Archive for March, 2008
Our friends at Brave New Films -the intrepid folks who brought you “Outfoxed”, “Iraq for Sale” and other muckracking videos- have just released “A Dream Deferred”, a shorter, but no-less-moving video that includes the voices of those least heard in the “immigration debate”: immigrant students who want passage of the DREAM act. The DREAM Act would help more than 60,000 students pursue their dreams of higher education by helping them regulate their status.
In conjunction with immigrant rights groups, Robert Greenwald and Co. provide us with plenty of reason to support current efforts to sign a petition asking the 3 presidential candidates, all whom were co-sponsors of the federal DREAM Act, to make the DREAM a reality in their first 100 days of office.
Check it out and, if you feel so moved, sign the petition.
This story in today’s Philadelphia Enquirer tells the sad, but revealing tale of one Keith Eckel, the soon-to-be former head of the largest tomato producing operation north of the Mason-Dixon Line. After decades of being the most important tomato grower on the East Coast, Eckel announced yesterday that he will be closing down his farm because he can’t find the 180 workers he needs to keep his business competitive and operational. Though successfully ignoring the plight of the workers, the story does say a lot about what many of us predicted would come about as a result of the repression unleashed on migrant workers.
“It’s a sad day,” said Eckel, who blames his woes on the lack of immigration reform. “We’re closing a part of our business that we really love.”
Eckel’s plight mirrors that of many farmers in the U.S., increasing numbers of whom find themselves living in a country where fewer and fewer natives want to work the land, a country in which gigantic agricultural and other corporate interests have hollowed out the economy and decimated the American Dream by exporting jobs. But rather than denounce, as Eckel did, the powerful interests responsible for the growers plight, many U.S. natives are drinking deadly doses of the nativist Kool Aid defining the new racial politics of the post-Mason-Dixon, post Southern Strategy moment. Minutemen, Republicans and growing numbers of Democrats and other politicos have made an industry of the politics of industrial decline.
Critical to any political strategy aspiring to reverse the anti-migrant hysteria is doing what Keith Eckel did: sling the rotten tomatoes of immigration politics at the right targets-politicos and the parasites of economic decline attached to them. Time to bust out our own radical Raid: truth backed by facts and political action like upcoming May 1rst (May Day) actions.
(NOTE: This piece, which originally appeared in Public Eye, is, in my opinion, one of the 2 most important things I’ll write this year. Though written for a think tank (Political Research Associates) and though not as literary as I’d like, it does represent my best effort to date to conceptualize something we all know: that the immigrant crackdown is neither solely nor primarily about immigrants, that efforts to end the raids and other repression against immigrants requires more than simply denouncing the racism and raids of the crackdown. At the same time, I try to contribute something that complements and challenges the political thinking in the immigrant rights movement, which, like you, I feel great urgency about. Should you read it, please do drop a note (firstname.lastname@example.org) as it is a work in progress, one I will weave into a larger project. Gracias, R)
One Raid at a Time: How Immigrant Crackdowns Build the National Security State
By Roberto Lovato
“He [King George] has erected a multitude of new offices and set hither swarms of officers to harass out people and eat out their subsistence.” The Declaration of Independence, 1776
I. Building Up the Domestic Security Apparatus
Most explanations of the relentless pursuit of undocumented immigrants since 9/11 view it as a response to the continuing pressures of angry, mostly white, citizens. The “anti-immigrant climate” created by civic groups like the Minutemen, politicos like (name the Republican candidate of your choice) and media personalities like CNN’s Lou Dobbs, we are told, has led directly to the massive – and growing – government bureaucracy for policing immigrants.
The Washington Post, for example, told us in 2006 that “The Minutemen rose to prominence last year when they began organizing armed citizen patrols along the U.S.-Mexico border, a move credited with helping to ignite the debate that has dominated Washington in recent months.”
Along the way to allegedly responding to “grassroots” calls about “real immigration reform” and “doing something about illegals,” the Bush Administration dismantled the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and created the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, whose more than 15,000 employees and $5.6 billion budget make it the largest investigative component of the Department of Homeland Security and the second largest investigative agency in the federal government after the FBI.2 In the process of restructuring, national security concerns regarding threats from external terrorist enemies got mixed in with domestic concerns about immigrant “invaders” denounced by a growing galaxy of anti-immigrant interests.
Implicit in daily media reports about “immigration reform” is the idea that bottom-up pressure led to the decision to dismantle the former INS and then place the immigration bureaucracy under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Citizen activism contributed significantly to the most massive, most important government restructuring since the end of World War II. Nor do press accounts mention Boeing and other aerospace and surveillance companies, which, for example, will benefit as government contractors to the federal Secure Border Initiative (SBI) that is scheduled to receive more than $2 billion in funding for fencing, electronic surveillance and other equipment required for the new physical and virtual fence being built at the border.3
Nowhere in the more popular explanations of this historic and massive government restructuring of immigration and other government functions do the raisons d’etat – the reasons of the state, the logic of government – enter the picture. When talking about immigration reform, what little, if any, agency ascribed to the Bush Administration usually includes such mantra-like phrases like “protecting the homeland,” “securing the border,” and others. And even in the immigrant rights community few, for example, are asking why the Bush Administration decided to move the citizenship processing and immigration enforcement functions of government from the more domestic, policing-oriented Department of Justice (DOJ) to the more militarized, anti-terrorist bureaucracy of the Department of Homeland Security.
Little, if any, consideration is given to the possibility that immigrants and immigration policy serve other interests that have nothing to do with chasing down maids, poultry workers, and landscapers.
Failure to consider the reasons of state behind the buildup leading to the birth of the ICE, the most militarized branch of the federal government after the Pentagon, leaves the analysis of, and political action around, immigration reform partial at best. While important, focusing on the electoral workings of the white voter excludes a fundamental part of the immigration bureaucracy equation: how immigrants provide the rationale for the expansion of government policing bureaucracy in times of political crisis, economic distress, and major geopolitical shifts. Shortly after the attacks and the creation of DHS, the Bush Administration used immigrants and fear of outsiders to tighten border restrictions, pass repressive laws and increase budgets to put more drones, weapons and troops inside the country.
Government actions since 9/11 point clearly to how the U.S. government has set up a new Pentagon-like bureaucracy to fight a new kind of protracted domestic war against a new kind of domestic enemy – undocumented immigrants. While willing to believe that there were ulterior motives behind the Iraq war and the pursuit of al Qaeda, few consider that there are non-immigration-related motives behind ICE’s al Qaeda-ization of immigrants and immigration policy: multi-billion dollar contracts to military-industrial companies like Boeing, General Electric and Halliburton for “virtual” border walls, migrant detention centers, drones, ground-based sensors, and other surveillance technology for use in the Arizona desert that were originally designed for war zones like the deserts of Iraq; the de-facto militarization of immigration policy through the deployment of 6,000 additional National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border4; hundreds of raids in neighborhoods and workplaces across the country; the passage of hundreds of punitive, anti-migrant state and federal laws like the Military Commissions Act5, which denies the habeas corpus rights of even legal residents who are suspected of providing “material support” to terrorist groups.
