Skip to main content


Thu Oct 04, 2012 at 10:13 AM PDT

10 Months of Chasing Romney

by RedVyking

I’ve shaken Romney’s hand three or four times, recorded a priest being manhandled by a member of his congregation at a demonstration and heard stories of children crossing the desert that they watched adults die in. I went from Romney rally to Romney rally in primary states across the country, hearing what GOP primary voters value. I’ve heard the most irrational Teabagger arguments imaginable, video’s I’ve had a hand in have made national news that Mitt Romney has publicly fumbled over at debates and interviews and I’ve been at demonstrations in at least 10 states. It’s been interesting riding shotgun in the DREAMer movement.

Starting in January, I began writing the articles on immigration law, the DREAM Act and demonstrations for DRM Capitol Group, an immigration advocacy firm that I cofounded. Those articles would become the book Chasing Romney, focusing in on his immigration policy and the lives of DREAMers. Staying on the couches of undocumented immigrants, I watched mixed immigration-status families struggle with policies that relate directly to their families, many times separating loved ones or making life unmanageable. I’d often compare this to my own perspective, being one of the whitest kids you’ll ever meet from the Long Island suburbs: you can get my old neighbors fired up on immigration, but it’s always “those illegal immigrants,” caricatures drawn of people who are far away.

Texas is soon expected to become a swing state. This is largely due to the demographic shift of Mexicans coming into Texas. They are completely turned off by anti-immigrant, anti-Latino dog-whistle politics they’ve seen this year despite the Spanish-language ad buys. A good example of this was Erika Andiola, a DREAMer, being put into a headlock during a demonstration by a white male cop with enough muscle and tattoos to be a UFC fighter at a “Latino Outreach” event in San Antonio. Erika was one of a dozen Latinos at the event, even though the entire venue was packed to the rafters. I’ve talked with more than one conservative Latino in Texas saying he can’t vote for anyone who talks like Romney on immigration issues like the DREAM Act and SB 1070.

Arizona, which I’ve heard referred to as “the new Mississippi of racism,” is torn over immigration. The two vocal groups on the issue are aging white retirees moving in as a Western alternative to Florida and young Latinos often fleeing the conditions at the border. Similar to Texas, Arizona is turning into a swing state on immigration issues. SB 1070, an Arizona state law that spawned several similar laws in other states, became a national issue as it was partially struck down by the Supreme Court. SB 1070 was loudly applauded by Romney and most Republicans, condemned by Democrats and, for Latino families, it all went down on Telemundo.

Where a politician stands on SB 1070 and the DREAM Act have become the litmus tests on immigration and, ultimately, with the Latino community. If you ask an angry white guy what SB 1070 is about, they might say something vague about the economy and “those illegals.” If you ask someone in Arizona too brown to be perceived as white, but not so brown as to be black thus finding themselves in a potential Latino swatch on the color wheel what SB 1070 is about, they answer, twice as sure, that it’s about Joe Arpaio’s posse finding an excuse to frisk them.

This primary season, we saw Mitt Romney jump to the right on immigration issues so that he could look more conservative while he hid his more liberal past as Governor. This was best exemplified when Romney claimed that Perry didn’t have a brain because he supported in-state tuition for DREAMers. It’s not difficult to extrapolate from this, as well as many of his other remarkably consistent immigration stances in an inconsistent career, that he will sacrifice Latino issues quickly when the politics demand it.

In following Mitt Romney for 10 months, I’ve learned a lot about politics, immigration and how different people around the United States feel about today’s political issues. The biggest different between the Latino community and angry white men that the Republican Party consists almost entirely of is the immediacy of the issue. Walk around Dallas or Phoenix, both in states the Republicans are starting to lose, and you’ll find a lot of people who know someone who can’t work, can’t drive or is being deported solely because they were brought across the border as a child. For Long Island suburbanites, the DREAM Act is a small part of the broader economic debate that can be won on other sub-issues, and immigration in general isn’t something they think on much unless they’re blaming someone for long lines at the Emergency Room. For a mixed-status community, what to do about DREAMers’ difficult status is a large part of many debates, but not immigration: they all already agree on the DREAM Act.

Originally posted (by myself) at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...

Discuss

Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 11:07 AM PDT

Undocuqueers

by RedVyking

An excerpt from the book Chasing Romney: How Mitt Romney is Losing the Latino Vote

    I walked into a room that was filled with some unusual characters.  I saw Marla, a young girl I met when we were both crashing at Caesar’s and an Arizona protest.  Eric was there too, and also Danny, a familiar face from some Arizona protests.  There were around twenty other people in rows of seats in a small box of a room with one purple wall.  Against the purple wall was a table with five speakers and a small eraser board with every imaginable undocumented, gay and Latino slur written on it from faggot to wetback to beaner.  I never did quite get the story behind that board.

    We made our way into seats, and I sat next to a girl with a crew cut and very nervous, energetic disposition, sitting curled up on her seat.  She rocked with pent up energy and seemed a little sensitive.  Considering the accepting environment, her squirrely ways were pretty easy to overlook.  In front of us was a man in partial drag, his clothing being androgynous, while her earrings were clearly feminine, as was what appeared to be a little bit of makeup.  In front of me sat a couple with a deep-fried southern accent, covered head to toe in exotic Japanese tattoos, their tattoo artist being an associate of  Horiyoshi III, whose tattoo museum blew me away in Yokohama.  

    When the guys behind the table started talking, they began with their coming out stories.  Some confessed how they promised themselves every year they would come out on their birthday, but every birthday was passed in a closet.  Others recalled how their religious parents didn’t accept it, saying things like God wouldn’t make a gay person, why do you choose to be gay?  

