Republicans underestimated the value of minorities… Who’s the loser now?

One look at the Democratic Convention 2012 and you could tell which party is more inclusive of all minorities

Once upon a time, Mitt Romney had a chance with minorities; the very same chance that President Obama had. Actually, he had a better chance. Latinos, Asians and other minorities closely following immigration issues had grown disappointed with the president. You see, Obama promised comprehensive immigration reform during his first campaign and instead he delivered more deportations during his administration than President Bush.

Republicans haaaaaaad a chance.

But during the course of the campaign, Republicans and Romney seemed increasingly eager to lose millions of votes, the same votes that ended up giving four more years to the incumbent.

What happened and how the campaign managers messed up so badly? Romney for America and the RNC did not correctly analyzed, strategized and launched a marketing and communications campaign customized for each particular segment.

As the Global Editor of Contacto Latino, this is what I experienced:
1. While both sides did almost nothing by way of advertising and true community outreach to minorities; Republicans and Romney seemed particularly bent on doing a terrible job with Latinos whenever they could. Some examples:
a)    Press releases that indicated Spanish on subject line that were, in fact, in English
b)    Bad or inaccurate  translations
c)    No response to op-ed invitations
d)    No response to advertising invitations
e)    Asking to run ads for free (as PR, not advertising)
f)    Little or no inclusion of minorities in campaign leadership
g)    Little or no budget allocated to doing business with the community
h)    Disregard (should I say disdain?) for minority media
2. (Romney) Calling 47% of Americans, millions of which are minorities, parasites.
3. (Romney) Mentioning his Mexican family as leverage to make himself pass as just another Latino.
4. (Romney) Proposing an immigration reform that only took into consideration legal immigration, while basically telling 11 million undocumented immigrants: “Screw you, you now have to self-deport.”
5. (Romney) Telling DREAMers that he will never approve the DREAM Act.
6. (Romney) Saying after the election that President Obama “bought” the minority vote with small tokens of activity, such as the deferred deportation for undocumented youth.
7. Trying to use Obama’s endorsement (was it?) by President Hugo Chavez and Rafael Correa to scare Latino voters into thinking that the USA will become like Venezuela or Ecuador, underestimating Latino’s first-hand knowledge of how a socialist country or dictatorship actually looks and feels.

The Democrats campaign did not do much better in terms of media buys but President Obama benefitted the most of community outreach efforts to get out the vote and from doing something customers appreciate very much when being courted: not being insulted.

The day after election Republicans started changing their tone and their tune, even getting into the Latino serenading bandwagon as they saw that the only way to reclaim the White House is to go through the barrios (I can see them cringing in horror when they came to that realization) and they heard reelected President Obama speaking about immigration reform as top priority.

My message to Republicans, that is if they have not seceded: Better start working ya’ll, four years go faster than you imagine, and if President Obama finally delivers the twice promised immigration reform, you better hope it’s a bipartisan agreement or it’s pa’fuera with this party.

And, yes, when you come knocking at the door of the Latino community, it better not have the look and feel of a 1970s campaign. We are way past being happy with a bad translation and a few words of masticao Spanish. Latinos want and deserve top of the line advertising, marketing and communications. I think this election clearly demonstrated that much.

California, Chicago set the tone on rational handling of undocumented

A highway sign by Brave New Foundation shames anti-immigrant states

It’s happening! Reversing ‘cowboy-style’ anti-immigrant attitudes, laws like the ones enacted in Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, and programs such as Secure Communities, that unfairly target Latinos and Asians and bring about massive deportations of non-criminals and family separation is starting to click throughout the country.

Just this week, in cities like Chicago and states like California, notable advances in Anti-Arizona-like legislation were celebrated.

California is the first state to step up and pass a bill (TRUST Act) instructing police to release undocumented immigrants if they haven’t committed serious crimes — instead of handing them over to the federal government. The bill is a rejection of the federally-imposed Secure Communities, it’s a first for the nation and was sponsored by Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco. The bill goes now to the governor for signature.

“In the wake of the Supreme Court decision on Arizona v. United States, faith, labor, and immigrant rights groups in over 12 cities are coming together to demand local officials take their own initiative to turn the tide on Arizona-style laws and federal deportation programs like “Secure Communities,” says says Sarahi Uribe, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, who is organizing several events across the country to promote legislature such as Ammiano’s.

California had seen an increase in deportations since the launching of S-Comm.

“We congratulate the California Senate on its leadership in passing this legislation, which is a model for states seeking to reject Arizona’s approach of immigration-based policing,” says Jennie Pasquarella, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, in an ACLU statement.

“Today’s vote signals to the nation that California cannot afford to be another Arizona,” Ammiano said in a statement after the Senate floor vote. “The bill also limits unjust and onerous detentions for deportation in local jails of community members who do not pose a threat to public safety.”