In the same way that private companies like the Pinkerton Detective Agency provided highly profitable policing, surveillance, and other government services targeting immigrants and citizens in the 20th century, companies like Halliburton, Blackwater, the Corrections Corporation of America, Boeing, and others are reaping profits by helping build the government’s immigrant policing bureaucracy today.
Contrary to the electoral logic prevailing in “pro-immigrant” and mainstream media explanations of the current buildup of the (anti)immigrant government bureaucracy, ICE’s war on immigrants is not solely, nor even primarily about shoring up support for the Republicans and other prowar political and economic interests as most analysts and activists would have us believe. A look at precedents for this kind of government anti-immigrant action yields the conclusion that using immigrants to build up government policing and military capabilities is, in fact, a standard practice of the art of statecraft. The historical record provides ample evidence of how national security experts, politicians, elected officials, bureaucrats and other managers of the state have used immigrants and anti-immigrant sentiments and policies as a way of normalizing and advancing militarization within the borders of the United States (the “homeland”).
At a time when the mortgage and banking crises make obvious that the American Dream is dying for most, a time in which even its illusion is hardly tenable as revealed in polls that found that less than 18 percent of the U.S. population believes it is living the “American Dream,”6 the state needs many reasons to reassert control over an increasingly unruly populace by putting more ICE agents and other gun-wielding government agents among the citizenry.
Focusing on non-citizens makes it easier for citizens to swallow the increased domestic militarism inherent in increasing numbers of uniformed men and women with guns in their midst. Constant reports of raids on the homes of the undocumented immigrants normalize the idea of government intrusion into the homes of legal residents. Political scientists, investigative journalists, and activists have long reminded us of how elites are constantly concerned with creating the structures that may be needed to control a potentially unruly population, especially one protesting for its rights like the millions of immigrants who marched in 2006.
History and present experience remind us that, in times of heightened (and often exaggerated) fears about national security, immigration and immigrants are no longer just wedge issues in electoral politics; they magically morph into “dangerous” others who fill the need for new, domestic enemies required by an economy, a political system, a citizenry, a country created, nurtured and dependent on civilizational warfare and expansionism. Historians write about the geopolitical contours of the U.S. empire that began with the stealing of Mexican land. But little to no attention is paid to how, today, the domestic contours of empire – and the infrastructure that supports it – are also being reinforced by targeting Mexicans and other immigrants actually living inside this now very troubled land.
The ICE’s media and policy framing of the issue of immigration as a kind of “war” complete with “most wanted” lists7 of terrorists, drug traffickers, and immigrants like Elvira Arellano8, the undocumented immigrant leader deported after seeking and gaining sanctuary in a Chicago church, follows clearly the directives outlined in a couple of critical documents developed just after 9/11.
II A Key Moment After 9/11
In order to understand how and why ICE now constitutes an important part of the ascendant national security bureaucracy, we must first look at the intimate relationship between National Security policy and “Homeland Security” policy. One of the defining aspects of immigration policy and the current attacks on immigrants is the fact that they are being shaped by elite priorities of the post-9/11 climate.
Shortly after 9/11, the Bush Administration had, in July 2002, introduced its “National Strategy for Homeland Security,” a document that outlines how to “mobilize and organize our Nation to secure the U.S. homeland from terrorist attacks.”9 Two months later, the Bush Administration released the more geopolitically focused “National Security Strategy of the United States of America,” whose purpose is to “help make the world not just safer but better.”10 9/11 provided the impetus to create a bureaucratic and policy environment dominated by security imperatives laid out in two of the most definitive documents of our time, documents which outline strategies that, we are told, “together take precedence over all other national strategies, programs, and plans,”11 including immigration policy. Immigration policy nonetheless receives considerable attention, especially in the Homeland Security Strategy. The role of the private sector is also made explicit on the DHS website, which says, “The Department of Homeland Security is responsible for assessing the nation’s vulnerabilities” and that “the private sector is central to this task.”12
By placing other government functions under the purview of the national security imperatives laid out in the two documents, the Bush Administration enabled and deepened the militarization of government bureaucracies like the ICE. At the same time, immigrants provided the Bush Administration a way to facilitate the transference of public wealth to military industrial interests like those of Halliburton, Boeing and others through government contracts in a kind of Homeland Security Keynesianism.
For example the two documents called for DHS to “Establish a national laboratory for homeland security” that solicits “independent and private analysis for science.”13 This materialized through the budget of ICE, which has resources for research and development of technologies for surveilling, capturing, detaining, and generally combating what politicos and Minutemen alike paint as the Malthusian monster of immigration. Again, immigrants help the state justify massive expenditures like those for the creation and maintenance of ICE, which, in turn, have led to a major reconfiguration and expansion of the state itself.
Perennial complaints of the former INS’s infamous inefficiency in both its border enforcement and citizenship processing functions, and the 9/11 catastrophe, combined to create the perfect political storm that swept in another historic bureaucratic shift. Hidden behind what some call the “anti-immigrant hysteria” characterizing periods like ours are the political crises, economic earthquakes and geopolitical crises that drive history.
III The Lessons of History
History provides several precedents that illustrate how immigrants have consistently provided elite political and corporate interests the rationale for major government restructuring that often has little to do with migration and much to do with other things, things like: bureaucratic patronage (think big government contracts for military industrial firms); deploying and displaying power; controlling the populace and rallying different sectors of society round the idea of the nation (nationalism).
Long before the Patriot Act, DHS and ICE, policies linking immigrants to the security of the country have formed an important part of U.S. statecraft. The period before and after the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts of 179814, which gave then-president John Adams the authority to remove any immigrant he deemed a threat to national security, is one example. During this time, the Bush-like enumeration of “Seditious Acts” was linked to the elite need to control the populace, and militarize the society in times of profound instability. Another example is the period of the Red Scare of 1919, when millions of mostly-immigrant-led strikers provided the political impetus leading to the creation of the domestic policing bureaucracy known as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).15
History has shown that, in times of extraordinary instability, governments go to extraordinary lengths and spend extraordinary amounts of money to create and reinforce the ramparts of their policing apparatus and of nationhood itself. Current efforts by the U.S. government to instrumentalize immigrants as a means of buttressing itself in times of domestic and geopolitical crisis follows a logic tried and true since the establishment of the country amidst the global and internal turbulence around the turn of the 18th century.
IV Immigrants and the Establishment of the National Security State
Like many of the newly established countries suffering some of the political and economic shocks of economic and political modernization in the late eighteenth century, the fledgling United States and its leaders needed to simultaneously consolidate the nation state established constitutionally in 1787 while also maneuvering for a position on a global map dominated by the warring powers of France and England. Central to accomplishing this were immigrants who provided both a means of rallying and aligning segments of the populace while also legitimating massive expenditures towards the construction of the militarized bureaucracies meant to defend against domestic threats to “national” security which linked external enemies real and perceived.