    It was a charged room, with many members fighting back tears the entire time as they heard stories similar to their own most traumatic experiences.  They shared how, even within the DREAMer movement, a group of guys who know what it’s like to be slandered ruthlessly, they’ve experienced trouble finding acceptance.  They have often had to “tone down the gay” after they noticed uncomfortable jokes and laughter around other DREAMers who came from conservative homes.  Considering how a common gesture in the room was an attitude-alluding finger snap followed up immediately with a hand on a hip, this was a pretty damn gay group, and I understood how a guy not used to gay people could feel uncomfortable.  It must have been refreshing for them to be able to gay it up so much in that moment.

    In addition to their stories of rejection and separation from family, which undocumented immigrants are often much more dependent upon and closer to, they shared how the undocumented angle often isolated them from the gay community.  Again, these guys have been screwed in a nasty PR way to get Bush into the White House.  Unfortunately, like the undocumented guys not necessarily understanding gays, gays often just don’t typically understand the undocumented experience unless they’re somehow connected themselves.  

    The guys share about how it’s tough to go out and pay for dates with no cash or right to work.  This often leads to essentially becoming an amorous bum.  “And when things go well and it’s time to have fun, you have nowhere to take them to,” one offered in a quick outburst, sending the room into laughter for a few minutes.  I thought about my camper trailer and how I was living in Erika’s driveway, and couldn’t help but empathize and laugh harder at that one than most.

    The tone became a bit more somber when one DREAMer talked about his grandfather.  He was asked what’s more of a challenge, being undocumented or gay, and he answered being undocumented all around the room.  The Undocuqueer spoke of how, when his grandfather was dying, he desperately to see him.  Unfortunately, with his status he couldn’t make it back across the border to his life in the U.S. if he went to the funeral without risking the desert or some other elaborate plot, to which his grandfather objected.  Months later, he was again desperate and heartbreakingly denied.  This time, it was the opportunity to mourn his grandfather with his family in Mexico that was blocked because of his status.  He said it was hard to be gay sometimes, which everyone agreed with, but he saw more opportunities to build a good life for himself being blocked by his immigration status than by his sexuality.  Again, everyone agreed.

    The queer DREAMers then explained how, because they had difficulty finding acceptance in their family, they found a new family within their community.  One DREAMer lit up when he talked about how they celebrated his birthday, and he talked a little about a few other family-type celebrations within the community.

    At the end, they claimed that anyone could come out.  Jorge was the man who pushed the gender boundaries a bit with his earrings and hints of makeup.  He stood up, stated said that he was gay and a DREAMer, and, although he wasn’t trans, he was comfortable in drag and wore it often.  He choked back tears as he said how it was so hard for him to be open about who he was, how supportive the group has been and how important that support has been.  Everyone applauded or snapped to encourage as he said “I’m a queer, faggot, wetback, cocksucking beaner, it’s all true and it’s alright.”  More than one person cried with him.

Discuss

Wed Sep 12, 2012 at 09:07 AM PDT

The DNC's Latino Theme

by RedVyking

“Undocumented immigration has slowed, however, the human rights situation has only gotten worse at the border as mom and pop coyotes are replaced by drug cartels looking to expand into new markets as the drug trade becomes more dangerous or less profitable” said the Mexican diplomat.  He continued on to talk about how the DREAMers were a loss to his country, because they took their talent from Mexico to stay in the U.S.  He did, however, endorse the DREAM Act, along with every other speaker at the venue.

We were in a small room in Charlotte, North Carolina, where an immigration group had put together a meeting.  Senator Dick Durbin was there to talk about how Senator Orrin Hatch, who joined Durbin for the DREAM Act because he had his own similar legislation in the works, no longer even votes for it.  Several mayors and a few DREAMers had also come out to share their opinion on immigration in a surprisingly small venue considering the speakers.  

Meanwhile, across town, Michelle Obama was speaking at the Hispanic Caucus.  Later, Eva Longoria, Senator Durbin and President Obama spoke about undocumented immigrants at the podium, and there was a DREAMer on the stage to speak for herself.  The Keynote Speaker was Julian Castro, the Mayor of San Antonio.  Dolores Huerta was honored at a dinner as a recipient of the Medal of Freedom, and seemed to turn up absolutely everywhere.  For the first time, there were over 800 Latino delegates.  Clearly, the Democratic National Convention has a strong Latino theme this year.

Outside of the Democrat Party official happenings, Voto Latino held a panel with speakers such as Lawrence O’Donnell, Rosario Dawson, Jose Antonio Vargas, Maria Theresa Kumar and Cecile Richards.  Though they spoke on women’s issues, voting rights and other progressive themes, the subject that had the most discussion was undocumented immigrants.  

Jose Antonio talked about the trauma of finding out that he didn’t have citizenship as a teenager applying for a driver’s license and the kindness of the woman at the DMV that warned him to never use his green card again.  If he had shown it to the wrong person, instead of going on to be a part of a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist team, he may have been deported to the Philippines.  After he had become an accomplished writer, a man approached him with an underlined copy of his article, asking him why he thought he could just go get a license despite his status in accusing tones.  Jose calmly explained that he didn’t do it to spite him, it was because he needed to pick up groceries and get to work.  After that, the man just said “oh” and walked off.  

When Cesar, Erika and I had left the panel, we stumbled onto the Undocubus.  They were kneeling in the middle of a four-way intersection on a canvas, holding signs reading “UNDOCUMENTED” over their heads.   Along the top of the canvas was painted “Sin Papeles, Sin Miedo,” with a monarch butterfly painted in the middle.  The group embraced the monarch butterfly with its great intergenerational migration to Mexico as their symbol.  On the sidewalk were protestors, lined up and chanting, some of them with a bullhorn.  They chanted “Education not deportation,” refusing to leave until those kneeling in the street were arrested.  The police struggled to push media, rubbernecks and protestors back from the intersection as a dozen cameras were elevated above the crowd’s head.  

