transforms, but the struggle remains at hand:
Like a sleeping giant it slowly
Rears its head
To the sound of
Fiery tequila explosions
The smell of chile verde and
Soft brown eyes of expectation for a
And in all the fertile farmlands,
the barren plains,
the mountain villages,
we start to MOVE.
Or whatever I call myself,
I look the same
I feel the same
Sing the same.
I am the masses of my people and
I refuse to be absorbed.
In the four years I’ve written my blog, I’ve educated myself and others. I’ve enjoined the national conversation, and been invited on panels of web influencers, and into progressive fellowships. I’ve found friends with the same interests, and together we’ve organized sites and groups to work together on issues that concern our communities. I’ve written and co-written pieces that have made it into print. I’ve had my blog used in college courses, and my videos in high school classes by teachers who found my writing online. I’ve had librarians request copies. I’ve launched a weekly web show that is sponsored and that exists to support and empower and inform the Latino/a community. I’ve been employed as a columnist on immigration, and flown to various states to speak on these issues, and to accept awards for groups I’ve helped found. And all this, in place of fuming in the living room, hiding behind a phony name, or otherwise letting the fickle currents of the day sweep you wherever they may.
We are the new media. We are the new voice resounding with the old truths. We are the culture changing. And throughout all these changes, we are still right here and moving forward.
Also posted at the Race Talk blog; written at the request of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity’s Media Relations Manager to help promote the Kirwan Institute’s Transforming Race Conference, at which I’ll be presenting in March.
Note: I wrote this as a prelude to the presentation. Not a mirror of it. This part of the story is very much about identity, about my personal journey…and that’s part of the story of this blog, and relevant to an Institute on the Study of Ethnicity. But I don’t want my presentation, itself, to be so much about the empowerment of one person. I don’t think that’s such an important or original story to tell. Or enough people are telling it already, we could say. Of course it’s an important story to me! We all want to thrive, we all want to better ourselves and our situations. But my presentation Unexpected Pathways to Empowerment will be focused more on how New Media can enable our community–any community–to become more empowered, and how many of us can tap into that and help it to happen. To me, today, that’s an important distinction to make. And connecting people to work for causes that aren’t part of the individualist recipe for success (and thus benefit a greater amount of people) is more important (especially these days) than any one person becoming well-read or well-known.
I TOOK A LITTLE TRIP on Thursday to visit an amigo and see his new digs, walk around Vancouver to mingle with the people and soak up the Olympic vibe. It was to be a fun and relaxing respite from mundane everydayness, and a much-needed break from my always-thick work schedule. It turned out to be a few days of buses, exhaustion, and disappointment. An expenditure that took hundreds from me and replaced it with weariness and a bit of a sting precipitated by racial profiling and state paranoia over protest. After my long bus ride, I was turned away from the Canadian border by customs, who were very concerned with my arrest in 2004. That was for protesting the Republican National Convention in New York City.
Funny part is, yes, I am well aware that Olympic Games go hand in hand with state repression. And we already know Canada is being super-uptight and hassling people like Amy Goodman. But I was going to Canada to visit a compa, that’s it. We had zero interest in protesting. We were looking forward to the vibe of excitement and what we imagined would be a gala aura that might surround and reinforce our Good Time. And at this point, I have to say, all my excitement has simply soured into a continued awareness of the less-celebrated side of these games…games to some, but “games” that drag police power, disruption/negation of peoples’ rights in their wake, and all the while casting a glowing marketing pitch over the whole affair.
I’ll be featuring the footage, fotos, and audio I captured during that little trip (including some conversation with DHS and the Canadian customs guard) in the February 21 episode of News With Nezua, so stay tuned. [UPDATE: View video here.]
YO SOY JOAQUIN is a poem that means a whole lot to a lot of gente, and I am one of them. My father gave me the book in my late teens, and honestly, I didn’t look hard at it for another fifteen years or so. But when I needed it, it was there. Corky Gonzales‘ words were there for me when I reached for the strength I’d need to crawl out from under the cloak of shame that mainstream US culture reserves for the Mexicano, and embrace my proud, indian roots; my winding and intertangled—if not sometimes troubled—Mestizo roots; my enduring and strong Mexican roots. Señor Gonzales reminded us we are not historical drug dealers, knife-wielders, or dish-washers…and even when we are, we are something else, too. We belong to a legacy, we are tied to this land, we are descended from fierce warriors, and Indian kings, and beautiful culture and traditions that cannot be washed or stolen away by the dominant culture. We are something new, a combination of those things, and the unknown New that we forge here in an often-hostile environment.