At the turn of the 18th century, the United States was much weaker than and still very vulnerable to the power of Britain and France, which were engaged in a war that defined political positions inside and outside the new country. Like many of their elite and more imperially inclined Federalist peers, Alexander Hamilton and President John Adams were fearful of the French revolution. Developments in the revolutionary republic pushed people and states around the Atlantic world to take positions for and against the revolution at that time. In addition, some Federalists like Hamilton also wanted to push out the French and conquer Florida, Louisiana, and South America.16
Immigrants and immigration policy of the post-revolutionary period became ensnared in the battle for power between Federalists, who advocated a more urban and mercantile route to nationhood, and the anti-Federalist Republicans led by Thomas Jefferson, whose romantic proto-capitalist path to consolidation of the nation was paved by agrarian expansion. The battles between the Federalists and anti-Federalists played themselves out in relation to France and the ideals of the French revolution, as elites tried to cope with the instability wrought by capitalist expansion on the rural majority.
The political, economic and geopolitical crises inherent in the modernization process had a profound impact on how elites and the state viewed the large immigrant population in the United States. In response to the devastating effects of economic transformation, thousands of French, German, Irish and other immigrants led uprisings like the Whiskey Rebellion and Shay’s Rebellion, which were viewed as threats by elites, especially the Federalists.
In the face of both popular unrest and Republican competition for political power, and in their efforts to consolidate the state and the globally oriented mercantile and pre-industrial capitalist economy, Hamilton and then-President Adams did what has, since their time, become a standard operating procedure in the art of U.S. statecraft: build the state and insert its control apparatus in the larger populace by scapegoating immigrants as threats to national security.
In the words of historian John Morton Smith, “The internal security program adopted by the Federalists during the Administration of John Adams was designed not only to deal with potential dangers from foreign invasion growing out of the “Half War” with France, but also to repress domestic political opposition.”17 In this context, immigrants became the domestic expression of the threat represented by the French Jacobins, the proto-communist and al Qaeda-like subversive threat of the early nineteenth century. Commenting on this threat, Samuel Sitgreaves, a Federalist Congressman from Pennsylvania, made the connection between internal immigrant threats and external big power threats when he said in May 1798 “….the business of defence would be very imperfectly done, if Congress confined their operations of defence to land and naval forces, and neglected to destroy the cankerworm which is corroding the heart of the country…there are a great number of aliens in this country from that nation [France] with whom we have at present alarming differences….there are emissaries amongst us, who have not only fomented our differences with that country, but who have also endeavored to create divisions amongst our own citizens.”18
Also considered a threat were the free and unfree blacks who elites feared might form a “domestic army of ten thousand blacks.” Other fears of subversion by domestic interests linked to external enemies were stoked by rampant rumors of a French-influenced “Illuminati” conspiracy, an “internal invasion” to create a godless, global “new world order” allegedly led by emigrants from France and St. Domingue. The modern use of the word “terror” first enters the language when Sir Edmund Burke gazed across the English Channel and applied it to the actions of the Jacobin state in France. Burke’s conservative American cousins then adopted the term and applied it to French-influenced immigrants and others considered subversive.19
Such a climate aided Federalists in their efforts to centralize and consolidate both power and nationhood. Hamilton and then-President John Adams undertook several legal and other institutional initiatives designed to enhance their and the state’s power while also putting their Republican critics and other opposition in check. Laws facilitating press censorship were coupled with calls to unify the nation in preparation for war with France.After Hamilton and the Federalists raised taxes to pay for their expansionist expenditures to consolidate their version of the new country, a group of people who refused to pay taxes unleashed Fries’ Rebellion. In response, Adams, Hamilton and the Federalists seized on the unrest to unleash heretofore unrealized state powers and nation-reinforcing state bureaucracy.20 At the core of the moves was the infamous Alien and Sedition Acts proposed by Adams and passed in 1798. The law targeted the immigrant threat by making it easier to put them in jail for subverting the government.
At the same time that they passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, Adams, Hamilton and the Federalists also implemented the first major reorganization of government bureaucracy. Central to this reorganization was the establishment of the Department of the Navy, a revived U.S. Marine Corps and a “New Army” in the 1798. In the same session in which it passed the Alien and Sedition acts, the Federalist-dominated fifth congress passed in its first session a bill authorizing $454,000 on defense, which, at that time represented a large expenditure. During its second session it authorized $3,887,971.81, an amount equal to “more than the entire 1rst congress had appropriated for all government expenditures”. During its third session it authorized $6 million for a total of over $10 million.21
The end result of the anti-immigrant expenditures Federalists created what some call the first national security state.
V Immigrants, the Red Scare, and the Birth of the FBI Bureaucracy
A similar situation in which a crisis sparking immigrant activism led to a major build-up of the government policing apparatus took place during the Red Scare of 1919. The U.S. government faced several economic and political pressures including the end of World War I, the demobilization of the Army, returning troops, joblessness, depression, unemployment and growing inflation.
The precarious situation gave rise to increased elite fear of Jewish, Italian and other immigrant workers in the era of the Bolshevik revolution and an increasingly powerful –and militant – labor movement. Socialists, Wobblies, and other activists like Emma Goldman, who were against the war and demonstrated high levels of labor militancy, staged historic labor actions in 1919. That year saw 3,600 labor strikes involving four million workers, many of whom were led by and were immigrants. Government and big business had to watch as a full one-fifth of the manufacturing workforce staged actions.22 Massive organizing by Jamaican immigrant Marcus Garvey’s United Negro Improvement Association and race riots in northern cities further stoked elite fears and gave birth to the institutional response to what became known as the Red Scare.
Like other national governments of the period, the United States had begun intensifying the centralization of functions formerly carried out by the private sector, including keeping labor and other dissidents in check. In the words of Regin Schmidt, author of The FBI and the Origins of Anti-Communism in the United States, “In response to social problems caused by industrialization, urbanization and immigration and the potential political threats to the existing order posed by the Socialist Party, the IWW and, in 1919, the Communist parties, industrial and political leaders began to look to the federal government, with its growing and powerful bureaucratic organizations to monitor and control political opposition.”23
Major expansion of the state via the building of new bureaucracies (Bureau of Corporations, Department of Labor, Federal Trade Commission, etc.) and bureaucratic infighting for government resources and legal jurisdiction between the Bureau of Investigation, the precursor of the FBI, the Department of Labor and other agencies turned the largely immigrant-led unrest into an unprecedented opportunity for A. Mitchell Palmer and his lieutenant, J. Edgar Hoover. Both men saw in the domestic crisis an opportunity to build and expand personal fortunes and what would eventually become the Federal Bureau of Investigation. FBI historian John A. Noakes concluded that “The domestic unrest during this period presented the Bureau of Investigation the opportunity to expand its domain and increase its power.”24
Illustrating the budgetary effects of the Bureau’s power grab, he continues, “Following the armistice, but before the Bureau’s decision to join the Red Scare hysteria, the Bureau had requested an appropriation of $1,500,000. When the Department of Justice declared the nation in imminent danger of a radical uprising, however, Congress immediately increased the appropriation by $500,000; by the end of the fiscal year the Bureau had a budget of $2,750,000.”25
Thousands of immigrants were surveilled, rounded up, and deported during the Red Scare. Just five years after the Scare, Hoover went on to found the FBI and became the most powerful non-elected official in U.S. history. In what sounds like a precursor to the current ICE raids, local police and federal agents collaborated around immigration. FBI historian Kenneth D. Ackerman states, “Backed by local police and volunteer vigilantes, federal agents hit in dozens of cities and arrested more than 10,000 suspected communists and fellow travelers. They burst into homes, classrooms and meeting halls, seizing everyone in sight, breaking doors and heads with abandon. The agents ignored legal niceties such as search warrants or arrest warrants. They questioned suspects in secret, imposed prohibitive bail and kept them locked up for months in foul, overcrowded, makeshift prisons.” Close to none of these immigrant prisoners had anything to do with radical violence. And, according to Ackerman, “Palmer’s grand crackdown was one big exercise in guilt by association, based primarily on bogus fears of immigrants being connected to vilified radical groups such as the recently formed American Communist Party.” Drawing parallels between the Red Scare and the current “War on Terror,” Ackerman concludes, “Almost 90 years later, today’s war on terror exists in an echo chamber of the 1919 Red scare.”26
As shown in the examples from U.S. history, immigrants provide the state with ample excuse to expand, especially in times of geopolitical and domestic crisis. During the post-revolutionary period, the pursuit of alleged immigrant subversives led to the massive funding of the Department of the Navy and to the expansion of state power through laws like the Alien and Seditions Acts. Similarly, the crisis following then end of World War I led to the creation of the FBI and to unprecedented government repression and expansion embodied by the Palmer Raids. “In eliminating the Wobblies, government officials passed legislation, evolved techniques, and learned lessons that shaped later course of conduct.”27 Viewed from a historical perspective, it is no surprise that the government should respond to the geopolitical and domestic crisis in the United States with expanded government power and bureaucracy. Rather than view the placement of ICE under DHS as solely about controlling immigrant labor or about political (and electoral) opportunism disguised as government policy (both are, in fact, part of the equation), it is important to connect the creation of ICE and its placement under DHS to the perpetual drive of government to expand its powers, especially its repressive apparatus and other mechanisms of social control.