Jose Antonio had come out to see the demonstration when word made its way back to the Voto Latino crowd, and Rosario was hugging a tearful protestor.  The police pulled up those demonstrating in the street to bring them to a van and ultimately hold them in a cell overnight.  “We really need to have better representation, and that’s why we continue to have to keep seeing soldiers of the battle keep going down one by one until finally there is a critical mass to make a difference,” Rosario told nearby reporters as demonstrators were being handcuffed and pulled into police vans.  “That’s what it takes,” she said. “For all of you who just got arrested, I want to commend your bravery. Things will change. We are here with you.”

The Latino vote is why Arizona is showing a shade of purple and Texas is predicted to be a swing state as soon as 2016 (an important factor in the potential of Julian Castro).  Looking forward to 2016, it may very well be battling Latino candidates, both from Latino-heavy swing states.  Mitt Romney is absolutely committed to being to the right of the already-right-wing immigration stance of his party, claiming that Rick Perry had no brain because he offered undocumented children an education.  This will hurt them now, and for years to come.

There are many things that Latinos, as well as every other group, will forget between elections.  Considering the horrible human rights abuses taking place on the border, waving goodbye to a loved one being sent back to a country filled with poverty and violence they desperately crossed a desert to escape isn’t one of them.  This may be an extreme example, but the Latino community is filled with stories of escape and desperate survival.  To them, one party extends an olive branch to it’s most sympathetic community members, fragile as it may be; the other, the middle finger of an angry, xenophobic white man frightened of change.

Discuss

Wed Sep 05, 2012 at 01:56 PM PDT

Arrests at the DNC

by RedVyking

    “Education not deportation!  Education not deportation!” was the chant escaping from the protestors and megaphones.  There were protestors in the middle of a four-way intersection, kneeling on a large mural they laid down painted by Fabiana Rodriguez, holding spray-painted signs above their heads that read “undocumented.”  The mural read read “Sin Papeles, Sin Miedo” with a large monarch butterfly, whose intergenerational migration the Undocubus has embraced as a symbol of their own, painted in the center.  The police were pushing media and onlookers backward by the time Jose Antonio Vargas, Cesar Vargas, Erika Andiola and myself made it to the scene.  “Let me know when you’ve got something up” Jose said as he walked around the crowd to get a better look.  

    The Undocubus is aptly named: it’s a bus driven across the U.S. to pick up undocumented immigrants along its way to the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Charlotte.  Aboard was Gabby Pacheco from United We Dream, artist Julio Salgado and dozens of other activists.  They issued a statement online, saying “We came out because we are tired of the mistreatment.  We are tired of waiting for change and we know that it never comes without risk or without sacrifice.”

Although undocumented immigrants, as well as Latinos in general, strongly prefer the Democrats to Republicans, the comparatively comforting rhetoric hasn’t helped to slow down the deportations.  When they went to the DNC to protest, they knelt down in the street, obstructing traffic and chanting.  The police tried to dissuade them, but they refused to listen, chanting away.

    Nearby there was a Voto Latino panel where Jose Antonio had finished telling his story about when he went to the DMV to get a driver’s license, only to find out that his green card was a fake and he was undocumented.  “After I was published in TIME Magazine, somebody came to a panel I was talking at and he had my article underlined with him, so I was like ‘oh great, now I know he’s read it and wants to talk about it.’”  When the man approached him asking “Why do you think you can just go ahead and get a driver’s license” accusingly, he told him that he didn’t do it to spite him; he did it because he has to get groceries and drive to work.  His questioner just said “oh” and wandered off after.

Rosario Dawson, Maria Theresa Kumar, Cecile Richards and Chris Matthews were there as well, all adding their voice to a discussion that went from immigration to women’s rights to voting rights.  When Matthews finished speaking, we all went outside, and soon walked into the spectacle unfolding in the street.  On the other side of the police and crowd, Fabiana was passing out flags with butterflies that she had painted on bamboo poles.  Next to her were a dozen protestors chanting, one of them into a bullhorn.

    The police addressed the demonstrators, pushing the crowd back, trying to disperse them to no avail.  They cited the law that they violated by demonstrating there and pressed them with the threat of arrest.  It was about this time that Rosario Dawson showed up, hugging a protestor in tears as the police put handcuffs on the demonstrators in the street.  “We really need to have better representation, and that’s why we continue to have to keep seeing soldiers of the battle keep going down one by one until finally there is a critical mass to make a difference,” Rosario told nearby reporters as demonstrators were being handcuffed and pulled into police vans.  “That’s what it takes,” she said. “For all of you who just got arrested, I want to commend your bravery. Things will change. We are here with you.”

Discuss

Florida has had a rough election that hasn't even started yet, especially for Latino voters. There have already been several overreaches which have been pulled back in Florida, either by the justice system for illegality or by Republicans for marketing purposes to bury the public outrage in the news cycle. This does not, however, indicate that the voter suppression efforts have stopped, or even slowed down.

Jim Greer, former Chair of the Florida Republican Party, went on Al Sharpton's show to boldly cast the nearly transparent curtain aside from the ugly face of the Wizard of Florida. In Florida, as in other states, it's not the Democrats' imaginations that are creating voter suppression issues; rather, it's the systemic and predictable way in which Republicans are trying to discourage people likely to vote Democrat. They do this by creating arbitrary and unevenly enforced laws to create confusion and ultimately discourage the other side's voters.

After an electoral spanking last cycle that was largely the backlash to neoconservative overreaches in the Bush Jr. years, Republicans were reflecting on how to deal with the surge of new and minority voters. "I sat in on many meetings where it was discussed how to make sure what happened in 2008, when Obama brought out the college-aged voters, the minority voters, never happened again" said Jim Greer.