Very empowering and proud ideas for the Indian still hunted on the land his ancestors once called home, a land he/her and his/her kin still call home. A land strewn with tangled paths, that disconnected from that understanding, can lead one to wander too far, and become lost.
Yo Soy Joaquín is un grito of solidarity and collective self-love and when it was brought forth in the late 60s, Chicanos gathered around this and waved it forth like a shining banner. My old man explained the impact of Corky’s poem like this:
“Here, finally, was our collective song, and it arrived like thunder crashing down from the heavens. Every little barrio newspaper from Albuquerque to Berkeley published it. People slapped mimeographed copies up on walls and telephone poles.”
—Juan Felipe Herrera
And not just on telephone poles! When I was born before the decade flipped, Jefito named me after this very poem. This is one small way that my fate and purposes and awareness were sown long before I knew that to be the case.
But one day in 2005, I walked up a hill with my back straight and with the light of ten suns in my eyes because I could carry a feeling of self-love and self-respect and a belonging to something much more beautiful and larger than myself…and it was the day I opened up this poem again and really took my time with it. Shortly after, I began this blog.
So thank you, Mister Gonzales. Once again.
On Friday, March 19th at the Denver, Colorado Auraria Campus Gym, there will be a symposium held to honor Señor Gonzales and his work. To register and find out more, call (303) 964-8993 or email email@example.com.
GOIN OUT to…the man. On his born day. I have to tell you right now, the hardest part of this was not singing along to the song while I recorded it! I almost don’t know how to do listen to his stuff silently…ah, but it’s so very good. And his music has been with me since the early days, This is one of the first songs that moved me deeply inside the way his music so often does. And got me thinking, at about eight, of the things he does with language.
THE ECONOMY FALTERS and desperate denizens of a sizable nation tack to the right, back away from the light, throw coins at half-crock cops to purchase stronger locks, to erect more dank and shadowy holes in which to imprison the vulnerable soul, tunnels through which we channel our own unmentionable goals, call the hungry a danger, shackle the stranger, build an industry upon the back of the humble—again. The small figure of she who might one day herself hold a torch, welcoming once again that fierce spirit that through the ages moves; to find food, to find space, to find hope, to find life. We only recognize this spirit in statues, it seems….
And amazingly, the very aunt of our own President—himself a child of immigrants—Zeituni Onyango from Kenya, continues to fight deportation. It’s hard to comment further. That idea itself kind of blows the mind. As well as the fact that there is such pressure upon the POTUS to be One of Us (meaning, not black) that he must be careful to avoid being seen acting in the name of an immigrant…even someone who helped raise his own siblings. Bush, Clinton, and Kennedy are permitted dynastic dynamics, but Obama, the post-racial president, must turn his back to a family member fighting to simply stay in the same country as he, and all while living in public housing and recovering from paralysis caused by Guillain-Barre syndrome.
Onyango fled violence in Kenya. She claims as much and I, for one, give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe that’s because she gives the same reason that drove one of the women in my own family to cross international borders and thus came to the U.S.A. Though I guess this benefit of the doubt is something just about any article on Onyango refuses to do, oddly. Often, these writers pretend a guessing game of wondering what she is stating as reasons to fight deportation are “this time.” (Love of public housing in the USA? The lovely cold shoulder of her nephew?) As if her plea to the government is just some sort of fad going around in Senior circles! One week it’s Shuffleboard and the next it’s, oh, Applying for Asylum.
And then sadly, you have sites like this, where apparently anyone can scratch out an article—even one loaded with venom and phrasing so anti-crafted as to cause unintentional laughter. Citizens who lament that Onyango “won’t be alone” in her cause, joined by all the many, many others who exist in a nation “that refuses to properly secure its borders” etc etc etc ad nauseam.
How Do You Reason With Those Who Bring Irrationality?
This is a question worth posing, as Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) is centered—or skirted around continuously—in the national dialogue. Because too many actors pretend reason, but they don’t partake of it themselves. That’s one thing I mentioned recently in my interview with Cuéntame. Ofelia, the associate producer (unless I am mistaken), at one point asked me what do you say to those who are of the “English Only” crowd? I answered something to the effect that we could speak about it culturally, or historically, or rationally…but it would be hard to imagine any of these approaches bearing fruit in those cases.