From this perspective, the current framing of the issue of immigration as a “national security” concern – one requiring the bureaucratic shift towards “Homeland Security” – fits well within historical practices that extend government power to control not just immigrants, but those born here, most of whom don’t see immigration policy affecting them.
One of the things that makes the current politico-bureaucratic moment different, however, is the fluidity and increasing precariousness of the state itself. Like other nation states, the United States suffers from strains wrought by the free hand of global corporations that have abandoned large segments of its workforce. Such a situation necessitates the institutionalization of the war on immigrants in order to get as many armed government agents into a society that may be teetering on even more serious collapse as seen in the recession and economic crisis devastating core components of the American Dream such as education, healthcare and home ownership. Unlike the previous periods, the creation of massive bureaucracies superseded the need to surveil, arrest and deport migrants. Today, there appears to be a move to make permanent the capacity of the state to pursue, jail and deport migrants in order to sustain what some call a kind of migration-military-industrial complex.28
Several indicators make clear that we are well on our way to making the war on immigrants a permanent feature of a government in crisis. In addition to being the largest, most-militarized component of DHS, ICE, spends more than one fifth of the multibillion dollar DHS budget and is also its largest investigative arm. As mentioned previously, multibillion dollar contracts for border security from DHS have become an important new market to aerospace companies like General Electric, Lockheed and Boeing, which secured a $2.5 billion contract for the Secure Borders Initiative, a DHS program to build surveillance and other technological capabilities.29 That some saw in 9/11 an opportunity to expand and grow government technological capabilities – and private sector patronage – through such contracts, can bee seen in the fact that DHS was created with what the national security documents say is a priority to “Establish a national laboratory for homeland security” that would “solicit independent and private analysis for science and technology research.”30
Like its predecessor, the “military-industrial complex”, the migrant-military industrial complex tries to integrate federal and state economic interests through a kind of Homeland Security Keynesianism in which increasing numbers of companies are bidding for, and dependent on, big contracts like the Boeing contract or the $385 million DHS contract for the construction of immigrant prisons.31 Also like its military-industrial cousin, the migrant military industrial complex has its own web of relationships between corporations, government contracts and elected officials. Nowhere is this connection clearer than in the case of James Sensenbrenner, the anti-immigrant godfather who sponsored HR 4437 which criminalized immigrants and those who would help them.32 According to his 2005 financial disclosure statement, Sensenbrenner held $86,500 in Halliburton stocks, $563,536 in General Electric and Boeing is among the top contributors to the Congressman’s PAC (Sensenbrenner also owns stocks in companies like Olive Garden restaurants, which hire undocumented workers.)33
In conclusion, the current war on immigrants is grounded in the history of statecraft and big government bureaucracy. While critical, the almost exclusive focus of the immigrant rights movement on the laws and employment of workers fails to take into consideration the need for a war on immigrants to build and maintain massive policing bureaucracies like ICE and DHS. In their search for solutions to the continuing crisis of immigration policy, activists might consider focusing at least some energy on the reasons of the federal state rather than solely on state legislatures, white voters, elections and the immigrants.
- Alec MacGillis, “Minutemen Assail Amnesty Idea,” Washington Post, May 13, 2006
- “SPECIAL REPORT: Homeland Security Appropriations for FY 2005 (House & Senate) and California Implications,” The California Institute for Federal Policy Research, September 16, 2004
- “DHS Announces $12.14 Billion for Border Security & Immigration Enforcement Efforts,” Department for Homeland Security, January 31, 2008
- “Militarizing the Border: Bush Calls for 6,000 National Guard Troops to Deploy to U.S. – Mexican Border,” Democracy Now, May 16, 2006
- Wikipedia profile of Military Commissions Act of 2006
- “The American Dream Survey 2006,” Lake Partners Research, August 28, 2006
- “ICE Most Wanted Fugitives,” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Accessed March 19, 2008
- N.C. Aizenman and Spencer S. Hsu, “Activist’s Arrest Highlights Key Immigrant Issue,” Washington Post, August 21, 2007
- “National Strategy for Homeland Security,” Office of Homeland Security, July, 2002
- “The National Security Strategy of the United States of America,” The White House, September, 2002
- “National Strategy for Homeland Security”
- “Information Sharing and Analysis” The Department of Homeland Security, Accessed March 19, 2008
- “National Strategy for Homeland Security”
- Wikipedia profile of Alien and Sedition Acts
- Regin Schmidt, Red Scare: FBI and the Origins of Anticommunism in the United States, (Copenhagen, Denmark: Museum Tusculanum Press, 2000).
- Walter R. Borneman, 1812: The War That Forged a Nation, (New York, NY: Harper Collins, 2004), 13.
- John Morton Smith, “President John Adams, Thomas Cooper, and Sedition: A Case Study in Suppression”, The Mississippi Valley Historical Review 42.3 (December, 1955): 438-465
- Samuel Sitgreaves, Speech Can be found in Abridgement of the Debates of Congress From 1789 to 1856, (New York, NY: D. Appleton and Company), 253-260
- Edmund Burke,Thoughts On The Prospect Of A Regicide Peace: In A Series Of Letters, (Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, LLC, October 2, 2007,)
- Stephen Hartnett, Jennifer Rose Mercieca, “Has Your Courage Rusted? National Security and the Contested Rhetorical Norms of Republicanism in Post-Revolutionary America, 1798-1801,” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 9.1, (Spring 2006), 79-112.