Greer talked about how he was invited into many discussions as the head of the GOP in Florida, so he knows where some particularly rotten bodies are buried. There were discussions that early voting was going against Republicans, and so they should shorten it to prevent African American churches from organizing to bring out the vote for early voting. Greer had even given sworn deposition that there were discussions on suppression, but never once in his 3 1/2 years as GOP Chair of Florida had he seen a meeting on voter fraud; he went so far as to call it a "marketing tool of radical Republicans" in state government.

Florida has a rather ugly history of voter suppression, and so is covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, requiring pre-clearance to any new laws which might throw it back to its much more openly racist past. Florida made 80 changes to its voting laws in 2011, and received pre-clearance for all but four. Which ones didn't get pre-clearance? The ones with the strongest racial overtones that they tried to slip by quietly.

Florida is required by the Voting Rights Act to offer a certain number of early voting hours, however, they tried to structure them in a way so as to discourage minority groups from voting. For example, they did away with early voting on the Sunday before the election, a time known for a huge black turnout because churches in the African American community push their voters to the polls that day; "Souls to the Polls" is what the churches call it. Republicans know that they won't get more than single digits of that vote, so they want to do away with it as much as they can, cutting down on voter hours and doing away with the Sunday before Election Day to hamstring the Souls. The courts struck this down, finding that it didn't offer the time required to safeguard the vote from racist rednecks by the Voting Rights Act.

In yet another transparent overreach, Florida came out with a law that required all third-party registration organizations to turn in their paperwork within 48 hours, or be faced with harsh fines. The League of Women Voters called this an impossible requirement that chased them out of Florida, while a high school teacher registering her students faced thousands of dollars in fines. Judge Robert Hinkle, presiding over the challenge to this law, said the law imposes a "harsh and impractical" requirement and struck it down.

Although the 48 hour requirement was struck down, Rachel Maddow shared some information almost too hard to believe. While Republican registration has remained largely unchanged in July of election year between 2008 and this year, jumping a bit from 95,525 to 128,039, Democrat registration has fallen from 259,894 to 11,365-- I defy Republicans to come up with an explanation and straight face.

Looking at some of the harsh laws which Florida has passed, it's easy to see how Republicans have implemented the game plan that Greer talked about them crafting for the past four years. They're throwing anything they can that may stick to get fewer African Americans and Latinos to vote, constantly discovering secret new belts to punch below. It's had a devastating affect on registration already, and the Republicans will fight for every law they can keep on the books without costing them more than it's worth. With Romney's unpopularity, this move is important enough to them that Republicans will probably be tattooing this issue's talking points on their henchmen.

Discuss

    “USA!!! USA!!!” they chanted at us to drown out our own chants of “DREAM ACT AND FULL EQUALITY!”  The gay priest was at the front of our little group, and a balding man with a red face and sunglasses got within a few inches of his face to scream.  Balding Guy, a member of Gay Priest’s former congregation, grabbed the priest and pushed him back violently.  The next thing I knew, a man in a cowboy hat and large, crooked, cigarette-stained teeth that he was baring had Gay Priest by the arm and bulled his way into him.  Erika was behind them, and took a misfired punch in the face as Cigarette Teeth barreled forward, screaming, swinging and pushing wildly.  A few people were sent back into me, and for a minute there he stood in front of me in the open.  I wasn’t sure if I should take a swing or not to slow the guy down, trying to figure out what the consequences of a potential escalation would be.  Erika was stumbling backwards into Felipe and Mayra.  Mayra was tiny, so Felipe grabbed her as the crowd was isolating her from the group, but I couldn’t see or record any of it.  Both Balding Guy and Cigarette Teeth ultimately ignored the neatly dressed redhead with the camera while they and a few other self-appointed redneck peacekeepers pushed them past me while I trailed behind.  

    “You see, Obama was an organizer, and organizers have no experience creating jobs.  They’re just agitators, looking to force a few corporations to make concessions, which a few of the weak ones do” she told me.  She was a 52-year-old woman standing next to me in a blue Romney shirt.  “Oh, you mean like ALEC?” I asked.  Sweating alongside her while someone 20 feet to our left hit the ground from heat stroke was a white haired friend.  “Oh no, that’s the…American Legislative Exchange Council, they’re not a corporation, they help write laws.”  I swallow bile when I reflect on her use of the word “help.”  

Both of my new companions wore blue Romney shirts and a rhinestone elephant pin.  I told them that I was an undecided Independent just here to cover the RNC, and they instantly became hardcore evangelists.  I told them I graduated CUNY School of Law, and they instantly took distaste as they knew it as a bastion of Liberalism.  That much they were right about at least.  One of their husbands saw me moving to some pretty good country while Romney sat in his Romney Jet and let his crowd roast in the sun.  He I couldn’t be all bad if I liked country.  They asked me if I liked taxation and big government, clapping their hands and then saying “then you know who to vote for” after I answered.  Traveling across the country, you learn that EVERYONE lives in some sort of bubble, though for these Floridians it seemed far stronger than normal.

“Of course corporations are supposed to be greedy, every decision maker has a fiduciary obligation to their shareholders to maximize profits.  I want someone who can navigate the laws and get the most they can without breaking the rules like that” I offered the group, tasting bile again.  With their rants about big government and regulations, it seemed that they wanted neither community organizers, nor government, to protect them from corporations and industry when they found it profitable to crush them.  They’re living in denial that the only reason we don’t still have children working in factories, like many other countries still do, is because of the progressive movement they hate so much.  I wondered if they realized the implications of their own argument, but decided to only nod along since I didn’t want to bring unwanted attention before the big show.  

