Category Archives: U.S. Ethnic Relations

The DC Playing Catch-Up MegaPost

Note:  It’s been a busy couple of weeks–on the work and on the personal side. But there’s no doubt that it’s a time full of change and excitement. So here’s me playing catch-up commenting on various things.

Work Stuff (Note: I’ve been helping both of these candidates)

The end of last week and the beginning of this week were quite busy. Last week, candidate for 14th Court of Appeals Julia Maldonado held her kick-off fundraiser at the Cadillac Bar. A great crowd launched the campaign, which will be a busy one for Maldonado, whose position represents ten area counties, including Harris.

After a busy weekend attending the Texas Democratic Women’s luncheon and the Victory Fund Brunch, candidate for Congress-District 7 James Cargas held his kick-off fundraiser at Theo’s in Montrose. Hosted by various leaders in the Greek community, Cargas utilized the opportunity to present his stances on various issues, including a call for added research funding for the Texas Medical Center. Cargas is busy this week attending various events for the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association in Washington, DC.

We’re getting close to sixty (60) days until election day, so it’s about time you all start paying attention to the candidates again. Stay connected.

The Kingwood Commies

Yes, that was a club I founded and I must say Mike Sullivan never attended a meeting.  Hold on. The whole commie story is about regulating electric rates in Kingwood? So, the District A member was just meddling in other districts again?

The Big Announcement is Coming!

I think I’ve told enough folks my big announcement already, but I’ll save it for Monday anyway. Needless to say, change is a-coming!

King Street PACtriots?

That’s right. A judge ruled today that the local teabaggin’ voter suppression group, the King Street Patriots is a PAC, not a nonprofit. I mean, c’mon! All of their events feature right-wing Republinuts, their agenda is right up there with the GOPs. They certainly haven’t invited me to speak. [Laugh hysterically.] My friend Anthony was right on:

“The King Street Patriots have been operating as a political entity while blatantly ignoring the laws every other political entity has to abide by,” said Texas Democratic Party spokesman Anthony Gutierrez in a statement. “It is time for this Republican front group to drop the facade, disclose their donors and start operating within the law.”

The Nightmare Act

Republatino Marco Rubio is now doing the bidding for the right-wing on their version of the DREAM Act–without the DREAM. Basically, he wants to provide legalization without actual citizenship–or any benefits of a naturalized citizen. The Republican Party hates Latinos–let’s just tell the truth, Marco. (I wonder if John Culberson has told him to simplify his name to Mark, yet.)

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Feds Reject Texas Photo ID Law

The Department of Justice rejected the Texas Republican-created photo ID law, as Hispanic registered voters were more likely than non-Hispanic voters to lack one of the required IDs to vote.

The department on Monday said Texas did not meet its burden under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and failed to show that the law will not discriminate against minority voters.

Michael Li at Texas Redistricting has a great analysis of the decision and some Q & A on it.

In its letter, DOJ noted that “according to the state’s own data, a registered Hispanic voter is 46.5 percent, and potentially 120 percent, more likely than a non-Hispanic voter to lack … [the required] identification” and that “[e]ven using the data  most favorable to the state … the disparity was statistically important.”

One particular note, also caught by Li, was how the law would effect people of limited means.

An applicant for an election identification certificate will be required to provide two pieces ofsecondary identification, or one piece of secondary identification and two supporting documents.  If a voter does not possess any of these documents, the least expensive option will be to spend $22 on a copy of the voter’s birth certificate.  There is a statistically significant correlation between the Hispanic population percentage of a county and the percentage of a county’s population that lives below the poverty line. The legislature tabled amendments that would have prohibited state agencies from charging for any underlying documents needed to obtain an acceptable form of photographic identification.

Yes, even when amendments were put forth to “lessen the blow,” as I’ve stated it, the Republicans rejected them. The case now goes to a three-judge panel for further consideration, but for now, it is delayed.

This law has nothing to do with voter fraud, as virtually no fraud has been found at polling locations. When as few as 1 million registered voters could be affected, it is quite obvious what the intent of this law is–to suppress the vote of Hispanics, African Americans, the Elderly, and people of limited means. It is about Republicans selectively shredding parts of the the Constitution and decisions on Civil Rights for their own benefit.