- Paul Douglas Newman, Fries’ Rebellion: The Enduring Struggle For The American Revolution, (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004).
- Todd J. Pfannestiel, Rethinking the Red Scare: The Lusk Committee and New York’s Crusade against Radicalism, 1919–1923, (New York: Routledge, 2003).
- Schmidt, Red Scare: FBI and the Origins of Anticommunism in the United States.
- John A. Noakes, “Enforcing Domestic Tranquility: State Building and the Origin of the FBI”, Qualitative Sociology, 18.2, (June, 1995), 271-86.
- Noakes, “Enforcing Domestic Tranquility: State Building and the Origin of the FBI”
- Kenneth D. Ackerman,Young J. Edgar: Hoover, the Red Scare, and the Assault on Civil Liberties, (New York, NY: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2007).
- William Preston Jr. Aliens and Dissenters: Federal Suppression of Radicals, 1903-1933, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994).
- Deepa Fernandes, Targeted, National Security and the Business of Immigration, (New York, NY: Seven Stories Press, 2007).
- Martie Cenkci, “At Technology’s Front Line,” Airforce Outreach Program Office Outreach Prospective, 5.4, (Fall-Winter 2006), 10-11
- “National Strategy for Homeland Security”
- Alexandra Walker, “Sensenbrenner: Immigration Profiteer,” The Real Costs of Prison Weblog, October 5, 2006
- Text of H.R. 4437 at The Library of Congress
- Roberto Lovato, “Sensenbrenner Under Fire – Does Congressman Profit From Undocumented Labor?,” New America Media, October 6, 2006
As we continue pondering the black vs white simplicity of the very base discussion of politics and religion raging in the Empire right now, I offer you some wisdom from Monsr. Oscar Arnulfo Romero, the patron saint of the that tiny, but powerful, flea of a country, El Salvador, home of my ancestors and family. On this day in 1980, Romero was cut down by death squad operatives led by Roberto D’Abuissoon, a pathological killer trained, funded and politically-backed by the Administration of Ronald Reagan. Romero’s transformation from very conservative priest to pastor of the pueblo is among the more stunning, St. Paul-like transformations in memory.
If the Catholic church hierarchy were less in league with the darker forces of this earth, Romero would already be officially recognized as the saint that he is. Yet, as you will note form his words below (and from this FREE BOOK OF ROMERO QUOTATIONS), Romero would likely look upon such official recognition as a sign of failure and decadence.
Friends of mine who knew and worked with Romero all say knowing him was one of the formative and unique experiences of their entire lives. I would hope that my own life reflects at least some of the goodness and clarity I still find in his example, his words, his will to the transcendent.
Happy Monsr. Romero Day.
Romero Quotes taken from “The Violence of Love”:
Transcendence means breaking through encirclements.
It means not letting oneself be imprisoned by matter.
It means saying in one’s mind:
I am above all the things that try to enchain me.
Neither death nor life
nor money nor power nor flattery–
nothing can take from one this transcendent calling.
There is something beyond history.
There is something that moves the threshold
of matter and time.
There is something called the transcendent,
the final goal.
God, who does not let things contain him
but who contains all,
is the goal to which the risen Christ calls us.
MAY 27, 1979
A civilization of love
that did not demand justice of people
would not be a true civilization:
it would not delineate genuine human relations.
It is a caricature of love to try to cover over
with alms what is lacking in justice,
to patch over with an appearance of benevolence
when social justice is missing.
True love begins by demanding what is just
in the relations of those who love.
APRIL 12, 1979
If there is not truth in love, there is hypocrisy. Often, fine words
are said, handshakes given, perhaps even a kiss, but at bottom
there is no truth.
A civilization where trust of one to another is lost, where there is
so much lying and no truth, has no foundation of love. There can’t
be love where there is falsehood.
Our environment lacks truth. And when the truth is spoken, it
gives offense, and the voices that speak the truth are put to silence.
APRIL 12, 1979
A church that suffers no persecution but enjoys the privileges and
support of the things of the earth–beware!–is not the true church
of Jesus Christ.
MARCH 11, 1979
When we speak of the church of the poor,
we are not using Marxist dialectic,
as though there were another church of the rich.
What we are saying is that Christ,
inspired by the Spirit of God,
declared, “The Lord has sent me
to preach good news to the poor”–
words of the Bible–
so that to hear him one must become poor.77
DECEMBER 3, 1978
Were this a more just planet-one in which musical tastes were less segregated-this world would better weigh the passing of its brilliant son, Israel “Cachao” Lopez, the father of the “mambo”, descarga y mucho mucho mas.
This world would inhale for a moment of silence before taking another moment to syncopate the silence with the sounds of Cachao’s profound musical legacy, a legacy with more children than he could ever count-and still growing; Were this world less color-conscious and more musically enlightened, the spell-check on this or any other software program would recognize the word “Cachao” in the same way that it recognizes words like “Beethoven” or “Miles”. With his intensity, creativity, he and his beloved wooden bajo (bass) have done their part to inspire the kinds of revolutions that alter musical destinies and software programs. His time, our time approaches.
I for one, am very sad at the passing of one who was for many like a musical Babalao, a high priest, a great teacher, the keeper of the ancient knowledge that defines us. Cachao now lives in that Pentheon of musicos who power my own madness from the asylum of the Great Beyond, better known as “El Mas Alla”.
Yet, I also celebrate the privilege of having seen Cachao and listened to and danced to his music, music that future generations Of Américans will come to respect and enjoy as we continue the work of making this a more just world. If you’d like to hear some of the background music of the movement that has and will continue to alter the course of this soon-to-be-less unjust world, check out Cachao’s website. As much as I love the lyricism and life of words, no literary muse can substitute the main Muse that whispered in Cachao’s big, brown ears.
Israel “Cachao” Lopez Presente!
Y con todo nuestro respeto te damos muchisimas gracias, michisimas.
(Please forgive the sound and visual quality of the video below, but it’s the only version on the web of one of my favorite Cachao song, Lindo Yambu. Despite the low production values, it’s good enough to pay respect to one of Great Value by singing the Cuban (not Greek) Coro,
Que Bueno, Que Bueno Ah Eeh
Denouncing Colombia’s recent military incursion into Ecuador as a violation of its charter, the Organization of American States (OAS) passed a resolution rejecting these actions by the government of Alvaro Uribe.
This article from the BBC reproduced the OAS declaration that Colombia’s military action was undertaken “without the knowledge or approval of the Ecuadorean government, which constitutes a clear violation of articles 19 and 21 of the OAS charter”. The OAS also mentioned Colombia’s “clear apology” for its incursion.
What’s galling about this is not so much the condemnation of Colombia (anyone reading Latin American media could’ve predicted that). No. What should concern is the near uniformity about the border incursion on the part of the U.S. media -N.Y. Times, CNN, Fox, etc.- , the overwhelmingly majority of whom towed the Bush Administrations’s defense of “our ally” line. Like much of the mush on Venezuela, the MSM’s reporting on border incident focused on the human rights violation of the FARC guerillas and on the “aggression” of the Chavez government.