People who fume about having to press a damn button on a phone so that their language is preferenced aren’t there to be rational. People who bristle and froth at the sound of a language—that many of us American citizens find beautiful and part of our own culture and identity and history and familia—are not there engage in good faith arguments with you.
Which is why I don’t engage in lengthy debates with commenters who come here wielding tried and true phrases that indicate a hostility bereft of the openness that a true dialogue requires. And yet, some have made the point that you (or I, rather) should engage in these sorts of maddening threads so that the next person coming along to read—who may be open to persuasion— can read “both sides” and make up their mind.
Now, I don’t have the temperament or calendar space to do this kind of thing. Let these disingenuous agents of loathing go vent their spleen on their friends, their mailman, their dog, their other internet foes, whomever. But to the person who writes an article claiming, as if a given, that this is a country that “refuses to properly secure its borders,” and thus ends up with an undocumented population, I spend no time. Their argument makes clear that they are simply virulently anti-immigrant, and thus, Anti-American. Were they speaking/writing in good faith, they could not utter such a thing. Because even if you build a hundred-foot wall of slick steel around the entire nation—even if you blocked out the sun with a national kevlar superdome—you would still have all the undocumented people who overstayed visas, for just one example. So it’s not about Properly Sealing the Border. (Why do I always see a massive roll of saran wrap when I hear that phrase?)
But again, this person is not interested in a real dialogue. And I know I’m giving the hack way too much space, here, but I’m after Dude because this is exactly the kind of clutter we don’t need in the debate. The shallow, leering, amateur post pretends to condemn the President for a lack of sensitivity and generosity of spirit (!) and all while it offers up the most snide and petty paragraphs possible!
Then again if you want a lens that spits on immigrants and the idea of immigration reform, those (and these) are the types of articles you will seek out, or stick with. You will embrace writers who reference Rep. Luis Gutierrez’ (D-Ill) assessments of the movement on reform as “cynical sniping” or who, refer blithely to a person—someone whom others may call amigo or mama or papa—as “illegals.” (Alternately, here is another post from the same site that is written without all the sneer.)
And finally, Wikipedia offers us some insight on one possible reason why a host nation may have reason to deny that a potential immigrant such as Zeituni Onyango actually faced violence in their homeland:
In response to the outcry following popular knowledge of the Holocaust, the newly-established United Nations held an international conference on refugees, where it was decided that refugees (legally defined to be people who are persecuted in their original country and then enter another country seeking safety) should be exempted from immigration laws.  It is, however, up to the countries involved to decide if a particular immigrant is a refugee or not, and hence whether they are subject to the immigration controls.
The Slur of “ILLEGAL” is Much Loved by the Unintelligent—
—and we know that. But it is also a trademark of Progressive Hypocrisy. That is, if you call yourself a Progressive, you really can’t call other people “Illegals.” So writes, and rightfully, Prerna Lal. Lal rips off a rant that is as sharp as it is heated, and even through the humor, one simple fact is clear: it is dehumanizing not only to use such a term for humans, but also to imagine yourself grand enough to apply it to the unwilling objects of your decision.
Given that these people think it is liberal and even progressive to label certain marginalized groups against their wishes, we actually do not think the term liberal or progressive attached to these bloggers is accurate enough. It certainly carries a bias. We should try to come up with a name for this particular social group that is more neutral and reflective of their behavior.
“Illegal bloggers” is inaccurate. It is not yet illegal to label, categorize and castigate a marginalized group against their wishes. These bloggers can decidedly revert back to calling Blacks Negro, using Orientals for Asians, and fags for people in the LGBT community anytime it becomes politically convenient.
Brian-deficient and heart-deficient bloggers is also not too accurate. They have brains and hearts–they just don’t use them for the most part.
Nor is Prerna satisfied to bring these insights and passion to bear on the blogosphere. The co-founder of DreamActivist.Org, a nationally renowned activist group that pushes for the passing of DREAM Act legislation, levels her gaze on the Schumer-Dobbs coalition. The first point she makes is to sardonically explain what has been taking Schumer so long and why he has reneged on earlier statements about introducing a bill by Labor Day:
Now we know what is taking Senator Schumer so long! He has taken on the project to educate himself and the hero of the Latino community, Mr. Lou Dobbs, on matters of great importance, ranging from immigrant leprosy to birth certificate verification measures. A new and improved Lou Dobbs supports immigration reform and his input is gravely necessary for a just and humane reform. The strong winds of change are certainly buffeting us all into grave uncertainty.