Quotes of the Day:

State Senator Jose Rodriguez (D) El Paso

“Today’s decision to block Texas’ voter ID law will ensure that the voices of Hispanic voters across El Paso, West Texas, and our state, will not be ignored as a result of highly partisan attempts to deny them the right to vote. The Department of Justice sent a clear message that it will not tolerate a law which infringes on the constitutional rights of Texas minorities, especially the millions of Hispanics in our state.

“Once again, despite several requests for evidence to the contrary, state leaders were unable to prove that the voter id law would not adversely impact minority voters.  As the Department of Justice’s analysis shows, Hispanic registered voters, in particular, are less likely to have photo identification or the ability to acquire photo identification because of obstacles, such as the lack of transportation.  This is why I voted against passage of the law.

Texas Senator Rodney Ellis (D) Houston

“There are more UFO and Bigfoot sightings than documented cases of voter impersonation,” said Ellis. “After years of testimony and debate, supporters of Texas’ voter ID law still cannot prove their case that voter impersonation is even a minor problem in Texas.  We, unfortunately, have plenty of evidence that it will disenfranchise legal student, elderly, African American and Hispanic voters.  The Department of Justice saw that evidence and made the right decision.”

More to come, I’m sure.

Librotraficantes Launches Trip at Casa Ramirez

An energetic crowd turned out to support Tony Diaz and his Librotraficante crew this morning at Casa Ramirez Folk Art Gallery, a popular Heights storefront for culture and literature. The caravan takes with them a payload of contraband books to Arizona while creating various Underground Libraries throughout the Southwest.

The historic weeklong journey includes stops in San Antonio and El Paso, Texas; Mesilla and Albuquerque, N.M., and culminates in Tucson, Ariz., touting a celebration of Quantum Demographics, or multifaceted cultural unity, by highlighting Mexican American, African American and Native American literary works along the route. On St. Patrick’s Day, Saturday, March 17, we’ll host a huge literary celebration of El Batallion San Patricio at 6 p.m., celebrating Irish and Mexican collaboration of the past.

The entire schedule is available online at www.Librotraficante.com.

Librotraficante is part of a response to recent laws in Arizona created to abolish Mexican American Studies programs. In some schools, books have literally been taken out of classrooms and stored away, thus banning them. Librotraficante has collected books and will traffic them into Arizona to ensure books are available to students.

“Arizona made me a Librotraficante,” said organizer and author, Tony Diaz, who has also brought together various banned authors who have donated to this cause.

Participating in Banned Book Bashes and Cultural Caucuses along the route are Sandra Cisneros, who kicked off our fundraising efforts by making a generous donation; Guggenheim Fellow Dagoberto Gilb, whose work recently appeared in the New Yorker and Harperssimultaneously; and best selling author Luis Alberto Urrea, with multiple titles found on the banned book list, was the first to enthusiastically support the project through Twitter.  Other literary giants participating in the Librotraficante Caravan include Rudolfo Anaya, whose seminal novel BLESS ME ULTIMA is banned; Denise Chavez, FACE OF AN ANGEL, who is hosting the caravan in Mesilla, N.M., and who organizes the Annual Border Book Festival; Lalo Alcaraz, creator of the syndicated comic LA CUCARACHA and who coined the phrase “Self Deport”; and Rene Alegria, founder of Boxing Badger Media and www.mamiverse.com, who attended one of the impacted high schools in Tucson.

“Politicians in Arizona have become experts in making humans illegal. We did not do enough to stop that, thus that anti-immigrant legislation spread to other states such as Alabama and Georgia. Now, these same legislators want to make thoughts illegal. If we allow this to happen, these laws, too, will spread. Other branches of ethnic studies will be prohibited, and other states will follow suit,” said Tony Diaz, author and director of Nuestra Palabra, organizer of the Librotraficante Caravan.

For more information and donate to the cause, please visit http://www.librotrafricante.com.

 

Supremes to Decide Affirmative Action: A Perfect Storm

It really does look like a perfect storm–well-coordinated and perfectly positioned, time-wise.