My new companions told me about the recent polling that put Romney ahead of Obama in Florida, encouraged me to watch a documentary on Obama called “2016” and that they were confident he’d win.  Talking around with the crowd, it was more of the same: Liberals and the media are misinformed scum, we’re the only ones who understand the facts and Romney is going to crush Obama.  “We built it” was a strong theme, people completely denying the role that government had in building the infrastructure that American businesses were utterly dependent upon: American Exceptionalism doesn’t get groceries from the farm to the store before it spoils; paved roads, something many less successful countries still don’t have, does.

    The opening speakers on the stage were the usual variety, that is, local politicians.  Aside from a joke about everyone’s personal sphere of influence being more powerful than Clint Eastwood, they went through the usual routine that anyone who goes to these events is familiar with: Obamacare sucks, Romney will create jobs and lower taxes and Obama, nice guy that he is, tried BUT failed.  The biggest difference now was that they were talking about Paul Ryan’s mother instead of how Obama robbed Medicare.  The man behind me, who would engage in some of the shoving later, agreed loudly with every assertion made, giving a “YEA!” or “AMEN!”  When Romney came out, they cheered as fervently as I’d seen them at least a dozen other times before at any Romney rally, despite the fact that the delegates were putting up a fight for Santorum and Ron Paul right up ‘til the bitter end.  Romney dropped a few of the same lines we’re all used to, like a Broadway actor faking his own death and kissing the same girl for the first time twice every night, before passing the microphone to his wife.  

It always strikes me how friendly everyone is until they figure us out, usually when we start chanting.  Once the chants started and I began filming, the women took a step back in shock and offense.  This quickly led to the mild beating and berating.  After the chaos in the cowboy hat, the crowd parted nicely when the group was shoved through and quickly closed behind them, strongly encouraging us towards the exit that the police hurried us through. On the way out, some horrible woman with shriveled skin that looked like drooping, scorched earth, sort of a browner Jan Brewer, leaned over the barricade as far as she could with her equally horrible husband, screaming at us accusingly in tongues as she stuck a finger in my face.  It instantly brought to mind a dog barking at the end of it’s leash.  She was nearly completely hysterical in her fit of blind rage and, as I flipped them off over my shoulder while I walked away, I vaguely heard someone scream “nice.”  

All in all, other than Erika and our priest’s bruises, not a bad demonstration.

Catch the video for the demonstration at: http://www.youtube.com/...

Discuss

Thu Aug 30, 2012 at 09:27 AM PDT

DREAMers to the RNC

by RedVyking

There have been many groups that have felt the sting of Republican rhetoric and policy, from the "lazy people" that get hardworking patriot's money in the form of welfare, to the "parasitic" teacher's, police and firemen unions, to the women who feel that Republicans are insensitive to rape victims and domestic abuse victims because they fought against reproductive rights and the Violence against Women Act, called Sandra Fluke a "slut" and feel that the Republican party has outright ran an entire campaign against women's liberation this year. The Latino community has been affected as drastically as any, and will be showing up to the Republican National Convention en masse.

The majority of Americans agree with the DREAM Act and deferred action, which is why Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals has a 64% approval rating according to a recent Bloomberg poll. This is ignored by Romney, as he chooses to stick to his "self-deportation" immigration strategy, pushes SB 1070 as a "model" for the nation and surrounds himself with advisors like Kris Kobach, co-author of SB 1070. The rank and file of the Republican Party hasn't been much kinder, with the divide on immigration issues between the parties being made crystal clear when Republican Governors like Jan Brewer block driver's licenses offered by the Obama Administration and pal around with Joe Arpaio.

Beyond just the policies, the rhetoric on undocumented immigration has been harsh enough to completely turn off the Latino community. They often feel that they could very easily be in the same situation as their cousins, stuck rotting in a deportation center. No matter how many times Mitt Romney tried to work the words "legal immigration" into a speech or interview, anyone familiar with immigration issues knows he was referencing DREAMers. His deportation policy was even rightly pointed out by Newt Gingrich (who called Spanish the "language of the ghetto") as having no empathy. Whenever he says "legal immigration," whether it's to Jorge Ramos or a large crowd, Latinos know that he's just tiptoeing around an issue, what to do with undocumented students and young professionals, that he can't possibly win on.

All of this has not gone unnoticed by organizers, however. In response to the policies and rhetoric, local organizations like the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition have organized DREAMers and come out hard at events like the final GOP primary debate in Arizona, where Dolores Huerta spoke through the megaphone to a large crowd of Latino demonstrators and cameras. There are dozens of large, local organizations like this up to nearby Romney rallies, in addition to national organizations.

Having travelled from state to state, New Hampshire to New York, California to Arizona, Florida to Alabama and many more, the DREAMers are the only group I've never failed to see, and are the only organization that I have consistently seen since Occupy weakened and Ron Paul's demonstrators gave up. Nationally, groups like DRM Capitol Group and United We Dream have come into focus in the media, sharing DREAMer stories and helping to organize the large number of people who wish to voice their discontent with the U.S. immigration policy.

Busses organized by DRM were driven through Alabama and Florida, picking up passengers as they made their way to Tampa for the Republican National Convention. Another bus run by United We Dream walked its way across the country to the Democratic National Convention. The busses hold DREAMer stories, as well as the undeniable proof that Republicans have been deaf to the pleas of a sympathetic, politically influential group.

Discuss

It is unfortunate that this is what the country offers journalists at the moment, but this is the first of a series of articles dedicated to voter suppression efforts, each focusing on a different swing state. Pennsylvania is an interesting case, with suppression efforts largely focusing on a stringent new voter ID law. The laws are felt across the Democrats' base, however, it is the Latino community that may be hit hardest.

