Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Latino Congressman shares perspective on Obama's immigration policy

THE HILL: Obama’s immigration act is a game-changer 
By Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) -

You should not underestimate the electricity that has gone through immigrant and Hispanic neighborhoods like those in my district in Chicago since President Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that they would temporarily protect immigrant youths eligible for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act from deportation. In two month’s time, when the first group of DREAMers comes forward to affirmatively apply for protection from deportation, it will be similar in many ways to how some people felt when same-sex couples were granted marriage licenses or African-Americans were allowed to register to vote in the South.

As in those occurrences, DREAMers coming forward will mark a new chapter, but not the last chapter, in a long struggle for inclusion in society. What these young illegal immigrants are being offered is temporary and incomplete, but tremendously important to them. And while it does not represent protection for their parents or neighbors, who might also be assets to their communities, it serves as a dramatic symbol to the rest of the nation that times are changing.

In the short run, as many as 800,000 undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States for more than five years and who arrived before they were 16 years old, and who have stayed out of trouble and pursued an education, will be able to live and work without immediate threat of deportation. They will be able to work, to drive and to conduct their lives in many ways like the U.S. citizens they grew up with and went to school with.

Those who will benefit from the new announcement are future American leaders who grew up with my children and your children and only want America to embrace them as much as they themselves have embraced America. This is not the country of their birth, but for almost all of them, this is and will be the only country they call home. The action the Obama administration is taking recognizes that reality and takes the first step toward saying to these young immigrants, “Welcome home.”

Experts inside and outside of government — from the staff at Homeland Security, former general counsels at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, legal scholars of all stripes, scores of senators, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and a range of others — have been telling the president he is within his legal authority to act in this manner. The president and his Cabinet are exercising powers previous administrations have used to protect our national interest with regard to the application of our immigration and deportation laws.

Republicans who have treated immigrants as political punching bags instead of people are now in a bind. Mitt Romney, when pressed repeatedly this past weekend to say whether or not he would revoke the president’s extension of temporary protections for those who would qualify for the DREAM Act, refused to answer. He has previously said he would veto the DREAM Act, that he sees laws like those passed in Arizona as a “model” for the country and that the hallmark of his immigration policy is that undocumented immigrants find things so miserable here that they deport themselves.

Obama’s leadership, and Romney’s insistence that immigrants are nothing more than pawns to be used as a political wedge issue, presents a clear choice for America. The president now welcomes the contributions of student achievers in America. Romney believes they should be deported. The president stands up against divisive and unfair laws like those passed in Arizona. Romney believes they are models for our future. The president looks at immigrants and sees people who want to build a better America. Romney looks at immigrants and sees an opportunity to pander to the extreme right wing of his party.

I believe this is a defining moment on a key national policy, and the difference between Republicans and Democrats could not be more stark. The Democratic vision, which has long represented a bipartisan, sensible middle ground on this issue, is to allow legal immigration through a controlled and orderly process and get those who are here already into a fair system where they are on the books, paying more taxes and playing by the rules. The Republican vision seems to be little more than anger, finger-pointing and partisan politics. I’m eager to have the American people choose. Extending temporary relief from deportation to DREAMers starts the process of reforming our immigration system, both because it envisions a future where mass deportation is not the centerpiece of our policy and because it will reshape the political landscape. I have little doubt that the millions of Hispanic citizens, many of whom have been frustrated by the slow pace of progress under Obama, will be reenergized by the president fighting for them. As a policy, this is a necessary, if modest, change. As a political moment in time, this is a game-changer.

Gutierrez was first elected to Congress from the 4th District of Illinois in 1992 and is the chairman of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Latino Veteran's group ask what happened to "Prosecutorial Discretion"

Beside having the highest number of deportations than any other President, Barack Obama promised to exercise "Prosecutorial Discretion" to assess favorable reviews of undocumented persons, in particular for those who have served in the United States military.  This promise was made in 2011 and now it appears the President has stalled this effort, which is of concern to the American GI Forum, whose goal is to protect all veterans who have served in the armed forces.  The following is an open letter from the American GI Forum California's State Commander, Willie Galvan to Associate Director for the White House Office of Public Engagement Julie C. Rodriguez:

June 2, 2012

White House Office of Public Engagement
Attn:  Julie C. Rodriguez, Associate Director
c/o White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C.