The Supremes will take on the issue of Affirmative Action at colleges and universities in the fall–around the time of the elections. It is scary to think that the Supreme Court could have a hand in turning back the clock; however, the attack against diversity is nothing new.

Ever since Dumbocrat AG Dan Morales opened the door to attack through his awful interpretation of Hopwood, the right-wing has been relentless. Any white kid who didn’t get into UT was given the right to blame any brown or black kid for blocking them from attending, it seemed. Forget that ones experiences could make that person a better candidate, or yes, even forget that Texas was becoming a lot more diverse, particularly when it comes to college admissions.

Back to the perfect storm, the Supremes are already taking on some hot topics regarding diversity, so “race” will be in the news from now on as arguments and opinions fly about. What adds to the worry is this:

But there have been changes in the Supreme Court since then. For one thing, Justice Samuel Alito appears more hostile to affirmative action than his predecessor, Sandra Day O’Connor. For another, Justice Elena Kagan, who might be expected to vote with the court’s liberal-leaning justices in support of it, is not taking part in the case.

Kagan’s absence probably is a result of the Justice Department‘s participation in the Texas case in the lower courts at a time when she served as the Obama administration’s solicitor general.

I can already see the responses or excuses, like “we are colorblind,” or “we don’t need it anymore,” or “things are better, you should be happy with that.”

And those are just the nicer ones. Don’t even read the comments in the Chron

Ultimately, this just shows how important elections really are. There is no sense in waiting to see what the decision may be; it’s just time to get out the vote!

Re-Committing To Voter Registration

There’s no doubt that 2012 is weighing heavily on our minds. With Republican-led voter suppression efforts becoming law around the country, the intent of these efforts is obvious. It’s what we don’t see that we should be worried about, according to my good friend Stan Merriman, who had this op-ed in the Chron.

The Harris County tax assessor-collector has re-created the equivalent of a regressive poll tax by maximizing the time and travel costs of voting. He forces most voters in Harris County to reapply over and over. He then decides whether to allow a citizen to remain on the registration rolls by a secretive purging operation that, even after the lawsuits by the Democratic Party mentioned in the Jan. 30 article, remains largely obscured from public scrutiny. No increase in the voter rolls for this dynamic and growing community is the result.

The Tax Office suspends or cancels voter registrations based on something like a credit check. The office calls it a live check; it sends personal identification information into a so-called “fusion center” and, from there, to where nobody will say. In any case, the unreliable information returned from various sources is used to disqualify or misdirect voters. This is not subject to audit and barely subject to appeal. You the voter just show up at the polls to discover when it is too late to do anything about it that you are not qualified to vote. Just making a simple change of address is difficult and risks cancellation. Voter registration in Harris County is really a lifetime reregistration process costing millions their right to vote and the county millions of dollars.

Many believe new voter identification rules will suppress turnout, but whatever effect they may have is dwarfed by the huge voter suppression caused by our registration process.

There are solutions.

He goes on to give some simple, common sense solutions, so read the rest of the article.

Meanwhile, a voter group has filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas for some of these practices.

The latest lawsuit filed in the Southern District of Texas courts names Texas Secretary of StateHope Andrade and takes aim at the state’s new mandatory training for all volunteer registrars – in which almost anyone who handles a voter’s application as part of a registration drive has to complete training before he or she can be “deputized” to operate in any Texas county. A spokesman for Andrade refused comment.

Population growth in Texas exceeds most other states, while many voter registration rolls throughout the state remain stagnant. As of January, 12.9 million Texans had registered to vote -up just 2 percent from January 2008.

There’s no doubt that this is all part of a pattern to suppress voting opportunities for Texans across the political spectrum. Through some spies, I’m hearing of other things that may be launched soon to cut folks off the rolls. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about this in the near to not-so-distant future.

More than ever, voter registration will play a major role in the 2012 elections. It’s time to recommit to ensuring Texans remain on the rolls.

It’s time to “true the democracy,” don’t you think?

Stay connected!

Professor Acuna Sounds Off on Arizona

Dr. Rodolfo Acuña, Professor Emeritus of History at Cal-State Northridge, sounded off in The Progressive on Arizona’s recent banning of Mexican American studies courses, books, and materials, asking the question:  When do you start to count?