And yesterday in Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the introduction of the “Safe Families Ordinance.”  The ordinance clarifies and extends Chicago’s existing policy of creating a firewall between federal civil immigration law enforcement and the relationship the City of Chicago, and especially the Chicago Police Department, has with its residents.

Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL), Chairman of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus applauded the mayor’s vision that sets Chicago apart from other jurisdictions, like Arizona.

“The City of Chicago has been at the forefront of U.S. cities in how it handles the reality that thousands upon thousands of immigrants, families and entrepreneurs are seeking opportunity in our city and the reality that the United States has failed to modernize its immigration system for decades. We no longer have a reliable and responsive legal immigration system. Too many individuals are faced with the impossible choice of abandoning their families or going around our legal system because they can find no way through it to meet their responsibilities as spouses and parents. And we give almost no opportunity to immigrants here illegally to take any action that would allow them to earn legal status,” Gutierrez said.

The Congressman also stated the difference is how states and cities are dealing with the consequences of the federal government and the Congress not facing Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

“In Arizona, they deal with this reality by enacting laws to sanction racial profiling and by condoning the irrational acts of cowboys — sometimes ones who happen to be Sheriffs and carry guns — and set them loose on immigrants or anyone who looks or sounds like an immigrant. We know from the experience in Arizona, Alabama, and many other places that this undermines public safety, wastes precious and scarce law enforcement resources and weakens the bonds of trust between police and the communities they serve and protect. In Chicago, we do things a little differently because we put public safety above political stunts, and we put creating a united, cohesive society over trying to draw dividing lines or driving political wedges,” Gutierrez explained.

The ordinance protects everyone because it allows anyone who witnesses a crime, who knows about criminal activity and anyone who wants to make the city safer to come forward and share that information with police. Most importantly, it targets police resources on criminals and threats and minimizes the amount of city resources devoted to holding non-criminals and non-threats, just because they were flagged in a federal database as possibly violating federal civil laws.

Gutierrez also said that instead of dealing with immigrants by using a ‘building a wall and rounding them up’ approach, the country needs to look forward. “We need laws that match the reality that people are here, people are coming, and that every level of society is more efficient if the federal government sets up a functioning legal system to deal with that reality and keeps up with our modern society,” he said.

A growing number of cities have enacted these progressive policies, including Washington DC, Santa Clara, CA, and Cook County, Illinois and more.

In a press conference in 2011, ICE Director John Morton said that that they estimate there are about one million undocumented immigrants with criminal records and that those individuals are their main target for deportation.

Per the rule of prosecutorial discretion, here’s the deal: if of an estimated population of eleven million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., only one million falls under the “criminal” label; that means that ninety percent should not be the targeted or profiled or deported, including about one million youth that would fall under the deferred action policy or the DREAM Act criteria; and, even better, could qualify to legalize their migratory status once they comply with the list of requirements specified in most comprehensive immigration reform bills brought forth in the past.

I think this new mentality involving fairness, practicality and safety is where the country is finally heading. If Congress could say: ‘ampay me salvo y salvo a todos mis Compañeros,’ before Obama’s first term is over, it would be fantastic. If not, deals like the one we are seeing in California will definitely change the tide, set the tone for a grown-up conversation about immigration and eventually open the hand and turn it from a menacing fist to a welcoming gesture.

Obama and the Latino community: Is the engagement over?

While the Obama camp launched its first ad in Spanish, Latino Republican members of Congress spoke of the many ways this administration has not delivered on promises made during the epic campaign of 2008 (and 2009, 2010, 2011 and, of course, 2012) and has in many ways hurt further a community that massively contributed to his victory against Senator Mc Cain.

Is the new US becoming the old Latin America?
“That could never happen,” I know most would say, as they boo me off the stage; but as an immigrant from Peru, I sometimes do feel the US is starting to look more and more like the Latin America I left and that the growth in Latin American countries, their renewed pride in their culture and economy, and what they have to offer the world, has transformed them making them look like the USA I found when I first came to this welcoming nation in 1988.

“President Obama’s policies have hurt all Americans, especially Hispanics, who work each and every day in pursuit of the American Dream. His agenda of an unchecked federal government and redistribution of wealth has put America on the path to becoming like the countries so many Latinos bravely left behind. The GOP remains committed to providing Latinos with a stark contrast: economic freedom to do and be most anything they could ever imagine,” said Congressman Raúl R. Labrador (ID-01).

And Congressman Bill Flores (TX-17) adds: “Under the Obama economy, we have had the worst unemployment crisis since the Great Depression, and our nation suffers from a growing number of low-income families, high levels of poverty and high gasoline prices that are hurting family budgets. These issues have had and will continue to have an adverse impact on Hispanic families, and we cannot afford more of the same. Republicans have the answers with a clear plan to create jobs, bolster our economy, provide economic security and lower energy prices.”

The fact that President Obama was received at the Summit of the Americas last week with a list of regional complaints, led by the point that the United States has dropped the ball in its support for its backyard neighbors says a lot. What would happen if we actually go to war with Iran? Would we have to also battle its allies in Latin America?