RE:      President’s “Prosecutorial Discretion”
            Deportation of U.S. Military Veterans

Dear Ms. Rodriguez:

In mid-August, 2011, we received news that the President would review over 300,000 cases then in deportation status, some of which included persons and families involving United States military veterans.  Since then we have understood that there would be two immediate consequences of the President’s action.

First, we understood that once a particular case was favorably “reviewed” the effected person would be entitled to proceed with obtaining documentation to remain legally in the United States.

Secondly, we understood that the President’s administration would take reasonable steps to assure in advance that similar persons, especially United States military veterans, would never again be placed in jeopardy of deportation under such circumstances.

By this letter, I seek your attention to the status of the President’s exercise of “Prosecutorial Discretion” as announced.  Of course, I would be particularly interested in any report you might release to me about United States military veterans in these circumstances.  How many veterans received the promised favorable “review”?  What “steps” has this administration taken to avoid jeopardy of deportation for United States military veterans in such circumstances?

Also, please provide any public documents, or references, directly responsive to my inquiry.  Thank you in advance for your anticipated prompt response.

Willie Galvan

Willie Galvan, State Commander
American GI Forum of California


Saturday, June 2, 2012

AZ Democrats no better for Latinos

Have Democrats shown their true color in Arizona campaign?
By Salomon Baldenegro
Estimadas/os: The Arizona Democratic Party is waging a campaign against Democrat Wenona Benally Baldenegro—who is on track to make history by being the first Native American woman (ever!!) to be elected to Congress and the first Native American, man or woman, from Arizona to be elected to Congress.
This campaign against Wenona is rooted in an essay, “All Politics is Local: The Democratic Party’s Abandonment of the Core,” by Dr. Rudy Acuña, in which Acuña criticizes the Arizona Democratic Party for not supporting candidates of color or issues of import to the Mexican American community and mentions Wenona. The Arizona Democratic Party Executive Director, Luis Heredia, retaliated against Acuña by going after Wenona Benally Baldenegro.
[Acuña’s essay and a follow-up essay, “An Illusion Becomes a Delusion…Maybe I am Missing Something,” are Attached. Note that both essays are embedded in a single document. I urge you to read them to get the full flavor of the dynamics at play here.]
Concomitant to the campaign against Wenona by Heredia, Bill Roe, Arizona Democratic Party Chairman, is sponsoring fundraisers for Wenona’s Democratic Party opponent. So much for the stated—and obviously false—policy of the Democratic Party that it will not takes sides in contested Primaries.
The behavior by the Arizona Democratic Party begs the question: Where is the logic in the Arizona Democratic Party’s going all out to derail the historical candidacy of a highly qualified Native American woman who has deep ties to the Mexican American community and to support a candidate who supports racist legislation (SB 1070) and compares Mexican immigrants to terrorists?
And especially in a presidential election year, when the Democrats are bragging that Arizona will vote Democratic in November and are counting on the Latino and Native American communities, two of its largest and historically most loyal constituency groups, to be the deciding factors in that election?
I daresay that in pursuing its anti-Mexican American-Native American agenda, the Democratic Party ignores the reality that the Democratic Party needs us more than we need the Democratic Party!
Full disclosure, but…
Before I go on: Wenona Benally Baldenegro is my daughter-in-law. So, there is a personal dimension in my posting. But let’s be clear: I make absolutely no apologies for defending Wenona against the racist attacks being visited upon her by the Arizona Democratic Party and its sycophants and minions.
But, my relationship to Wenona aside, over my 45-plus-year history of activism in the civil-rights struggle I (and others) have raised the issues I raise here. In fact, it was these very issues that got many of us to take on the Democratic Party and to form La Raza Unida Party in the 1970s.
Republicans attack us openly…Democrats do it behind closed doors
Latinos are under attack in Arizona. The Republicans leading that war on Latinos wear their hate of Mexicans and other brown-skinned peoples as a badge. They campaign for office on it.
The Democrats, on the other hand, and particularly the Arizona Democratic Party, pretend to be our friends even as they enable and hold hands with the Mexican haters and dispense the Party’s resources on the basis of race and ethnicity—and as is detailed below, brown is the wrong color to be if one wants access to the Arizona Democratic Party’s resources and help.