When the great Muhammad Ali was asked how many sit-ups he did, he responded, “I don’t count my sit-ups. I only start counting when it starts hurting. That is when I start counting, because then it really counts. That’s what makes you a champion.”

These words resonate in Tucson, where Latina/o students are fighting for an education by sitting-in in the office of Tucson Unified School District Superintendent of Schools John Pedicone, walking out of classes, demonstrating, and taking to the streets.

Students are dispelling the myth that Mexican Americans do not care about education; they have started counting because it hurts. They know the difference between having subject matter that is relevant and having those books warehoused, between having teachers who believe in what they are teaching and sitting through classes where teachers go through the motions.

Read the rest here.

I agree with Professor Acuña when he says that the purpose of this is to intimidate other groups who may want to fight back against injustice. And as he says, this is about keeping Mexicans in their place–without a sense of history, without a sense of self. When liberals begin to realize what this is all about, then we can have a conversation about “Latino outreach” in politics. Otherwise, we’re just grasping at whatever is left.

Houston Group Will Venture in Knowledge Trafficking

One of my favorite literary nonprofit groups, Nuestra Palabra:  Latino Writers Having Their Say is getting into the trafficking biz:  Knowledge trafficking, that is.

Many of you have heard that along with banning Latinos, generally, Arizona is doing away with ethnic studies programs, thus, banning Latino-created literary works, including works by highly renowned authors like Sandra Cisneros and Guggenheim Fellow Dagoberto Gilb.

Nuestra Palabra is organizing The Librotraficantes Banned Book Caravan to Arizona. March 12 – 17.

The caravan will be filled with authors and activists who will be taking banned books back into Arizona, to give away. The bus will be filled with authors who were banned, new authors, as well as other advocates concerned with preserving First Amendment rights of Equal Protection and Freedom of Speech.

The Caravan will be making stops in Texas, New Mexico, and, of course, Arizona. More stops will be listed as they are finalized. More will be added as funding permits.

It’s time for Texas to support this effort. You may make your contribution at Librotraficante.

One DREAM Turns to Nightmare

By now, you’ve heard of Joaquin Luna, an 18 year-old DREAMer who committed suicide because he feared his immigration status would continue to be a barrier to a better life–for himself and for his family.

To call Joaquin’s suicide tragic just is not enough. One might say that he was indeed a victim of bullying. Beyond a dormant Congress and a President who has not used any significant political capital to push for comprehensive immigration reform, instead stepping up enforcement efforts to the tune of over 1 million deportations, the series of Republican presidential debates has made a mockery of immigrants and immigration reform.

Some candidates have resorted to bullying, like Herman Cain who joked about electrifying the border fence. Rick Perry has exhibited a lack of a backbone by supporting the Texas DREAM Act without pushing for some sort of legalization, and now turning toward a more punitive approach on the issue–even consorting with Joe Arpaio. Mitt Romney has flipped himself about on the issue in order to appease the right-wing. The rest of the list has basically made themselves out to be members of their neighborhood militia on the issue.

If this rhetoric scares multi-generation American Latinos who fear merely being profiled without much consequence, can you imagine what it does to an innocent undocumented kid who is already living in fear?

I guess we don’t have to imagine it anymore.

From the beginnings of this effort for comprehensive immigration reform, there has been a debate among activists regarding the type of lobbying approach to take to convince politicians and people to side with “us”. Arguing from an economic standpoint, one can point out many positives. And from a human standpoint, one can argue about inhumane treatment of people on so many levels. But when something like this happens, one isn’t left with much to argue.

Obviously, this is not the time to give up; if anything, it is a time to re-commit to and re-engage on the issue.

Recently, the State Democratic Executive Committee voted to place a referendum on the 2012 Texas Democratic Primary ballot in support of the DREAM Act. This is an opportunity to send a message throughout the country that the DREAM Act would be good for Texas and America. And it is an opportunity to engage and re-engage Democratic Texans on the issue. And it is an opportunity to get involved in the Democratic Party to ensure the Party and its elected officials are held accountable on the issue.

