I attended the Latino Congresso this weekend in Los Angeles. The Congresso had it's first meeting last year and based upon it's success the delegates decided to make the Congresso an annual event. From the Press Release:
In September 2006, history was made with the first comprehensive gathering of Latino organizational leaders, elected officials, and activists at all levels since 1977. Some 2,000 leaders from 20 states and 700 organizations and elective offices gathered and agreed on action strategies and policy positions on 64 key topics of vital concern to our community, nation and world.
The event took place at the Sheraton, in downtown Los Angeles, for five days: Friday, October 5th to Tuesday, October 9th; over 3,000 leaders convening. Focused on empowering Latinos in the political process, the Congresso was represented from all over the Country and highlighted by a Delegate Resolution Proposals, voter registration drives, and various workshops that covered topics such as mobilizing the Latino vote, census and Redistricting, Immigration, Election System Reform, Globalization and the effect of Trade Agreements like NAFTA, the War in Iraq, War on Terror, U.S. Foreign Policy and 9/11.
The Kucinich Campaign participated at the Delegate Level, passing two resolutions: one calling for the Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff’s Department to shut down a telephone hotline set up to encourage people to report the whereabouts and activities of persons the callers suspect of being in the country illegally and the second resolution denounced the Minutemen Project as one that "promotes violence, hatred, racism and discrimination, which are not representative traits of the honorable and just American society that has a rich legacy of immigration and inclusiveness."
On Saturday Elizabeth Kucinich:
addressed a luncheon audience of 800 people from 20 different states and spoke of the effects of the Iraq war and globalization on the Latino community. She told the delegates her husband has introduced a bill in Congress, HR 1234, designed to bring U.S. troops and contractors home in three months while a multi-national peace-keeping force works to assist the Iraqi people.
Referring to the Minuteman Project protesters outside the hotel, Mrs. Kucinich said they were "victims of an administration that has squandered billions of dollars of American resources on an illegal war, while the scarcity of health care and quality education has made minorities the scapegoats of people who are angry about the direction of America."
Dennis Kucinich arrived late Saturday night, participating in a peace concert, and on Sunday Morning he delivered the speech transcribed below. I was in attendance and can only say that the energy in the room was profound. That a Presidential Candidate can have such a genuine connection to the people has become too foreign an idea within our political structure. Dennis' experience at the State, City and National/Congressional level can not be underestimated.
As he addressed the audience with such genuine commitment, such resolve in his responsibility as our Representative, he did so intimately. He spoke frequently in Spanish(which, I apologize, is limited in this transcription). He spoke with the knowledge that informs his stance on the issues, as with the sentiments that tie us together as a Country, as human beings. Hearing him, I couldn't help but tell myself that this is the People's Candidate, no matter how many polls or news outlets try to tell us otherwise; that this is an honest Respresentative, our fellow American and our brother; that there is a confidence in his ideas, his beliefs, his promises, his words, that I have not experienced with any other Candidate. That I support him for President always follows from these thoughts and feelings.
So I couldn't help, but tell everyone else too. And to give people the same opportunity to hear his speech. Though it won't be quite the same as being there, I hope you will read it.
Dennis Kucinich Addressing the Congresso:
I’m so grateful to be with you this morning. It’s such an honor. When I am with this community, I realize the real connection I have, from the heart, (el corazón). It’s a connection that transcends the issues, but it connects us to the issues at the same time.
When I started my career in politics forty years ago in Cleveland, the Puerto Rican population was growing, and there were a lot of problems between that community and the police. And so when I finally got elected to city council with the help of the Puerto Rican community, the first thing I did was to take a Spanish language course, so that I could better understand and communicate with members of the Latino community. One of the things we first discovered in the city council was the fact that the police were arresting Latinos without reading them their rights, in direct violation of the Miranda decision. So if someone didn’t speak English, they didn’t have any rights. The police didn’t understand that even if people couldn’t speak English, it didn’t mean that those people shouldn’t have rights. So I was responsible for causing the Cleveland Police to have to learn the Miranda rights in Spanish and carry a card with them.
Now the people in the Administration of George Bush better remember their Miranda rights, because when I’m elected President I’m going to see that they are arrested. I’m not kidding here! I want to let you to know something; how I feel about what’s happened to our country. We have been led into a war based upon lies — an unjust a war. We’ve seen our civil liberties taken away because of lies. The President, the Vice President, the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of Defense are all part of this. They’re going to be held accountable under the law. If someone runs a traffic light, they’ll get a ticket here. There are a million dead Iraqis and almost 4,000 dead American soldiers as a result of this war. Where is the accountability? What’s happened is that our constitution is being torn up. And in this toxic environment, the Administration, in its never-ending quest for more scapegoats, focuses on immigrants. You know it and I know it. And we see, unfortunately, the failure of the Democratic Party to stand up to this Administration.