Despite the fact that Pennsylvania has a Republican governor and legislature, Pennsylvania has gone blue for the last 20 years in close contests. The Republican legislature then passed a measure signed into law by their Republican governor which Michael Turzai, Pennsylvania house leader, credited with handing Romney the state: a tough new voter ID law that has old black people recalling a time of overt racism when the government wouldn't let them vote.

One of these black seniors, however, decided that a couple of creaky joints wasn't an excuse to stop kicking ass. This Miss Applewhite, the 93 year old plaintiff in the case Applewhite v. PA, has never owned a driver's license. She feels deeply wronged by the prospect of losing the vote, and openly speaks about how it seems like people are trying to strip the black community of the vote again. Several plaintiffs in her case testified that they were too physically infirm to go to the DMV, and this is overlooking the other factors like transportation, time and scheduling it takes to get down to the DMV between shifts.

The judge in the Applewhite case, a partisan hack named Robert Simpson unfit to beat with my rolled-up Juris Doctorate degree, declined to delay the enforcement of the ID law until after the election. His reasoning for this was that the voters would all be able to register in time. The judge's theory overlooks two important things: 1) not everyone who wants to will have an opportunity to get to the DMV (such as the elderly and enfeebled), and 2) Pennsylvania has the lowest percentage of government workers in the nation, making a trip to their DMV worse than in any other state, with the least chance of succeeding in getting the ID they need.

What will happen when an estimated 750,000 people are disenfranchised, which is larger than the Obama's margin of victory in the state in 2008? What happens when they come flooding into a relatively low-staffed DMV in Philadelphia that is hardly ever open? Republicans know that this hurts the cities far more than it hurts their rust belt, chipping away a large portion, if not all, of the margin for Obama.

To top it all off, in perhaps the most transparent overreach in a series of transparent overreaches, the job of explaining the new voter ID rules was given to a firm owned by a major Romney donor's lobbying firm. Republican lobbyist and former state GOP executive director Chris Bravacos, who has donated $30,000 to Romney so far, received a $249,660 contract from Republican Gov. Tom Corbett to explain the new law in a process reminiscent of the no bid contracts Dick Cheney was so famous for. Since then, there have been complaints that employees of this firm haven't been given the correct training, the instructions on voter ID they're giving are often confusing and contradictory and overall it has been an incompetent (if not willingly bad) job. I wonder if the profit margins from this government contract that this firm was assigned, the very money saved by not properly training employees to help people get the correct ID, didn't partially find their way into Romney's campaign fund or SuperPAC?

Who does this law hurt the worst? Unsurprisingly it's Democrat voters mostly, however, somewhat surprisingly, it's Puerto Ricans in particular. In 2010, Puerto Rico decided that all birth certificates issued before 2010 were invalid, and so many Puerto Ricans in Pennsylvania do not own a valid birth certificate. With new laws coming into effect compounding the ID problem, it becomes a serious issue. "...if you are trying to get a birth certificate just to get a photo ID but you don't have a photo ID to get it, then you're in a typical Catch-22 situation" says Marian Schneider of the Advancement Project. With this new voter ID law being a recent development, many Puerto Ricans are scrambling to find some way to get a voter ID, though many of them will not be able to in time.

For Romney, Latino voters are a threat as he still trails at 22 percent to Obama's 70 percent in a recent Latino Decisions poll. These measures will harm a lot of Democrat-leaning demographics, the poor and minorities being good examples, however, nowhere will it be felt more acutely than the Latino community. Appeals are already being filed in the Applewhite case and the Justice Department is investigating, but there's no denying that Republicans will get at least some new rules through. Now it's only a question of whether or not the most egregious, controversial, transparent overreaches will be rolled back in time for the election.

Originally posted at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...

Discuss

Sat Aug 11, 2012 at 03:18 PM PDT

Paul Ryan for VP?

by RedVyking

Paul Ryan has been selected for the VP position, thus completing the anti-immigrant ticket for the Republican party.

The selection of Paul Ryan, a man who voted against the DREAM Act and has no plan other than deportation for undocumented immigrants, over Marco Rubio, a Latino who was at least working on his own watered-down alternative to the DREAM Act, reaffirms where Romney’s priorities are.   Marco had engaged the Latino community and could have been a strong voice within his administration on Latino interests, but was instead passed over for yet another generic, white Republican drafted from a Barbie Dreamhouse.

Paul Ryan has earned an 83% U.S. Border Control rating, and deservedly so: he voted for putting up a border fence between the U.S. and Mexico.  While this fence would be about as effective as the one that was climbed, broken through and tunneled under in Penn&Teller Bulls*t, it would be an expensive, useless project, and a symbol the Minutemen would love: an effort at a sealed border policy to keep the “wrong people” out of the country.

As a congressman, Ryan has offered some support to the Minute Men.  The Minute Men and similar organizations have made headlines as vigilantes involved in shoot outs to chase people coming across the desert back into the desert.  His budget, described as “not Christian” by a large group of nuns following him in protest, is full of deep cuts in services to the poor and will hurt many communities, Latino or otherwise.

On the DREAM Act, Paul Ryan has not only voted no, but also goes so far as to give an elaboration on his website about how we must secure the border and blames an unsecured border for why the DREAM Act can’t be implemented.  For Republicans, this secured border will mean more guns and barbed wire on the border, which Amnesty International has been fighting with a recent campaign because of the human rights violations it breeds.  For many of the people who were brought to the country as toddlers, this essentially boils down to a “tough on babies” stance: regardless of how hard that baby worked since being brought to the US or how talented, educated, needed by society or innocent that this baby might be, they’re to be sent back to the poverty and violence their parents crossed a desert with them in tow to flee.