I do not say this lightly. Look at the totality of the evidence detailed herein:
Arizona Democratic Party Chair Enables Russell Pearce and SB 1070
In 2010, when SB 1070—the most blatantly hate-inspired, racist piece of legislation Mexican Americans have seen in decades—was passed and signed into law, Don Bivens, Chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party, set out to appease the Mexican Haters and enabled SB 1070.
Bivens established the Arizona Democratic Party’s policy that Democratic candidates could not/would not speak out against SB 1070 nor involve themselves in any protests of SB 1070, etc., so as not to alienate the Mexican Haters.
For example, in 2010 Bivens and the Arizona Democratic Party hired a political consultant to coach Democratic candidates. At the workshops he held for actual and potential candidates, the consultant emphatically and repeatedly told the candidates not to “…touch SB 1070 with a ten-foot pole.”
As Stephen Lemons, analyzing the 2010 election results, reported in the Phoenix New Times (November 11, 2010):
“In fact, Democratic candidates and their flacks were encouraged to avoid the dreaded term ‘SB 1070’ altogether, as if it invoked the Devil himself.
“They were advised by internal pollsters, focus group gurus, and party hacks to talk ‘tough’ on the border or even…embrace it and ignore the stench of nativism sticking to them.”
In practical terms, then, the Arizona Democratic Party, under Bivens’ leadership and direction, enabled Russell Pearce, Joe Arpaio, Jan Brewer, Tom Horne, John Huppenthal, and the rest of that gang of Mexican Haters.
Not surprisingly, Gov. Jan Brewer hired Snell and Wilmer, the law firm in which Bivens is a partner, to defend SB 1070 against the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit.
HB 2281—the vile first cousin to SB 1070
In the previous section I mention Tom Horne and John Huppenthal (previous and current Arizona State Superintendent of Instruction, respectively), the Mexican Haters behind HB 2281, which deems that Mexican American history is “un-American,” “un-patriotic” and illegal.
HB 2281 led to the dismantling of the highly successful Mexican American Studies curriculum in the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD), the firing of MAS teachers and Director, and the banning of books by Mexican American and Native American authors in TUSD.
SB 1070 is the vehicle Horne and Huppenthal used to set the stage for HB 2281 and to determine that the history of Mexican Americans belongs in the educational trash bin.
Thus, SB 1070 and HB 2281 are inextricably linked. To support SB 1070—directly or by appeasing its proponents—is to support HB 2281.
Here’s the present situation…
In Arizona’s Congressional District 1, two people are running in the Democratic Primary. One is white—Ann Kirkpatrick—and supports SB 1070 and opposes the Dream Act (she refused to vote for it the two times it came before the U.S. House during her one-term tenure).
The other candidate is a highly-qualified Native American woman—Wenona Benally Baldenegro—who has strong ties to the Mexican American community and who has been actively involved in fighting SB 1070 and HB 2281 and has stood with the DREAMers, the young people who, at great risk, have been promoting the DREAM Act.
The Democratic Party, as a matter of policy and practice, is not supposed to get involved—i.e., support one candidate over another—in contested Primaries…yet
    * The Arizona Democratic Party is supporting SB 1070 supporter, Ann Kirkpatrick. The Party’s Executive Director, Luis Heredia (appointed to his position by the aforementioned Don Bivens) is calling people who support Wenona Benally Baldenegro and asking them to withdraw their support of Wenona. The plan is to force Wenona out of the race so as to guarantee SB 1070 supporter Kirkpatrick a victory.
Heredia’s campaign against Wenona was meant to be a stealth, “whisper” campaign. But Heredia made the mistake of calling a prominent Tucson Mexican American activist, a strong Wenona supporter, who is heavily involved in the fight against HB 2281—as I and Wenona and my entire family areand the Arizona Democratic Party isn’t—to “demand” that that person withdraw her support of Wenona. In reaction to Heredia’s “demand,” a family member of that person sent Heredia a scathing e-mail.
And that is how I, and others, became aware of Heredia’s and the Democratic Party’s campaign to derail Wenona Benally Baldenegro’s congressional campaign.
    * Complementing Heredia’s campaign against Wenona, the Chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party, Bill Roe, is sponsoring fundraisers at his home for SB 1070 supporter Ann Kirkpatrick—at the end of this post is the Invitation to a September 14, 2011, Kirkpatrick fundraiser sent out by Roe. [Kirkpatrick was NOT a Congresswoman then, nor is she now, despite Roe’s description of her.]
So, the two top Arizona Democratic Party officials, Chairman Bill Roe and Executive Director Luis Heredia are working in tandem to (1) promote Kirkpatrick and (2) derail Wenona Baldenegro’s candidacy.
