I read the NY Times article this week and on top of the raids, it really made me think about our current state of affairs. I know we all have individual political leanings and beliefs that make it impossible to say Latinos are all this way. And I wouldn’t even say that immigration is my number one political issue, but I think it would be dismissive to not admit just how much immigration impacts our communities overall. It may not be my number one issue, but collectively, it has to be a priority for us.
So we seek candidates that claim to support us, but I’ve been hearing about immigration reform since W Term One and nothing has happened. So we keep voting people into power that claim to support us and nothing happens. To quote President Bush, “Fool me once shame on you; fool me—you can’t get fooled again.” Well, except we’ve been fooled plenty.
And I think the main reason that this isn’t a priority within groups that have the power to allocate resources and make change, is that at the end of the day they don’t see or understand the connection they have to those living without documentation. The article cites how most liberal groups allocate little resources to this issue in comparison to things like marriage equality. This is likely because they can feel more empathy and connection with this issue than with immigration. If your family has been here since the 1900s, immigration will not be a pressing matter for you.
Then I remember President Obama’s shift in policy in regards to marriage equality. His position evolved after family dinners with his children. Children who attend elite private schools and happened to be befriend children who had gay parents. This softened his stance because there was a real connection that he could see and it drove him to make a public change. I’m pretty sure no undocumented parent can afford to send their child to school with the President’s children so, if we have to wait for this type of association, we will wait forever.
Instead, what can we do so that this issue—and all issues that are important for Latino communities—are actually acknowledged and addressed?
One. Vote in local elections. Yes the president is important, but if you want to make real impact on your communities we need to start at the local level. Voting in primaries and in local elections will give us more influence and power in the long-run. So register to vote and encourage everyone you know to vote as well. This is especially important as the articles cites that less than ½ of eligible Latinos case ballots in the last election.
Two. Run for office & encourage other Latinas to run for office. I know I’ve said this before—but it’s pretty clear: those in power prioritize issues that are important to them. So let’s get some candidates that actually will prioritize us—and that may mean we’re the ones that have to do it.
Three. Do pro bono. There are so many lawful permanent resident Latinos eligible to be citizens who have not done so yet. Get involved and encourage your family members who may be eligible to naturalize to do it. Point them to trusted community agencies/attorneys that can represent them. Or donate your time to citizenship workshops. Or even better, do some pro bono and represent them yourself.
The overall goal is to change the power structure so that those with power to change the system will feel a connection to our community and make sure that they prioritize our needs.