Lost in the inanity of U.S. reporting is this fact: neither FARC nor the governments of Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador COMBINED (and throw in Cuba if you wish) have a total number and kinds of human rights violations on this magnitude:
– The U.S. has, since 2000, sent more than $4 billion in military aid to Colombia
– 1,771 unionists have been assassinated in the last decade
-486 Colombians have been killed by the state in 2007
Such radical distortion and cover-up makes obvious how we live in a society in which government propaganda has given way to the private sector propaganda. Today, public opinion is aligned by the consensus between news organizations and government around issues elites deem as strategic. All of this should serve as a reminder for us to be vigilant about the Bush Administration’s attempts to trip Venezuela and Bolivia into a war by using the U.S.’s Latin lapdog, the Uribe government. Cuidadito con esto. Really.
“There is no instance of a nation benefiting from prolonged warfare”
Sun Tzu, 6th century Chinese military strategist
Racial Idealism vs Racial Realism: OBama’s Effort To Bridge the Divide and the DLC
New America Media, News Analysis, Roberto Lovato, Posted: Mar 19, 2008
Editor’s note: Obama’s electrifying speech in Philadelphia on race and race relations points to the realism-idealism gap between his camp and Hillary Clinton’s, writes NAM editor Robert Lovato. Lovato is a writer based in New York.
Barack Obama’s speech in Philadelphia eloquently displayed how the Obama and Clinton campaigns are divided by race idealism versus race realism.
Combining the statesman’s calm cadences with the reverend’s passion, Obama delivered what was arguably the crispest, most important delineation of U.S. race relations by a presidential candidate since Abraham Lincoln gave his House Divided speech.
In response to the ongoing racial pyrotechnics seen most recently in the controversies surrounding Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s former pastor whose racial denunciations from his Chicago pulpit have drawn criticism, and Clinton-backer Geraldine Ferraro who sparked controversy after saying, “If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position,” Obama used his abundant rhetorical gifts to advance the cause of race idealism. His speech tried to weaken the relentless pull of our racial past on our electoral present by pointing to a post-racial future.
“This nation is more than the sum of its parts,” he declared before a very racially mixed crowd of supporters sitting and swooning in Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center. “We may have different stories, but we hold common hopes.” The elevated responses in the Constitution Center seemed to simulate the paintings of children and adults of various ethnicities dancing in a circle as they rise from the ground.
In stark contrast to Obama’s strive-for-higher-ground idealism is the boots-on-the-ground march of the pre-eminent practitioners of racial realpolitik: the Clinton backers of Washington’s Democratic Leadership Council (DLC).
Caught between the current reality of an electorate that’s still mostly white and a primary process that reflects stunning demographic shifts, the racial politics of the Clinton supporters in the DLC reflect a strategic decision to consolidate their white base. Viewed from this vantage point, the DLC’s re-engineered appeals to white racial solidarity preview the new politics of the white minority era that looms on the racial horizon.
More than any other political machine in this very tense political moment, politicians affiliated with the DLC have developed policies and made statements that reconfigure racial politics beyond the Southern Strategy – appeals to white voter fear and anxieties with anti-black policy proposals that successfully transformed the once Democratic-leaning South into a Republican stronghold – that still defines much of the Republican racial realpolitik. DLC affiliates have more or less formed a beeline to make racial comments appealing to white voters as an unprecedented racial reality has come upon America: white minority status.
DLC operatives seem to recognize how quickly the political process is moving past the black-white racial politics towards a Sunbelt strategy targeting a more diverse and demographically different country, increasingly concentrated in the sunny southern states stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Like Obama, the DLC recognizes and anticipates the inevitable domination of the electoral college by Texas, Florida, California and other states heavily populated by Latinos and Asians.
Among the most recent comments and policy proposals by DLC affiliates reflecting the Sunbelt strategy are: the Geraldine Ferraro statement; the strong support for the anti-immigrant policies of the very punitive, anti-immigrant STRIVE Act by Rahm Emmanuel and James Carville, an enforcement-heavy immigration reform proposal which many Congressional Hispanic Caucus members have said will increase racial profiling; the anti-immigrant ads used by DLC Chair Harold Ford during his Senatorial bid in Tennessee; DLC stalwart Bob Kerrey’s claim that Obama attended a “secular madrassa”; the numerous racially-charged comments made by former DLC leader Bill Clinton, and, of course, Hillary Clinton in the course of her own campaign.
These most recent statements and policy proposals by DLC affiliates reflect the DLC’s insights into the post-Southern Strategy, post-Dixiecrat moment. This vision was developed by several of the mostly southern founders of the DLC who, in their zeal to combat the GOP successes with white voters through the Southern Strategy, rejected the affirmative action and other “identity politics” in the Democratic party to return to the old white identity politics.
Asked about the statements by Ferraro and other DLC affiliates, DLC’s press secretary, Alice McKeon, declined to make a statement. Asked if Ferraro was affiliated with her organization, McKeon answered, “I’m not prepared to say anything about that right now.”
Longtime DLC critic and editor of the Black Agenda Report, Bruce Dixon, sees in the ratcheting up of racial politics in this primary season the DLC’s aspirations to make Democrats more competitive against the GOP. “The historic position of the DLC is that they want to compete for Republican voters and corporate dollars,” said Dixon. “Their support for the SAVE Act, the racial attacks on Obama are rooted in this desire.”
Dixon has for many years also questioned the relationship between the racial statements and policy proposals of DLC members and the major funding it receives from corporations and from foundations like the Bradley Foundation, a philanthropic organization which gave the Progressive Policy Institute, the DLC’s think tank, over $200,000. Bradley Foundation also has a long history of giving money to organizations and individuals dedicated to decimating civil rights like Charles Murray, author or the controversial Bell Curve who still supports thoroughly baseless racial ideas like the belief that there’s a correlation between race and intellectual capabilities. “The Clintons, Rahm Emanuel and the DLC have to say these (racial) things because their corporate sponsors need a segmented and divided workforce,” said Dixon. “They can’t possibly do anything else.”
Yet, given the chronic inflexibility of politicians of all stripes to articulate the real problems of race in the United States, Obama’s race idealism may, in fact, mark the beginning of, as he promised, real change. Charles Murray himself noted this on the National Review website after Obama’s speech. “As far as I’m concerned, it is just plain flat out brilliant—rhetorically, but also in capturing a lot of nuance about race in America,” he wrote. “It is so far above the standard we’re used to from our politicians.”
Race idealism, who knows, may very well carry the day beyond the primaries and the general election.
Today’s Boston Globe had a good piece on how the right is using Obama’s success to illustrate the success and, hence, the obsolescence of Affirmative Action.
Seems anti-Affirmative Action ghoul Ward Connerly has found in the Obama phenom another creative yet cynical way to advance his own political fortunes. The article describes how he and some of the major right wing hate factories – the Manhattan Institute, the Goldwater Institute and Project 21 to name a few- are sapping blood from the youthful Obama movement to energize themselves before trying to completely drain affirmative action of whatever blood it still has. Connerly is about to swoop down on the very vulnerable remnants of the civil rights legacy this election season, according to this piece in Ms. Magazine.
Turn on the sunlights, break out your crosses and garlic cuz it’s time to defend ourselves against the living dead-again.