One has to be abysmally stupid to believe that Roe and Heredia are acting “rogue.” Roe and Heredia cannot separate their powerful, official capacities from their personal personae when they call people to promote or demonize particular candidates. They are doing what they’re doing on behalf of the Arizona Democratic Party, protestations that they are acting as individuals notwithstanding.
And if you are a Democrat in Arizona, the Arizona Democratic Party is doing the above—as well as what is detailed below—in your name and on your behalf!
The contrast between Wenona Benally Baldenegro and Kirkpatrick could not be clearer…
I do not say that Kirkpatrick supports SB 1070 lightly. Look at the record:
    * Kirkpatrick served one term in Congress. As a Congresswoman, Kirkpatrick stood with the Republicans and fought the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit against SB 1070, calling it a “sideshow” and insisted that SB 1070 be allowed to stand. On KPCC Radio (July 28, 2010) Kirkpatrick noted that she had asked the Obama administration to drop the lawsuit against SB 1070.
On CBS News (July 7, 2010) Kirkpatrick again called the DOJ lawsuit against SB 1070 a “sideshow” and argued the case that instead of fighting SB 1070, the Obama administration should be “securing the border.”
In denouncing the Department of Justice lawsuit against SB 1070, Kirkpatrick stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Russell Pearce, Jan Brewer, and Joe Arpaio.
Defending SB 1070 at a candidate forum in 2010, Kirkpatrick compared Mexican immigrants to terrorists, saying that: “It is way too easy for terrorists to walk through the desert into the United States.”
There is not a single instance of a terrorist coming into our country via the southern border or of a Mexican immigrant being involved in terrorism—not one!
But this is the line that Russell Pearce, Joe Arpaio, Paul Babeu, Jan Brewer, and Ann Kirkpatrick use to scare Arizonans into jumping on the Mexican-hating bandwagon.
    * During Kirkpatrick’s one term in Congress, the DREAM Act came before the House twice. Both times Kirkpatrick made it a point to be absent so as not to vote for the Dream Act.
In contrast to Kirkpatrick, Wenona Benally Baldenegro has been very active in fighting SB 1070 and HB 2281, and she stood with the DREAM students who courageously and at great risk sat in in Senator John McCain’s Tucson office last summer in support of the Dream Act.
Indeed, the contrast between Wenona Benally Baldenegro, whom the Arizona Democratic Party is demonizing, and Ann Kirkpatrick, whom the Arizona Democratic Party is supporting, could not be clearer.
The racial aspects of Heredia’s and the Democratic Party’s actions are unmistakable.
Obviously, to the Arizona Democratic Party, anyone, even a loser who supports racist legislation and compares Mexicans to terrorists, is preferable to a highly qualified Native American woman! [The term “loser” is meant literally: because Kirkpatrick turned her back on her base—Latinos, Native Americans, unions, environmentalists, etc.—she lost her re-election bid.]
Heredia, Roe, and the Arizona Democratic Party are determined to assure that Native Americans will not be represented in Congress—at least, not during their watch!
Heredia and the Arizona Democratic Party have Mexican Criteria and White Criteria…
The Democratic Party’s campaign against Wenona Benally Baldenegro is not an anomaly.
Consider the following examples:
    * Justifying his campaign to derail Wenona’s candidacy, Heredia told Rudy Acuña in an e-mail last week: “I take great concern when people like Wenona want to fast track political trust” (“…people like Wenona”? Heredia may as well have said, “Those people…”)…
Witness the situation regarding Rodney Glassman, who was elected to the Tucson City Council but did not bother to finish his single term. In Sarah Palin style, Glassman resigned his City Council seat in mid-term to “fast track” to the U.S. Senate.
The entire Democratic Establishment, including Heredia, supported Rodney Glassman in that “fast track” Senate race over Chicano union organizer Randy Parraz, who led the historic Recall Pearce movement.
Obviously, the Democratic Party’s “fast track” criterion applies only to Mexican American and Native American candidates. If you’re white, you can “fast track” to your heart’s content!
Likewise regarding access to Party resources:
    * Just last week (May, 2012) Heredia and the Arizona Democratic Party denied a Mexican American Congressional candidate access to Party resources (e.g., voter registration lists) on the basis that the candidate was “not Democrat enough,” that is, that he changed his registration from Republican to Democrat three (3) years ago.
    * Yet Heredia and the Arizona Democratic Party openly and strongly supported and made available all its resources to U.S. Senate candidate Rodney Glassman, who had only recently changed his voter registration from Republican to Democrat when he ran for U.S. Senate.
