Participants called on the government to give what the Constitution writes about: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. A woman with a 20 year old son got up and gave a heart-breaking testimony about how her son cannot get into mechanic's school because he has no DRIVER'S LICENSE or social security number. (Hmmm...is this because his mom dragged him here as a child from Mexico and never bothered to apply for citizenship? Shame on HER!)
Joy Solero from the Brewster Center on Domestic Violence (they are bilingual, and believe me, there is PLENTY of domestic violence in the Hispanic community!) bemoaned the fact that illegals are so afraid that it is hard to provide information on their RIGHTS to them, especially if they live in isolated rural communities.
Dulce Ruelas of Derechos Humanos (Spanish for human rights) noted some of the successes of her organization: getting youth to hand out 3,000 anti-Prop. 200 flyers; doing Unity events with Mexico during the Minuteman Project instead of directly confronting them ("it's important to unite with Mexico because we're all human beings"), and sending out Promotoras to the illegal community to educate people about their rights. Dulce said, "Whether documented, or undocumented, we all have the same rights."
Jennifer Allen stood up and said, "The Cochise County Sheriff's Department has no one who speaks Spanish." [DefenderUSA note: I called the Sheriff's Department, and was told that many deputies, and personnel working in other areas, speak Spanish. Not only that, I got a recording of Sheriff Larry Dever saying, in Spanish, "Para Espanol, marke dos!" Didn't I say this was a day laced with lies?]
Krysten Sinema said, "The right wing rhetoric is working--their message is effective!" Surveys have been done for the OBL by the Krylen-Wright corporation of impressions the public has of Latinos. In 2003, 71% of those surveyed in Arizona had a favorable impression of Latinos. In April 2005, this had dropped to 68%, and just last week (August 28, 2005), the favorable percentage had dropped to 61%. The favorable percentage has dropped 7% in 2 weeks! (I'm not sure who's doing the math here, but this doesn't seem quite right.)
Isabel Garcia says that anti-illegal immigrant activists are motivated by fear and ignorance; that we are individuals afraid of losing control and power.
Pending legislation was then discussed. HCR2028 will be a referendum on the ballot which prohibits bail to any illegal alien who is accused of committing a violent crime, because so many of them escape to Mexico, which has no extradition treaty with the United States. HB2030 denies access to public services for illegals. It is rumored that legislation is in the works to deny benefits to the citizen children of undocumented immigrants.
OBL speakers claimed that there are 3 messages which the "anti-immigrant" lobby is pushing: that illegals are VIOLENT, that they are STEALING public services (among other things), and that they VOTE.
The OBL "needs to create a pro-active message that will touch the hearts and minds of Arizonans." (Gee, you mean those almost daily stories in the Arizona Daily Star, the Arizona Republic, and the Tucson Citizen about poor immigrants suffering and dying to get to the U.S. aren't enough? The joke is, these people actually think the media is too "conservative!")
Ben Miranda, a representative in the AZ state legislature, said that "This will be the worst year in anti-immigrant legislation." He voted against the anti-smuggling law, and said that it could be used to arrest bus drivers and people who pick up day laborers near Home Depot. He said the law to confiscate vehicles is to intimidate illegals into not driving or owning a car, and he doesn't like higher sentences for people who break the law while they are illegal aliens as well, as it can add 2 extra years to a DUI sentence. He said we must face the unspoken issue, the one "none of us wants to talk about--what are we gonna do about a Governor who signs this kind of legislation?"
"We raised two issues that didn't work: immigration is a federal issue, and the contributions of immigrants." He finished up by saying that we have to go after the people who hire illegal aliens, like the Marriotts and other big businesses, who are asking immigrants to come here. (Hmmm...this sounds pretty good. Do you think we can get him on our side?)
Alfredo Gutierrez said we need to repeal Proposition 200--it opened the doors! And Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox assured the crowd that she was fighting every day on the front lines of this battle "to keep Proposition 200 from being implemented." Everyone agreed: "we need to write our own social justice legislation." Consul General Florin of Mexico was in attendance, and he was available to help anyone, whether they had documentation or not.
Following the speakers, the conference broke into groups to discuss 4 topics: leadership training and capacity building, and legislative, electoral, and media/research strategies.
While the legislative strategy session suffered from a lack of leadership skills, the electoral group was just perking right along under the experienced tutelage of Jen Allen. It appears there were leaders of many groups present in that group as well. Jen told about a campaign BAN pursued to increase voter turnout in Nogales and Douglas, resulting in an increase of 30% more votes. She said she felt it was necessary to do this to "regain ground we shouldn't have lost in the first place."
One of the participants, a monolingual (Spanish) guy who was wearing a leg brace said, "Immigrants don't have rights," and told how he was injured at work. Presumably he is upset because he is not getting Worker's Compensation and free medical care. (Did anyone bother to tell him that in order to get something out of the system, that you have to pay something into it? And that LEGAL immigrants have rights?)
Jen said we need to "hold back attacks against immigrants while putting forth the rights of immigrants. We did an analysis of immigrant advocate groups and found that there was a big gap on the ground in community organizing. We need to start going door-to-door." (What, liberals need to actually get their hands dirty?) "We have horrible elected officials--they are not accountable to their constituents."
She made a list of preliminary objectives:
1. Elevate immigrant rights as a crucial election issue. "Don Goldwater's entire platform is scapegoating immigrants."
2. Counter anti-immigrant rhetoric that is used in debates.
3. Build power of the immigrant voter community by using the power of our votes.
4. Impact local, state, and national elections.
Then she showed her strategy for accomplishing these objectives. She said this was tried and true: voter registration, get out the vote, and "educate" voters. The rest of the discussion was devoted to implementation. Educating voters early in the election cycle was imperative, as was creating a clear message for voter education, and hiring staff to write it and spread it. Research needs to be done on who isn't voting, so that they can be targeted.