Making a political statement based on such a tragic circumstance is a risk for me. But the reason for Joaquin’s demise is a very political circumstance fraught with policy and rhetoric based on political expediency and fear mongering. So, a statement must be made through the political process at every opportunity. In Texas, the Primary referendum on DREAM is the next opportunity.

To Joaquin’s family, my most sincere condolences, as well as my most sincere thanks for being as public as they have been about their tragedy and the reasons behind it.

DOJ Refuses to Grant Pre-Clearance to TX Photo ID

According to a report from Talking Points Memo, the Department of Justice has decided that it cannot grant preclearance to the Texas Voter ID Law because the State of Texas has failed to provide enough information.

Texas provided “incomplete” information that does not enable federal officials to determine whether their proposed voter ID law would be discriminatory, the Justice Department said in a letter Wednesday.

Essentially, the letter from DOJ Civil Rights Division Voting Section Chief T. Christian Herren Jr. restarts the clock on when the Department has to make a decision about whether the law signed by Gov. Rick Perry complies with the Voting Rights Act. They have 60 days from when Texas sends them complete information.

Herren writes that Texas did not provide any of the required data on race. Texas said that the voter registration process does not require an applicant to state his or her race, but they are trying to compile the information from Department of Public Safety information as quickly as possible.

Secretary of State Hope Andrade could have used various ways to measure the number of Hispanics who would be affected by the Voter ID Law; instead, they chose the Rick Perry tactic of delay-delay-delay (along with hoping that no one is looking while they violate the VRA). Well, they’ve earned this delay. Unfortunately, it is the people of Texas who are footing the bill for all of these political games.

More to come, I’m sure.

Update:  Rebecca Acuña from the Texas Democratic Party released this quote:

“The Republican Party has fabricated this voter impersonation myth to implement policies meant to disenfranchise specific voters.

The Republican voter suppression legislation was unquestionably created to keep certain people from voting. In fact, the limited data that the state has furnished shows that Hispanic voters would be disproportionately disenfranchised. It’s clear that the DOJ’s patience is running out.”

Kudos to the folks at Texas Democratic Party for fighting the good fight on this one.

How About We Call them Humans?

The Texas Tribune, bless their hearts, provided us a debate today on whether a group of human beings who are simply looking for economic opportunity should be called “unauthorized” or “illegal.”

Right-wing Rep. Jose Aliseda of Beeville, seems to be trying his best to separate himself from Latinos, though he does take the “legal” route.

Referring to persons, things and matters in their proper legal terms and common definitions is very important for a lawyer and should be important for a layperson and society as a whole. This is supposed to be a nation of laws, after all.

In that case, I’ll refer to him in a more human terms:  insensitive, selfish, egotistical, and self-loathing.

On the “unauthorized” side is Dan Kowalski, who gives a better argument in terms most lawyers, unlike Aliseda, would understand.

To the question, what part of “illegal” don’t you understand? I answer: every bit of it, including the distinction between jaywalking and murder, between littering and grand theft; in short, between malum prohibitum and malum in se — that is, the things we’ve decided to regulate versus the things we all agree are evil.

Of course, there are also the things that people like Aliseda turn away from, like the blatant disregard of the Voting Rights Act as if the undocumented are going around committing voter fraud. Aliseda and his sort will create “voter fraud” and violate the very laws that protect voters. But no, let’s blame an easier, defenseless target.

Although I can see where Kowalski is headed with his argument for “unauthorized,” in that it is a status that can be changed, it seems society generally fails to point to the positive aspects of the immigrant community; especially in the overall debate. Instead we get into debates like these, and Republican La-TEA-Nos like Aliseda can promote hate-filled legislation and force positive legislation to die in the name of politics–a vote.

I appreciate Kowalski’s end that we should be pushing for comprehensive immigration reform. But whether it is right-wing hate-speech or the indifference of a Democratic administration that chooses to waste political capital on other things, CIR is not happening, thus giving the Trib the ability to debate words, rather than help push the effort for CIR.

I wonder what Aliseda would call my 4th generation American mom, or my 2nd-generation American dad who would gather old clothes for, and provide food and drink to, “los mojaditos” who would be trekking along train tracks close to our house. I know I’d call them humanitarians.