By Carlos Garcia
The balance may have changed on Capitol Hill, but in our neighborhoods the weight of the boot on our neck feels just as heavy regardless of what color tie the person standing on us is wearing.
A few months ago when President Obama decided to once again postpone changing his deportation policies for the sake of his party’s elections, we suggested that Latinos and immigrant voters would respond by sitting this round out. We didn’t do so as individual observers, pundits, or bystanders. As an organizer, the position I voiced is rooted in what my organization hears in our work and echoes and amplifies our community’s hopes and opinions. Because we have a base we’re accountable to and real people affected by current immigration policy who guide our work, we don’t get to spin things however might be most convenient or fit a political narrative best. We have to tell it like it is both to our community and when representing it to the rest of the world.
For us, “not one more deportation” is not a political ploy or a symbolic gesture. It’s a commitment and a demand. It means something to the 90+ people who’s removal we’ve stopped in the past 18 months and it means something to the graduates of the know your rights courses we teach who, especially in Arizona, face the threat of being separated from their families constantly.
I was a lone voice echoing the voices of discontent from our community, telling us they wouldn’t vote, not because of what I want, but because of what we were hearing. Many were forecasting that the Democrats were going to lose the Senate, and yet they still chose deportations and politics over mobilizing their base by pushing the President to do the right thing. Because of this, in places where it mattered, our people didn’t turn out and Democrats lost.
In this case, it wasn’t people who disregard voting as a tool for social change calling for a boycott or Republican conspiracies to disenfranchise that led to this outcome. It was the Democrats themselves suppressing the vote by not giving us a reason to turn out to the polls, neglecting the power of the Latino, Immigrant and their allies as a voting block. After elections like last week, it’s obvious the Democrats need to do some soul searching.
People like our members who are directly affected by immigration policy have risked it all to stop deportations. Now it’s time for the party of our supposed allies to show some guts and stop playing political games with our lives. They are creating permanent damage to their reputation in our community with every day that the deportations continue.
But advocates, including myself, have some soul searching to do as well. Saying we’re declaring independence from party politics should be an organizing principle, not just a talking point. Our movement needs to relocate its loyalties to the people who suffer from immigration policy not to those who administer it. We need to call on the Republicans to search for their inner Reagan when it comes to immigration, who said, “I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and who have lived here ” At the same time, we need to prepare to respond to any immigration reform proposal that further militarizes a border that is already a death trap and tramples the rights of indigenous people. If the Republicans do make a move now that they control both the house and the senate, we need to ensure that it doesn’t create policy that hurts us even worse.