One woman suggested that the churches be used to organize voters, as many illegal aliens go to church. Church leaders need to be invited to OBL meetings! (I believe this violates the non-profit status of churches to endorse any particular candidates or positions.)
Money needs to be pooled for radio advertising and more media coverage needs to be secured.
Someone mentioned that local people from the community can now run for office, as the Clean Elections Law requires that only 250 people need give $5 each for someone to run in an election.
A memeber of the group protested that voter registration, by law, must be non-partisan, and specific candidates CANNOT be recommended; a new organization needs to be created to promote OBL-approved candidates. The other alternative is to retain the names of the people you register to vote, and then to contact them afterwards!
One way to garner voters is to hold "citizenship fairs" where potential new voters are signed up for naturalization. The process costs $400 each, but there is a pool of 250,000 immigrants in Maricopa and Pima counties combined that can be registered, and the media will love it!
One participant sadly reflected that while they were successful in getting latinos out to vote, they voted the wrong way (40% of them voted FOR Prop. 200)! (It's a bummer, isn't it, when people vote their own mind, instead of the party line?)
Everyone seemed to agree that it was a good thing to have more clubs like MECHA (Chicano Student Movement of Aztlan) in the universities, and it was revealed that even tiny little Prescott College in Prescott, AZ has an Aztlan center.
A woman from El Salvador emphasized the need to educate people before they become voters, since voting in her native country didn't count. "We knew elections didn't work [in El Salvador], that they are fixed before the election."
Another person said that getting appointed as a Precinct Captain would be helpful in influencing voters. No one discussed specific parties.
These organizations and individual have all decided to work together and have another meeting planned: SEIU, Inmigrantes Sin Fronteras, Border Action Network, Alliance of Retarded Americans/Tucson, UFCW#99, some folks from Prescott College, AZ Leadership Institute, and the Center for Community Change.
After the breakout sessions, a middle-aged man who said he was a veteran of the civil rights struggle says this fight for immigrant rights "is just like the struggle for civil rights." Others lauded the inroads that had been made with other leftist groups such as the gay and lesbian community, where they support the OBL and the OBL supports them. (I wonder how most illegal immigrants feel about gays, since Hispanic culture is virulently homophobic?)
At the end of the meeting, after much fussing and many technical problems, a DVD documentary of the Minuteman Project made by Ray Ybarra, organizer of the ACLU Legal Observers during the MMP, was shown. He said he had spent a lot of time editing it in New York, and that this was just the "fine cut," and not to tell anyone about it, as he didn't want to get in any trouble with his producers. He is still looking for a distributor, and is only showing it to selected groups.
The film started out and continued with some of the most annoying music I have heard in a long time, some combination of banjo and a tinny autoharp. I couldn't help but wonder if he chose these instruments to make people think of an unflattering redneck stereotype.
He interviewed several people who were Minutemen, including Russ Dove, Joe Sweeney, and Bill Dore. As far as I can tell, he just presented them in a straightforward way, and didn't do any imaginative editing to chop up their words and make them seem other than they normally appear.
Judy Rabinowitz, a lawyer with the Immigrant Rights Project, said that "an arrest is someone telling an immigrant to stop or sit down." (I'm wondering, if I told another American citizen to "shut up and sit down," would this be an "arrest?")
Ray narrated the film throughout and again reiterated the charge I heard him make at the ACLU training session for Legal Observers that the white power groups on the internet were "going crazy" over MMP. (I remember doing an internet search at the time and not being able to find anything.)
There is a shot of man identified as J. T. Ready speaking at the MMP rally in Phoenix July 1, 2005. He is holding a sign that says, "Terrorism Stops Here." After he finishes speaking, a group of approximately 5 people are heard (but not seen) shouting "White Power!" about 3 times. This is what Hollywood calls "off-screen" when audio is played without showing the source of it, or in this case, the faces of the people shouting.
I find this most curious. I know one can literally do anything with computers these days, but both I and many others were at that same rally, and none of us heard anyone shouting "white power!" I recently viewed another video of that same scene, and after J. T. finishes speaking, the crowd cheers and claps. Mr. Ready himself told me that he never heard any white power chants, although there were plenty of Aztlaners and La Raza at the rally making obnoxious noise the whole time. I wonder, could this be some "creative editing?"
One of the illegals who can't speak English interviewed in the film says, "We have human rights anywhere--it doesn't matter where we are from."*
Ybarra concluded: "The true motivation of the Minuteman Project is fear and paranoia."
*The concept of "human rights," a recurrent theme of this OBL meeting, has a historical precedent stemming from a United Nations declaration in 1948 which can be viewed here: http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html In searching the web, I can't find any place fighting for "human rights" that claims that they are the rights of illegal immigrants. For example, here are the kinds of organizations which are fighting for human rights: http://www.hrweb.org/history.html In fact, it seems that most organizations which are working for genuine human rights are concerned with such things as prisoner abuse and torture, genital mutilation of women, slavery and child abuse, refugee rights, and imprisonment for criticizing the government, mostly in foreign countries. Again, this is a false issue raised by the Left. It's a typical propaganda tactic to take something unappealing and call it something attractive. I mean, you don't really expect people to rally around the issue of citizen's rights for illegal aliens, do you?
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