Churning Stew on the Stove of Stalled Reform
How’s that for an original metaphor? But what I’m getting at is the tumbling sea of emotions in the pro-migrant blogosphere as well as the immigration reform activist’s sphere. After the State of the Union speech, the chips continue to fall…um…into the stew…and…okay, ditch that metaphor. I’m feeling queasy.
What’s the deal, right? Why the sudden eruption of emotion and articles simply because Obama reaffirmed his commitment to immigration reform in a setting one could argue it needn’t be discussed at all?
Because the tide of disappointment that so many held in check when the first year of Obama’s presidency ended without any real motion on reform, has now been loosed by 38 words that seem to revere nothing so much as the vision of an ultra-punitive world, fringed by ICE angels and powered on the humming and broken rails of E-Verify and Secure Communities. That is, a salute to enforcement-only is nothing to feel warm about, especially coming from a man who seemed to weave campaign speeches from the very starry fabric that embroiders our own anthems.
You Down With GOP? Well, You Know Me…
At the Guardian, one Stewart J. Lawrence describes the lay of the land as he sees it, and “the word on the street” (or his street) is that “immigration reform is dead.” Lawrence offers arguments why this is not the case in Obama Must Not Panic On Immigration, and much of his hope here relies on the GOP.
Ruben Navarrette Jr. furthers that case, reminding us that there is interest on both sides of the aisle in passing immigration reform. He peppers the post with sprinkles of sharp reminders to the Democrats: Let’s remember that it was Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Democrats, including then-Sen. Barack Obama, who helped thwart immigration reform both in 2006 and 2007, Navarrette, Jr. writes.
Republicans, want to win many of us Latinos back? Forge your new Resurrection plan and fashion at its core a new view on (im)migrants. Create an immigration reform proposal that stops the raids right away and creates a path to citizenship and lays off of the punitive and hostile vibe that looms over so many Americans and is just goddamn reasonable, for crying out loud. And if you beat the Democrats to it, I will start praising you on this blog. Regularly. And wholly independent of my own efforts, you will gain a whole lot of votes.
That was late 2008. Now, in this moment when so many voters who came to Obama for immigration reform are feeling disillusioned, the point is even more salient.
[E]very day that Washington fails to deliver a real solution, we will continue to see a rise in hate crimes, heightened fears and growing divisions in our communities. This is not the path to restore America’s greatness.
And what those who are fighting for this cause can bring with them (in addition to a lot of heart because they will need it) are facts. Duke Reed at promigrant.org is one of the best at calling up the history and the ins and outs of this process and here are two recent posts that offer up a lot of information. Free of charge!
The Criminal Sheriff Joe Arpaio
Here is a nice youtube montage of the march. I featured this same march recently in a News With Nezua episode called La Marcha.This YouTube video gives a better feel for just how many showed up, however.
Kafka’s Cops Are On the Watch
And so we come to the one part of “immigration reform” that Democrats and Republicans and Obama and NumbersUSA all agree on: beefing up ICE. If you follow this blog, you know what ICE is. And if you don’t, please type those letters into the search box atop the page to learn more.
Today, the hyper-constitutional para-police outfit raided an Anne Arundel County restaurant and despite’s ICE supposed internal policies, refused advocates requests to interview the workers prior to processing. Perhaps ICE was afraid someone might inform the workers of any rights they had.
People are protesting today outside ICE to demand that the federal government comply with the law and allow the detainees to speak with attorneys. [From email:]
WHAT: Protest Outside Baltimore Federal Building to Demand Constitutional Rights
WHEN: Thursday, February 4, 2010; 3:45 pm
WHERE: Federal Building, 31 Hopkins Plaza, Baltimore, MD 21201-2825
Children protesting at a Postville immigrant rights rally in 2008. (Lynda Waddington / Iowa Independent)
Michelle Chen of RaceWire covers a new report by the Urban institute that tracks the experiences of 190 children and 85 families who have been swept under the hammer of ICE’s unrelenting family-smashing agenda in recent months. The Urban Institute found the obvious, that “indefinite separation from one, or in some cases both, parents ruptured the family structure economically and socially.” What’s not, perhaps, so obvious is that these ruptures do not disappear, even once relief is brought to the situation.