This story from ABC 7 in Arlington, Virginia reports on the latest ad antics of the anti-immigrant set. Ads placed across the U.S. by a group calling itself the Coalition for the American Worker (CAW) are blaming black unemployment on Latino immigrants.
The problem with the article is that is fails to point out that the main group behind CAW is Numbers USA, a racist hate group headed by Roy Beck, who is also the spokesperson for CAW.
To further entangle matters, the spokesperson in the ads is Frank Morris, a former head of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, whose “facts” are wholly and absolutely fudged:
That ABC-7 should cover this so uncritically no longer surprises given the degree to which lies and myth have thoroughly saturated the political sphere and society in general.
But what this should move some of us to do is re-read people like Hannah Arendt, Jacques Ellul and others who’ve watched the especially rapid spread of such screed in times of crisis. Give their latest racial riffs, Hillary Clinton’s campaign seems to have caught on – but in the wrong way.
All the more reason to make three of my favorite words today’s anti-mentira mantra: Claridad, Claridad, Claridad.
We live in such reactionary times that rare is the moment I can read an editorial in the New York Times (or most other of the few remaining dailies) and agree with any depth of emotion.
After all, we do live at a time when “liberal” is the new “right wing”.
But for today, at least, I do agree with the empire’s paper of record. This editorial appears to bear the mark of lone Latina NYT editorial board member, Caroline Curiel, or someone who did their homework.
This line, in particular, seems unprecedented for the NYT or any other member of the MSM:
Speculation of a black-Latino rift has not been backed up by a lot of data — and it usually ignores the fact that many Latinos are themselves black.
Let’s repeat this in bold letters for good measure” “Speculation of a black-Latino rift has not been backed up by a lot of data“. Too bad they didn’t say this before race relations were dealt such devastating blows in this primary. Still, we should recognize this -and use it for future reference -and to reinterpret what happened.
Seems that the editorial board even criticized New York Times writers like Adam Nagourney who, in this more typical example of the high brow trash that passes for reporting on race, said just weeks ago,
Mr. Obama confronts a history of often uneasy and competitive relations between blacks and Hispanics, particularly as they have jockeyed for influence in cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.
Wooing the Hispanic Vote
When the subject of Hispanic voting has come up in the past, skeptics have sometimes challenged whether Hispanics really represent a voting bloc. It’s a fair observation, considering the diversity within the category. Mexican-Americans make up the majority of Latinos in the United States, but there are growing numbers with ties to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Central and South America.
Beyond language and some elements of their cultures, many Hispanics in America share the experience of being regularly dealt out of opportunity. The Hispanic dropout rate approaches 50 percent in some cities. Nearly one-third of Latinos lack health insurance even when they have jobs. In economic hard times, Latinos, who frequently are paid lower wages, can suffer disproportionately.
What seems clear is that if the campaigns want to sing their way into Hispanic hearts this election year, they need to carry a tune of opportunity.
This article from the L.A. Times talks about the first Central American Studies major established at any university in the U.S.
I had the privilege to work with students and faculty to help found this new discipline, which, from its inception, adopted a transnational approach that surveys the reality of Central Americans on the isthmus and here in the United States.
You can also find the piece below.
Central American studies gaining acceptance
By Larry Gordon
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
March 9, 2008
The large wave of refugees from war-ravaged Central America that arrived two decades ago has transformed more than neighborhoods, the workforce and restaurant cuisine of Southern California.
Now, as Vanessa Guerrero’s new diploma shows, the influence of that migration is being embraced academically by one of the region’s largest public universities.
At her recent midyear graduation from Cal State Northridge, Guerrero became the first student in the United States to earn a bachelor’s degree in Central American studies, officials say. Eight years after starting the nation’s first minor in the field, the school took another unprecedented step last fall by elevating it to a diploma-worthy major.
Like many of her classmates with family roots in Central America, Guerrero said she wanted her studies to help pierce the walls of silence that older generations built around memories of violence and economic turmoil in their homelands.
“A lot of our families don’t talk about it very much, and if they do, we hear only one side of the story,” said Guerrero, 23, who was 5 when her family fled civil war in El Salvador. “I was definitely interested in learning more about my culture and my history.”
Some friends questioned the usefulness of Central American studies, an interdisciplinary program in history, sociology, literature, anthropology and the arts. But Guerrero, a North Hills resident who also majored in business administration, said the courses “helped me understand the issues of why people migrated, why we’re here, why I’m here” and would aid her plans to become an immigration or family law attorney.
Cal State Northridge has one of the largest groups of Central American students in the country, most of Salvadoran and Guatemalan descent. An estimated 3,500, or about 10% of the student body, were born in Central America or have immigrant parents who settled here, often near downtown Los Angeles or in the San Fernando Valley.
The university is known nationally as a pioneer in ethnic studies. Its Chicano and African American studies departments arose from late 1960s student protests, and the campus later added programs in Asian American, Armenian and Jewish studies. Supporters say ethnic studies are needed in a multicultural world, while critics contend that those classes foster racial identity instead of solid scholarship.
Central Americans constitute the vast majority of the 50 students enrolled in the new major and the several hundred others taking its courses. But some students had little previous contact with Central American cultures and “really want to understand this community and work with it,” according to program coordinator Beatriz Cortez, who was born in El Salvador and is an expert in Central American literature and art.
The program offers 21 courses, including Survey of Central American Literature, Changing Roles of Central American Women and others about film, religion and revolutionary movements. It has three full-time professors plus six others who work part time or are from other campus departments.
“Some of us recognized a need for there to be a kind of academic discipline to both document and analyze the Central American experience, especially given the huge Central American population in places like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington,” said Roberto Lovato, who helped found the program and has taught in it.
At first, classes cobbled together readings from various sources because textbooks about Latino literature and history tend to concentrate on Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and Cubans. “We are the new kids on the block, and we still have a long way to go,” said Lovato, a son of Salvadoran immigrants and now a writer in New York.
Larry Estrada, president of the National Assn. for Ethnic Studies, said that Central American classes are usually included in more general Latino programs and that Cal State Northridge’s degree is the only one he knows of in the country.
“It’s a welcome addition,” said Estrada, a professor at Western Washington University. (Cal State established a Central American minor last year within its Latin American studies program.)
Northridge’s Central American classes were initially part of Chicano studies. People involved say the split involved sentiments akin to Central Americans’ resentments about Mexican American dominance in Latino life in Los Angeles.
“Central American studies was a new entity, and it deserved its own space,” recalled professor Rodolfo Acuna, founder of the university’s Chicano studies department. “No group wants to be eclipsed by another.”
The Central American program faced initial budget and planning problems, and its status will be reviewed in five years. But it seems to have escaped earlier ideological battles surrounding ethnic studies at schools nationwide, in part because it does not focus on one country or ethnicity. For example, UCLA students staged a two-week hunger strike in 1993 to gain departmental status for Chicano studies, a goal not reached until 2005.
The Cal State Northridge classes look at Central America’s seven nations — Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama — and their complicated tapestry of cultures and languages. Next fall, the program will add a professor, an anthropologist who specializes in the Creole and African-derived cultures along the Caribbean coast.