I’m going to give you an example of something that occurred a couple of weeks ago. We had the bill on children’s health care that we passed out of the House and it covered all children, including the children of legal immigrants: about 600,000 children. But because of some Republicans in the Senate, who said, "Look, we’re not dealing with any immigrants," it doesn’t even matter if they’re legal at this point, the Democrats wouldn’t fight to keep it in the Bill. They took it out. So they brought the bill back to the House, without 600,000 children of immigrants who are legal. Now, think about what that means. It means that we are in so much fear in this country that our children are now being affected by it. You see, I happen to believe that all children, whether they are the children of those that are documented or not, should be covered for their health care. When our politics has gotten to the point where we start to divide our children into various camps, where we start to separate our children from one another, we set the stage for the splitting of the Nation. I want to see our Nation united together. It is time that we had a President who understood that human unity is what makes for peace. And that when we impose the wrath of the law that is unjust, what we’re doing is we’re stopping peace from happening. So, I’m running for President to make sure that all the people in America know that they have someone who they can count on, and know that they will have a President who will stand up for them. And I will tell you today that the Latino community, in particular, has a right to expect that all the candidates will stand in front of you and say, "Yes. We must have a path to legalization. Yes. There must be a way for people to work in this country, if they want to live in Mexico. Yes. We must take down that wall!"
Isn’t it interesting how famous Ronald Reagan became for saying, "Mr. Gorbachev, take down that wall." Oh, how far we’ve come from those days. When President Reagan said, "Take down that wall," and President Bush now says, "Build up a wall," where are we going as a nation?
I believe the way the immigrant community is treated, whether documented or not, reflects the direction and future of America. We must believe that our brothers and sisters, Latinos and all of the other ethnic groups, are essential to who we are as Americans. We are forgetting what it is that made this country great. We are forgetting that the Statue of Liberty was there for all nationalities. Maybe it would be helpful if we put Emma Lazarus’s poem into Spanish, where she said, "Give me your tired, give me your poor."
This is at the base of the Statue of Liberty. "Give me your tired, your poor/your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free/The wretched refuse of your teeming shores/Send these, the homeless, the tempest tossed to me."
Those powerful, heartfelt sentiments welcomed generations of immigrants to our country; welcomed people in America to a beacon of freedom. We know that there have always been challenges, which have confronted each group that has come to this country. But never before in America have we had a discussion about having to send millions of people back across the border. Never before in America have we seen this attempt to divide us so deeply. And never before in America has there been a need to unite us so totally. And that’s what my candidacy for President of the United States is all about. It is about the imperative of human unity. It is that — we are all one.
So we have to make sure, as the unity blueprint for immigration reform is being talked about, that we protect the well-being and safety of immigrant and U.S. citizen children alike. We must make sure we achieve faithful enforcement of immigration laws by reinstating the jurisdiction of Federal Courts to review agency decisions. We have to stop these raids. We have to stop it. They are not worthy of the United States of America. We need to make sure that workers’ rights are protected. This is why I say that as President, my first act in office will be to cancel NAFTA and the WTO. We all know what happened when NAFTA was being considered. The corporations went to the Mexico legislature and said, "Pass this. It will mean better living, better lives for the people of Mexico. Wages will go up. There will be prosperity." What happened? It passed, and wages went down. People lost jobs and fled north into the waiting arms of corporations. And the corporations said, "Yes. Come and work for us, but don’t worry about what you’re going to be paid, because it won’t be much. You will have no rights; no rights to organize, or to collective bargaining." South of the border workers were faced with the same thing. Corporations achieved enormous control with the passage of NAFTA. People were not given a chance for their basic rights to be protected.
So when I say cancel NAFTA, what I mean is that we go to Mexico and renegotiate a trade agreement. And what are the principles of that trade agreement? That all workers will have the right to organize, the right to collective bargaining, the right to strike, the right to decent wages and benefits, the right to a secure retirement, the right to a safe workplace. It will mean prohibitions on child labor, slave labor, and prison labor. It will mean that the air and the water are protected. It is time to have a President of the United States who will stand up for workers, who will stand up for immigrants, who will stand up for working immigrants, who will stand up for those who have documents, who will stand up for those who don’t have documents, who will stand up for human beings. We must realize that there is no such thing as an illegal human being. We need a President who will stand up for the people!