Chen also mentions a report recently commissioned by the American bar Association that highlighted “major structural problems” in the immigration justice system. This is one to note for those who claim some divine relief can be found in “following the law,” as the law itself in this case is hopelessly mired in contradictions and gaps that have never been reasonably met with legislation. It’s time to do this right, lest these tears in families and in courts widen and deepen.
I also mentioned secret prisons. For more of this, definitely read The Nation’s piece, America’s Secret ICE Castles. AlterNet and some other independent sites also carried this, though it doesn’t show up in any mainstream news sites. Surprising? You’d think something like this would concern US Citizens. And if it were not all about prisons that house brown people, I’m quite sure you’d see a lot more action on it. But that is the way of our nation right now.
“We Can Make Him Disappear”: Immigration Officials Are Holding People In Secret, Unmarked Jails
In addition to publicly listed field offices and detention sites, ICE is holding prisoners in 186 unlisted, unmarked locations, many in suburban office parks or commercial spaces.
December 19, 2009 | “If you don’t have enough evidence to charge someone criminally but you think he’s illegal, we can make him disappear.” Those chilling words were spoken by James Pendergraph, then executive director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Office of State and Local Coordination, at a conference of police and sheriffs in August 2008. Also present was Amnesty International’s Sarnata Reynolds, who wrote about the incident in the 2009 report “Jailed Without Justice” and said in an interview, “It was almost surreal being there, particularly being someone from an organization that has worked on disappearances for decades in other countries. I couldn’t believe he would say it so boldly, as though it weren’t anything wrong.”
That’s the Department of Homeland Security. They present the absence of workplace raids as some kind of sign of progress, when really the purpose of ending those was simply to escape what was becoming public attention to obviously grim tactics. If that kept up, ICE may have been forced to be accountable to many things. It was a bandaid move to distract from infection. Yet, the underlying agenda, abuses, and criminality remain.
I guess when I read through DHS’ budget, what I was struck by was that the thinking apparently is that only weapons, x-ray vision, and impermeable fences and software that peers into databanks can keep us safe; offers a country “security.” It is very sad that this is the thinking in 2010. Because my way of seeing it is that ICE is making our nation extremely insecure, day after day after day. No…it takes much more than force and fear to sustain a society. But apparently we have not learned that yet as a whole.
The Washington Post reports on Army vet Rennison Castillo’s case against ICE for wrongfully imprisoning him and not acting on his pleas to simply check his Social Security Number (seems this “Security” word is tossed around a whole lot! I do not think it means what you think it means!) The judge in the case has rejected a request fro the goverment to simply dismiss the case. Wouldn’t that be nice? Um, justice? Nah. Just…dismiss it.
Despite ICE’s congressionally sanctioned goal of prioritizing “dangerous criminal aliens,” the Secure Communities program is overly inclusive–and in fact targets individuals who have never been convicted of any crime.
We see pushback too, in other places. The Colorado Independent reports that the “network” of ICE facilities that has blossomed in Colorado as of late are drawing “increased attention” from local lawmakers and human rights organizations. Over 100 ICE detainees have died in captivity since ICE was created in 2003. So far in Colorado alone, at least four and as many as nine “subfield” offices have been found. “Subfield” is another way of saying “secret” in this case. These detention centers that are making money on the backs of immigrants are owned by corporations like WackedOutHut Wackenhut, the infamous Wackenhut. Forbes might praise the cashraking abilities of WackassHut (after all, more than $133 per day per person ain’t nothin’ to sneeze at!) but the rest of us wonder how to feel about rescuing our economy with the stolen coin of another person’s pain. And that’s assuming that making WackoffHut rich benefits our economy at all….
And seventeen years after the ACLU commissioned a two-year study of the unassuming Varick Street Detention Facility in Greenwich Village, NYC and found that the detainees were “denied fresh air, sunshine and outdoor exercise throughout their incarceration and … denied meaningful access to legal counsel and to the courts while in jail,” the facility is moving. To New Jersey. Because it’s cheaper. So…I guess in some cases, ICE does understand that you have to cross a geographical borderline because the costs of staying where you are interfere with your operating normally. Imagine that.