    * And Ann Kirkpatrick, whom Luis Heredia, Bill Roe, and the Arizona Democratic Party are supporting, is a Republican who changed her registration to Democrat so as to run for Congress.
    *Heredia and the Arizona Democratic Party also denied another Mexican American candidate access to Party resources because, in Heredia’s words (on the talk radio program “The Lou Show,” May 20, 2012), that candidate has Republicans supporting her, which, according to Heredia, calls into question the candidate’s Democratic bona fides.
But white Democratic candidates routinely tout as a POSITIVE aspect of their candidacies that they enjoy Republican support and even have “Republicans For [Name of Candidate]” committees. Heredia and the Arizona Democratic Party make available to these candidates the full gamut of Arizona Democratic Party support and resources. [As we speak, there’s one such campaign going on, in which the Arizona Democratic Party is fully engaged.]
And, of course, Rodney Glassman, whom Heredia and the Arizona Democratic Party supported fully and enthusiastically, received support from his Republican family and their friends.
Clearly, Heredia’s and the Arizona Democratic Party’s policy and practice regarding who can “fast track” and who is “Democrat enough” to be able to access Democratic Party resources are based on race and ethnicity. How else can the above actions be explained?
[For the record: I do not know either of the Mexican American candidates I reference above—I met one of them for all of about 90 seconds a few weeks ago—and am not involved in either of their campaigns. My comments above serve only to illustrate the Arizona Democratic Party’s practice of applying policies differentially, based on race and ethnicity.]
And it’s not just Wenona and the race-based policies and practices…
I have focused on the Arizona Democratic Party’s betrayal of Democratic principles by their support for SB 1070-supporter Kirkpatrick and the race-based policies and practices described above, but Kirkpatrick’s betrayal of Democratic principles goes beyond her support for SB 1070 and opposition to the Dream Act, viz.:.
During her single term in Congress, Kirpatrick:
   * Refused to co-sponsor, and stood with the Republicans regarding the Employee Free Choice Act. The EFCA speaks to the issue of the rights of workers to unionize. Specifically, it would allow employees to form unions by signing cards authorizing union representation, and establish harsher penalties for employers who violate employee rights when workers seek to form a union.
   *Supported the union-busting Rio Tinto corporation that is proposing to set up a non-union mine operation in the Oak Flats area, northeast of Superior, AZ, and which will entail the destruction of sacred Apache land. Native American tribes appealed to Kirkpatrick not to support the destruction of their sacred grounds, but her loyalty to Rio Tinto prevailed, a betrayal of her commitment to the Apache Tribe during her campaign.
   *Turned her back on her environmentalist support base (The Sierra Club and others) by supporting the Rio Tinto mine, which, in addition to destroying Apache sacred sites, will do immense environmental damage.
   *Joined with Republicans to support the tax cuts for the wealthy passed under President Bush, betraying her promise during her campaign to vote to repeal the tax cuts for the wealthy.
Kirkpatrick’s consistent betrayal of Democratic principles and her habit of voting more often with Republicans than Democrats prompted the White Mountain Democrats to unanimously pass (on July 8, 2009) a Resolution to:
“Call on the Sierra Club, Emily’s List, the Hon. Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee; the Arizona Democratic Party and the party’s major donors, to withhold further funding of Ann Kirkpatrick’s campaign until it is determined that she supports Democratic principles.”
“Call on the Hon. James E. Clyburn, (House) Majority Whip, and Phil Schiliro, director of legislative affairs for the White House, to explain to Rep. Kirkpatrick the importance of keeping faith with her constituents.”
And this is the person whom the Arizona Democratic Party is supporting over a viable, well-qualified Native American woman who is on the cusp of making history and who stands on the right side of the issues the Democratic Party purports to stand for? Incredible!!
But mark my words: as they have been doing since time immemorial, Don Bivens’, Bill Roe’s and Luis Heredia’s Democratic Party will come around this political season asking for our financial support, asking us to sacrifice family time to volunteer for their party and candidates (e.g., Ann Kirkpatrick), etc.
And because the Democratic Party believes it owns us and our support, they take that support for granted.
Al fin y al cabo, the Democratic Party, en cuanto La Raza, es como el azadón—jala pa’ un lado nomás. In the final analysis, the Democratic Party, with regard to Latinos, is like the hoe—it works only in one direction.