Latinos, Obama and Immigration: Why we just dont get it.
On November 4th, history was made by the election of Senator Barack Obama to the nation’s highest office. Since then, much debacle is being made within the Latino community regarding President-Elect Barack Obama’s plan on immigration reform and addressing the 18 million people living in the shadows. I am not going to argue the importance of this topic, it is hugely important. I will argue however, that because the Latino community has very few leaders in positions of power and because we lack the cohesiveness to attract a spokesperson, we often see separate and unequal attention being placed on issues that are suppose to “matter” to us.
I have said it before, and I will say it again, immigration is not the single most important issue to the Latino community. Right now, the economy, is by far the most important issue to ALL Americans.
As Latino leaders, WE must learn and understand how to be politically savvy. We cannot be part of the discussion, if we are not in the room where these discussions are taking place. I have received countless emails about immigration marches that are suppose to take place the next day or within days of the inauguration of President-Elect Obama. To these groups I say, let the man take office first. Pay attention to who is in his cabinet and why they are being chosen. Who are our allies in the Senate? In Congress? If patience is a virtue, we surely lack it.
Overwhelmingly, Latinos supported Barack Obama and voted for him. We know this. The Pew Hispanic Center has vetted this to no end. However, the Latino community that has the capability to vote, did not vote for Obama because of his incredible record on immigration policy and reform. Obama voted for the wall to be built between Mexico and the U.S, something which he later said he wished he hadn’t. His outreach to Latinos has been in question since the very beginning. It took a lot of on the ground efforts by thousands of Latinos throughout the nation to get him into office. With that said, because of the state of economy, the state of recession, with millions of legal Americans (this includes residents, citizens, and those with working visas) loosing their homes, their stock options, their 401k retirement plans, their healthcare, and with the U.S currently waging two wars abroad, there is absolutely no way that immigration reform or any passage of any bill will be seen in the near horizon. As sorry as that is, it is the truth.
How can a newly elected President, pass a policy for people that are here illegally, without addressing the needs of legal Americans first?
I write these words, as unpopular as they are, because the efforts that are being made by individuals and groups are fruitless. Just a few weeks ago, I saw young people in Los Angeles fasting for immigration rights and reform. All to what end? What was accomplished? Besides making a statement to the few that saw it, and for the little media coverage that was paid attention to it, it did not impact policy. That’s the bottom line.
WE, as a collective of people, should have a better model. WE, as a collective of people, should truly form broad national coalitions with other organizations that are NOT Latino driven, WE, as a collective of people, and members of organizations that are suppose to implement change, need to get beyond individual/organizational political agendas that long for the spotlight, WE, as a collective of people, need to stop abusing the students and young people that put their lives on the line for issues that are not even close to being policy, WE, as a collective of people, need to understand and respect the role of undocumented families in this nation and not exploit them in manifestations of so-called activism, WE, as a collective of people, need to comprehend how policy and laws are made, and learn to lobby alongside Democrats, Republicans, Independents and any other parties that actually have direct impact with those that create and pass laws, WE, as a collective of people, need to understand the concepts of “branding” and “messaging” that have impact and national cohesiveness, and lastly, WE, as a collective of people, should work towards tangible and creative methods in passing legislation that has already been proven to have bipartisan support and that could actually have the possibility of passing amidst our current economic climate.
If you haven’t by this point guessed, there is one piece of legislation that has support from both Democrats and Republicans; and that is, the Federal Dream Act. By addressing immigration policy through education rights and economic principles, we can actually work towards this in a very real way. Millions of k-12 monies throughout the nation have already been spent in educating young minds. Countless of these young minds, are students that have grown up as American as Joe the Plumber but lack legal status. It is only logical, that the education and the money that has already been invested in these kids come to full fruition by allowing these students a pathway to citizenship.
Instead of focusing on the sexiness that is immigration reform and attempting to re-create May Day 2006, we should be focusing on building bridges beyond the Latino community and gain the support of various groups to advocate and lobby for Education reform and conclusively, the Federal Dream Act.
Enough with the immigration marches and the “insert country of origin” flag waving. Waving your “country of orgin” flag at a park, while a fun expression of your cultural pride, does not screem “American”, nor will it get us any votes from Republicans. It’s time to buy a suit, learn some policy and educate yourself on how laws, and most importantly, which laws, are passed and why.
Think about what you are asking, think about Obama as the 1st African American President, the criticism he is already under, the watchful eyes of Republicans and right wing conservative pundits, all waiting for an excuse to divide the country, waiting to take control in four years. Obama is going to need two terms to change this country, and even that is not enough time. I’m not saying that immigration reform is not an important platform, it is, and I am sure it’s on Obama’s mind. But timing is of the essence and bringing a false sense of hope to people, young and old, who already live in the margins is not the future of our political voting block, nor is it the HOPE that Obama talked about.
So seriously, stop emailing me using Latinos for Obama list serves.