At a recent class of Modern History of Central American Peoples, instructor Celia Simonds lectured to 30 students about the federation that included most of the now-separate nations in Central America from 1824 to 1839 and the tensions between liberals and conservatives over economic and religious issues.
Simonds also spoke of how the region’s racial prejudices affected her own Costa Rican family. Her mother, a dark-skinned woman with some indigenous ancestry, was ridiculed by Simonds’ light-skinned paternal grandmother of Spanish heritage.
Another frequent theme is the political and emotional aftermath of the conflicts in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. Douglas Carranza, an anthropologist who is director of the program’s affiliated research institute, said some students’ parents were afraid of opening old wounds. “It is sometimes too painful to talk about,” he said.
But he stressed that student curiosity about family travails soon expands into many other topics, such as ancient history and environment.
Josue Guajan, for example, was born in Chicago and raised mainly in Guatemala until his family returned to the U.S. when he was 16. Through a Cal State Northridge class he realized, “I didn’t know that much about Central America, even though I lived over there. That made me keep going and keep learning.”
Now 23 and a double major in television production and Central American studies, the Van Nuys resident wants to become a documentary filmmaker specializing in the region. He is a leader of the Central American United Student Assn., which has provided water-supply equipment to Salvadoran and Guatemalan villages.
Karen Romero, a U.S.-born daughter of Salvadorans, said she delayed graduation to take extra classes for a double degree in history and Central American studies. Now 25 and a resident of the Mid-City area of Los Angeles, she wants to teach history in high school or college and thinks her Northridge education will help her better relate to students in ethnically diverse classrooms.
Her mother, she said, was upset at first that Romero was studying Central American politics because it revived memories of friends murdered because of activism at Salvadoran universities in the 1970s. Now, Romero said, her mother is “very proud” and tells relatives her daughter “knows more about the history of Central America than we do.”
The most interesting development coming out of Texas yesterday was this fact: 1 of every 5 voters was a Latina. “Latina”, not “Latino”. A stunning development that previews the future in other U.S. states whose demographics will start resembling those of Tejas and California. This piece from New America Media goes into greater depth.
Hispanic Women Outvote Men in Texas
New America Media, News Report, Roberto Lovato, Posted: Mar 05, 2008
Editor’s Note: One of every five votes in Texas was cast by a Latina, helping to sway the state toward Clinton, writes NAM contributor Roberto Lovato.
In one of the tightest races in memory, the Texas primary brought Latinos to the polls in record numbers – and many of these were women. One of every five votes in Texas was cast by a Latina; Latino men constituted only 14 percent of those who voted.
The feminization of the Latino vote in Texas benefited Clinton. As in other segments of the electorate, Clinton’s pull among women earned her 66 percent of
Latina votes, compared to the 58 percent she received among Latino men.
The surge in Latina voter participation in Texas was due to several factors, including the on-the-ground efforts of groups like the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project (SVREP), which launched a major nonpartisan campaign to reach thousands of Latina voters though traditional and non-traditional methods including barbecues, church meetings, phone banking, text-messaging and emails.
“It’s clear that (Latina) women voters were a key base vote in the election,” says Lydia Camarillo, SVREP’s vice president who spearheaded their work in Texas. Asked why most Latinas voted for Clinton, El Paso native Camarillo points to the long history of the Clinton family in Texas as well as the possibility of making history by electing the country’s first female president.
“They were voting for a woman,” says Camarillo. “They felt a sense of history with her. The under-30 voters were going for Obama. I saw a lot of people with conflicts up until the very last minute. But, in the end, they seemed to be voting for the person that they knew the best.”
Camarillo credits the Clinton and Obama campaigns with the increase in Latino voter participation. “It’s exciting that Latinos were being targeted so heavily by both campaigns,” she says. “Both understood and invested in the Latino electorate in ways we’ve never seen.”
Close to a million Latinos voted, according to Camarillo, making the Texas primary historic.
This coming Wednesday, March 5th, yours truly will be joining a stellar panel of thinkers- and doers- in the netroots. Sponsored by the Nation Magazine and Moveon, “Left out in the Open” will explore how the netroots is transforming -for good and for bad- the left. I will try to hold my own in such smart, capable company. You are cordially invited to come to:
City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center, Proshansky Auditorium, 365 Fifth Avenue (near 34th Street). The event starts at 6:30 and sounds like it’s going to fill up. Some come early, come
all as many different colored beans we can cram in there.
See you there!
Left Out in the Open — The Netroots & Progressive Politics
This Nation event will convene progressive leaders and writers for a lively discussion of how the netroots are changing progressive politics. Participants will include Katrina vanden Heuvel, publisher and editor of The Nation; Zephyr Teachout, assistant professor of law, Duke University, and an architect of Howard Dean’s Internet strategy; Matt Stoller, a founding blogger of OpenLeft and President of BlogPAC; Roberto Lovato, a writer at New America Media and blogger for Of América; and Ari Melber, a correspondent for The Nation and a contributing editor at Personal Democracy Forum. The event is free of charge. Please arrive early. Takes place at CUNY Graduate Center, Proshansky Auditorium, 365 Fifth Avenue. The event starts at 6:30.
In their harried pursuit of Latino votes in previous and in upcoming primaries like that in Texas, candidates Obama and Clinton have added another to the still-growing string of records broken this election year: number of times the phrase “Si se puede” has been used in a U.S. presidential election.
The record is being broken in large part thanks to the powerful, yet deadly combination of the exponential growth in the Latino electorate and the fabulous lack of imagination of campaign strategists. In their efforts to highlight the “intimacy” and “unity” between the candidates and Latinos, rally after rally in Dallas, Houston, El Paso and other urban, suburban and rural parts of Texas has included loud, mantra-like repetitions of the Spanish language phrase, which means “Yes We Can”.
Originally coined in 1972 by my friend, United Farm Workers co-founder, Dolores Huerta, “Si se Puede” became the UFW’s motto ; It then transcended the UFW to become an important slogan for many labor, immigration and other historic struggles involving the country’s largest “minority”.
And now, in what appears to signal another mainstreaming of a Latino trend, many, if not most Clinton or Obama rallies include some mention of the English or Spanish or English and Spanish language political slogan (see New York Times pic above).
While it is true that the mainstreaming of “Si Se Puede” provides us with another signal of how the larger body politic is successfully adjusting to the death of the black-white electorate, this mainstreaming comes at a high cost: the cheapening of “Si Se Puede”. To transform a term rooted historically in the salt of the earth struggles of working class Latinos in the campaigns of candidates who also repeat mantra-like the phrase “middle class” alters and diminishes the political value and movement power of “Si Se Puede”. That my friend, Dolores Huerta, uses the term to promote her favored candidate, Hillary Clinton, saddens me less because I am anti-Clinton than because I was pro-Si Se Puede since my political childhood.
Before the inevitable moment when big corporations start using the term as slogans in ads selling us cars, burgers and tampons arrives, let us put up a big “No Pasaran” (They Shall Not Pass) before the forces of Little Political Imagination: BOYCOTT “SI SE PUEDE” IN ELECTIONS-AND BEYOND. Such a boycott may well free up and force the creative energies to come up with newer, fresher and less-compromised political language.
Si Se Puede is Dead. Que Viva……………………….