Mitt is bringing on another man disconnected from the debate whose immigration policy is to put a military between the U.S. and Mexico and wait until a day when there isn’t a single Mexican walking through the desert to address immigration.  This is a transparent farce because that day will never come, and said farce will only box Romney into the corner even more with Latino voters.  Romney has shown a willingness to sacrifice the needs of his Latino constituency rhetorically debate after debate, such as calling SB 1070 a model for the nation.  Now it is obvious that, rather than broaden his appeal by listening to the needs of our communities, he will bring on someone who will help him energize his base, and hope that, between this and voter suppression, he will give have a fighting chance in Latino-rich states like Florida.

Reposted from my website, DRMCapitolGroup.com
Shameless plug of my new book: Chasing Romney: How Mitt Romney is Losing the Latino Vote

Discuss

    Today, the administration is discussing the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) policy, releasing some details to the policy which has been called an “Executive DREAM Act” by many within the immigration community.  While the new policy is agreed upon by all to be a temporary measure, this temporary measure was the only option to help undocumented youth left available to the administration by a Republican party which filibustered the DREAM Act.  Although Marco Rubio’s bill was slated to come out, it’s Republican representatives Lamar Smith and Steve King who are pushing hardest against the change of policy, assaulting DHS Secretary Napolotano from the House Judiciary Committee.  Representative King has already threatened a lawsuit, which he claimed that he will file in the upcoming weeks last week.  Anything Marco would have passed, would have had to get by those two first.
    Here are a few of the elaborations which the administration is making on the DHS deportation policy and work authorization: the application will include confidentiality language so that info is only shared with ICE if the application is denied because of criminal history, fraud on the application or threat to national security, actual deferred action request forms won’t be released until 8/15 to prevent fraud, travel allowed for humanitarian, employment and education reasons.  For “significant misdemeanor,” they define this as a sentence of 91 days or more, or a conviction for domestic violence, burglary, sexual abuse, firearms violation, drug distribution and DUI.  This doesn’t include, however, traffic offenses, driving without a license or anything related to anti-immigrant state laws such as SB 1070.  All this information will be much more detailed in an FAQ flyer and brochure to be released tomorrow by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  

Originally posted on DRM Capitol Group at http://drmcapitolgroup.com/...
Shameless self-promotion: Check out my new book Chasing Romney: How Mitt Romney is Losing the Latino Vote here: http://www.facebook.com/...

Discuss

Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 07:56 PM PDT

DRM in Mississippi

by RedVyking

My shirt was sticky with sweat, as were most of the other shirts I spied around me.  This included the shirts of 3 guys with microphone recorders, 3 large professional cameras, 2 smaller amateurish cameras and no less than 2 pretty women with microphones, heels digging deep into the dirt, being followed around by a guy with a large camera on his shoulder.  It was Mississippi, a notoriously sticky place, and we were all in the sun on some grass, across the street from a country club.  There were signs and chanting, which quickly turned into one DREAMer feeling like she was going to pass out in the heat.   We were on a small, green hill, surrounded by roaring highway.  Across the street, Romney’s latest country club fundraiser was being held.

A reporter for the SF Enquirer once told me that to make local news, you need to do something different.  For example, a pro-immigration rally doesn’t garner much press in San Fran, however, the Westboro Baptist Church coming to town will get every camera from FOX News’ best to iPhones to colonoscopes.  This may be why we were able do draw so many cameras, while an occasional redneck driving by flipped us off, screaming obscenities which I imagine are common in Mississippi.

While Willard was inside charming a few million out of Fifi, Miffy, Lexus and anyone else who has either owned or purchased a chihuahua damned to spend its life in a purse, DRM and local DREAMers were outside demonstrating.  We were on the opposite end of the street, but the chasm was obvious: it was a bunch of undocumented immigrants standing opposite a country club full of rich white people.  One of the demonstrators, Jacky, helps to give a stark contrast about the characters on each side that is often neglected at the debate.

Jacky was brought to the U.S. from El Salvador as a child, and is, having just turned 18, working in a restaurant to support herself and living on her own while trying to save a little for college.  With the death of her aunt, she’s been on her own now for the past year, and will be moving back to Alabama for a job and inexpensive place to live.  Ask her what’s fun to do in Mississippi and she’ll tell you she has no clue, she’s working all the time.

Inside the country club, Lexus, 27, is cutting a hundred thousand dollar check with money he didn’t earn because daddy thought it would be a good opportunity, and the photo will look great on his desk.  Lexus hasn’t quite found a job since graduating from business school, but whenever he was between jobs his trust fund always took care of him.  He’s never had to actually dip into “his” money to pay for his apartment because he’s got enough to get by in some decent style with the trust fund, in addition to some cash here and there his parents and grandparents give him, so every last penny he actually earns goes to pot, travel, hookers, blow, etc.  His sweet crib and newest car cost more than most of our educations.

Lexus, both in this country club and every country club across the country, wants to make sure his grandfather can leave all $20 million to him without taxes.  Not everyone in the country club will actually benefit alongside him, but they’ll all sign on and donate, it’s “their team;” GO TEAM COUNTRY CLUB!!!   Jacky, meanwhile, wants the opportunity to continue to provide for herself as a young woman with nobody to depend upon for support.

Outside, while our shirts stick more and more, a man in a pickup flips Jacky off as she sits down, a bit faint from the Mississippi sun and humidity.  It’s the strongest, heat and humidity I’ve ever felt it.  Inside the expensively chilled building, they eat cake.  It’s not hard to figure out who Romney’s trying to help, and it’s neither Jacky, nor the redneck flipping her off.

Republished from http://drmcapitolgroup.com/...
Shameless self promotion: Check out my book 'Chasing Romney: How Mitt Romney is Losing the Latino Vote' at http://www.facebook.com/...