We understand that there needs to be a realistic framework for future migration. No one’s saying that there shouldn’t be an attempt to create some flow back and forth across the borders that makes sense. But, that’s not what’s happening. When you hear what is going on in Marico County —what is that hotline about but an encouragement of a kind of fascism? People reporting each other, what’s that about? You get reported for speaking Spanish? When I was in the Ohio state legislature as a state senator there was an attempt to pass an English-only bill, and I rose and spoke about it. I gave a speech in Spanish objecting the English only. Let me tell you about how I defeated the bill: I pointed out that the founding documents of the state of Ohio were in German. So here we are in a county where people are saying "solamente." It would be good if every child had a working knowledge of the English language, and that our children receive the kind of education where they learn to read and write English perfectly. I have a proposal that’s already been introduced in the Congress; one that I am getting ready to re-introduce in a couple of weeks for a universal pre-kindergarten. Children ages three, four, and five will have access to full-time daycare. How many of our parents, particularly working mothers, realize that if you don’t have quality daycare, you are paying as much for daycare as you are paying for a college education? You work almost the whole week just to pay for daycare, so by the time you are through working you don’t have much left at all, and you still have to worry about benefits like healthcare. What I am talking about is this: A universal pre-kindergarten daycare, where children ages three, four, and five will have access to full- time day care, fully paid, where they will learn things like music, art, reading skills, social skills and they would also learn languages. So we say all of the children in this country should learn languages like Spanish so they can reach out to the wider world. We can give our children the gift of knowing that there is a big world out there and not shut ourselves out from it, but say we are one with the world. So our children should be given this gift of learning languages at a young age, and this fear of the other will not exist anymore. This is such an important opportunity for our nation. However, in order to go from where we are to where we hope to be, there are a few things we have to do.
Number one, we have to break the fear that is holding so many of our fellow citizens captive. It’s not only the fear of the other; it’s the fear that people will not be safe. You know and I know that the war against the people of Iraq has made this country less safe. You know and I know that it is important to have a President who not only rejects the war against Iraq, who not only rejects a war against Iran, but who rejects war as an instrument of policy. It is time to have a President who truly stands for peace.
Dr. King understood this, forty years ago when he said the war in Vietnam was destroying the people of two nations. We don’t have enough money to build bridges in this country, yet we blow them up in Iraq. We don’t have money to build schools in this country, but we have seen schools and hospitals and other institutions destroyed in Iraq. We cannot take care of matters here at home, and yet we have leaders who want to go all around the world and tell people what to do. Let’s come back home. Let’s take care of things here. Let’s have a country that we can be proud of, with housing for all and jobs for all and education for all and healthcare for all. That’s the kind of America that people will love; the kind of America that will be an example to people all over the world as a country that you believe in, a country that you want to see succeed. Are we ready to take the path towards that kind of an America?
I want to conclude with an issue that I see as the number one domestic issue affecting America. And that’s the issue of healthcare. This issue affects every family in this country. We all know that people cannot afford healthcare in this country. People can’t afford to be sick, and they can’t afford to get well. We have a situation where these insurance companies are making a lot of money. But we have to ask how they are making that money? For instance, car dealers make money. Shoe salesmen make money. How do these private insurance companies make money? They make money by not providing healthcare. What is going on in this country? The more they deny you healthcare, the more money they make. So doctors are on the phone with you saying, "No, you cannot have that test, no, you cannot have that procedure." The insurance companies are playing doctor now. People are not getting the care they are paying for. But then there are 47 million Americans who don’t have any insurance at all. And you know what? The largest percentage happens to be Latino. You know this, and I know this. So isn’t it time we recognize in America that we should have the same kind of care for its people that every other industrialized nation has?
That’s why I am the co-author of a bill, HR 676, Medicare for all, a not-for- profit health care system — one that covers everyone. It is time to break the hold that these private insurance companies have on our political system; a political system that is failing the American people. We need to reclaim it, so that we can restore the health of the American people. It is time to have a not-for-profit heath care system that covers everyone. Half the bankruptcies in America are due to people who cannot pay their medical bills, so they just go bankrupt. We all know that in households throughout the country, where families discuss this everyday, that someone says, "Honey I don’t feel well, but I can’t go to the doctor because we can’t afford it." People forego the care that they need, until they end up in an emergency room very ill, and the costs go through the roof at that point.
Our system is not about caring for people, it is about caring for profits and insurance companies. The system that I am talking about is a not-for-profit system, and it will have enough money for vision care, dental care, mental health care, long-term care, and prescription drugs. Healthcare today is being used to accelerate the wealth of the rich. We need to reclaim the system so all people will have the money for their healthcare, and also for other things, like housing. You know, I started an investigation a couple of months ago about these mortgage companies that were going into communities of people of color and selling these sub-prime loans creating a wave of bankruptcies. The housing needs of America are greater than ever. Healthcare needs are greater than ever. The job needs of America are greater than ever. The need for higher wages is greater than ever. The need for a fair and just immigration policy is greater than ever. The need to stand for peace is greater than ever. Our system is failing the American people. My candidacy is about rallying the American people to defend their basic human and economic rights. This is our moment to reclaim our nation. This is our moment to restore our nation; our moment to say what America really stands for. This is our moment to say we are part of this country; we helped build this country; we helped make this country what it is. And we are not going to let anyone take this country away from us, whether it’s for oil or for money or for blood. This is our nation, and we will reclaim it. We will restore it, and we will call it the United States of America for all the people. Thank you very much. Thank you.