Discuss

Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 12:46 PM PDT

The Implications of SB 1070

by RedVyking

    SB 1070 is perhaps the single most controversial piece of state legislation on the national stage this election cycle.  This legislation, a fault line cracking between party lines along one of the most controversial issues surrounding the fastest-growing demographic of Americans, has already gone before the Supreme Court.  All indications, from quotes from the justices, to the celebration dance Jan Brewer performed for the cameras saying the arguments went “very very very well,” point toward the conclusion that this will be yet another conservative 5-4 decision breaking neatly along predictable lines.  If this comes down the way its looking, this doesn’t bode well for states which allow themselves to get pushed to the right on immigration.  Several states have already tried these measures, and found them to be failing economic policies.

    In Utah, Indiana, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama, there have been laws similar to SB 1070 passed.  These measures have been incredibly expensive, profiting only those corporate prisons who hold the undocumented immigrants in deplorable prison conditions, and the lobbyists they send to K street to get more “tough on immigration” laws to fill their low-quality, for-profit dungeons.  These are typically conservative organizations, such as the “nonprofit” lobbyist organization, the American Legislative Exchange Counsel, or ALEC.  You may remember them from Florida’s “Stand your Ground” law, a law they helped author which translated to “shoot first and ask questions a few days later” for Treyvon Martin.

    In Arizona, when SB 1070 came down, churches reported their pews emptying out.  Many undocumented immigrants fled the state, selling their homes for whatever they could get, sometimes abandoning them.  This drove property values down.  According to a joint study by the Center for American Progress and the Immigration Policy Center, Arizona’s economy lost $141 million in the months immediately following SB 1070’s passing.  There was a drop in tourism that resulted in an estimated loss of 2,761 jobs, roughly a $253 million loss in economic output.  This doesn’t include the millions Arizona has spent to fight off discrimination lawsuits resulting from SB 1070.

    Like Arizona, Alabama has instituted its own immigration law, which is even tougher than Arizona’s.  The Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama says that this law could lead to a loss of $10.8 billion as the state loses 40-80,000 undocumented immigrants.  This will cost between 70-140,000 jobs.  This will cost the state between $57 and $264 million in state income and sales tax, crushing an already fragile tax base.  Undocumented immigrants abandoning homes will drive property values down, and counties will have to raise property taxes or cut vital services at a time when the normal state of affairs is for the pain to travel down debt-wise from the bloated federal bureaucracy down to the local county and town governments.  Already the agriculture industry across states with tough on immigrants policies are beginning to panic as the fruit rots on the vine because local farmers unable to find anyone to pick for them.

    Other states have clearly taken notice.  Recently, Kentucky concluded that passing Arizona-like legislation would cost the state up to $89 million annually, mostly to train additional law enforcement officers and personnel to implement the measure, according to a state senate-funded study.  The Florida Chamber Foundation last year argued that immigrant workers add $4.5 billion to the state’s coffers every year in the form of tax revenues.  In Georgia, roughly half of farmers are saying that they’re having trouble finding farm workers as a result of their immigration crackdown.  The Georgia Agribusiness Council says that migrant labor shortages could cost the state farmers between $300 million and $1 billion.

    These trends have also been observed at a more local level: Prince William County, Virginia, had its own failed experiment when it instituted its own SB 1070 legislation, well examined in the documentary film 9500 Liberty.  The police began aggressively checking ID for undocumented immigrants, and the town became deeply divided.  Business owners, Latinos and concerned citizens pled for a repeal, while others took to the street against them.  The undocumented population was chased out overnight, foreclosure rates skyrocketed and property taxes were raised by 25% as values plummeted.  Undocumented members of the community felt completely cut off by the police, harming public safety.     

    Eventually, an all white, 75% Republican board of supervisors killed the SB 1070-esque law in Prince William County.  This wasn’t born of empathy for the families that were broken up or the negative impact on public safety, it wasn’t even about the fact that it had turned the town to Hatfields and McCoys: like most things in the Republican party, it all came down to the Benjamins.  In the face of higher taxes and lower property value, the formerly ideologically-pure Republicans folded like lawn furniture and repealed the law after 8 weeks when they realized they were screwing everyone, including themselves.

    At a practical level, laws like SB 1070 don’t deliver the tax savings or human rights goals that they claim, but have torn communities apart, and destroyed local economies and jobs.  Right now, there are a lot of very conservative, job-creating farmers in unexpected places, i.e. Alabama, who are praying alongside mixed-status families that state legislatures come to their senses, or that the Supreme Court finds SB 1070 unconstitutional.  It has consistently been a failure from both a human rights and economic perspective, difficult to enforce and incredibly divisive in each community and state it’s been implemented in.  Police either look the other way and risk aggressive citizens filing a lawsuit, or are vulnerable to a discrimination lawsuit for enforcing the law.  

    In places where police do enforce SB 1070 legislation, the entire Latino community feels alienated and isolated from the police, becoming less likely to report crime.  This is compounded by Republicans blocking the Violence Against Women Act from protecting undocumented battered women who may otherwise feel too intimidated by the threat of deportation to report abuse.  All in all, it’s not pretty.

    The Supreme Court hasn’t issued its decision as of yet, but, if the quotes from Antonin Scalia or Jan Brewer are any indication, SB 1070 will be alive and well after they do later this week.  This will hurt conservatives, as it’s the Republican’s team that brought the lawsuit, and Romney’s gotta try to paint a robot grin on that.  Between this, all those highlight reels of him talking about immigration during the debates resurfacing, Obama beating Rubio to the punch of offering an alternative to the DREAM Act (one which wouldn’t compromise by having to put in military border security or whatever other concessions Rubio would make to Lamar Smith to not kill his bill in committee) and Mitt’s incredibly indirect, dodgey answers to straightforward questioning on whether or not he would repeal Obama’s new DHS immigration policy, Romney’s on the ropes with Latinos.

Discuss
You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.

RSS

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site