You cannot show the same ring twice. ¡Por favor!
Politicians think they can take advantage of kind-hearted willing electorate and get away with it. Well, one thing is to be “nice” and a very different thing is to be “estúpido“.

“Does President Obama think Hispanics suffer from amnesia? He may think we have forgotten about his broken promises to save or create 3.5 million jobs, pledge to cut the deficit by half by the end of his first term, or make immigration reform a top priority during his first 12 months as President. Not even the most eloquent rhetoric in the world can hide the fact that this has been a failed Presidency with nothing but empty promises,” said Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-21).

Chief complaint from the Latino community is Comprehensive Immigration Reform, the engagement ring we were shown by the president while campaigning. It has been four years of nothing more than adding insult to injury by keep on bringing up that precious, sacred almost, subject and re-packaging and re-promising, while deporting millions and leaving children orphaned stateside. If we add to that the higher percentages of Latinos going through unemployment and losing wealth during the past four years, you’ll have a group of people that is pretty much unwilling to give up the vote without very convincing arguments.

“President Obama’s record with the Latino community is lackluster at best and his actions during the last three years prove it. Latinos are interested in having a President who will advocate for lower taxes for small business owners, more economic opportunities for all Americans, and a President who unites the country not one who divides us. Latinos want results not unfulfilled promises,” said Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-18).

It is interesting to note that President Obama did hit all the right notes with the Latino community during his campaign. If only he had figured out this community is kind pero no perdona la mentira.

Hundreds of undocumented youth came out of the shadows this week

Poster NIYA "Coming out of the shadows week" 2012Undocumented youth coming out of the shadows this week have sacrificed in a very courageous, public and risky way to express out loud their situation and their feelings regarding their legal status.

In its second year, Coming out of the shadows week will hit several cities across the United States, including Detroit, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.

According to the coordinators at the National Immigration Youth Alliance (NIYA), coming out can be anything from telling a friend about the undocumented status, to posting a note on Facebook to planning an all-out rally in their college or city.

NIYA created last year a Guide to Coming Out of the Shadows to help youth prepare for the day they decide to share their story.

“The idea of “Coming Out” started in Chicago a couple of years back. It was started because we wanted to rip down the lies that the media and politicians had created around who an undocumented person was. We also wanted to share our story from a first person perspective rather than having others tell our story, or try to explain to others what it meant to be undocumented. We want to highlight stories of different undocumented students, and let others know that we are human just like them. As youth, we needed to put a real human face on the Dream Act,” explains Dulce Guerrero, an organizer with DreamActivist Georgia.

Guerrero explains that she became involved when she got tired of waiting for things to change. “I grew tired of staying at home and watching the news about how many family members had been deported. After my mother was stopped for a minor traffic violation and I realized how close I was to losing her, I woke up! I realized that no one was going to do this for us, and if I wanted to see things change, I had to do something. Because I am undocumented this issue affects me and my family directly.”

Last year Dulce was arrested in an act of civil disobedience in Atlanta, along with several other undocumented young people. She has helped stop several deportations in Georgia by helping make their cases public.

“Being undocumented doesn’t define who you are. By Coming Out we take back our right of speech that for years others have been trying to control and oppress. Being undocumented is something that has given us strength and patience throughout the years. Nobody, not even the Senate, can stop us. We’re here and we’re not leaving, be proud and be loud!” says Angy, representing the New York State Youth Leadership Council.

Jaime, a 15 year old freshman who attends high school in North Carolina, came out for the first time by writing a poem. He performed it at a local open-mic poetry event, and then again at a vigil for Uriel, the undocumented youth who was being detained after participating in an act of civil disobedience.

The KUYA (Kentucky Undocumented Youth Alliance) has an event this Saturday titled “Sin Papeles, Sin Miedo”(Without Papers but fearless). The activity will take place at a church in Northern Kentucky and its coordinator, Heyra Avila, said that four students that would qualify for the DREAM Act, or DREAMers, will speak out for the first time in their lives about their experiences as undocumented youth. Avila explained that this is the first time an event such as this one will take place in that community and there is great expectation.

Press Conference and rally to stop the deportation of Jesus Cruz in Georgia

In Georgia, for Coming Out of the Shadows week a press conference was hosted for Jesus Cruz, a student currently in deportation proceedings for driving without a license. Cruz was in court this past Monday and instead of being deported he was given a continuance of 60 days until ICE decided what to do with his case.

Video: Jaime’s coming out through poetry

An act of rebellion in the face of fear
Across the USA, coordinators of the movement agree that when undocumented youth are able to connect, when they share their story, they feel empowered and are more likely to reach out.

“I think authorities are confused and scared when you walk down the street with an “I am Undocumented shirt”. The fear of exposing one’s immigration status is the power and leverage that authorities have been able to use against us. But when one takes that fear, turns it around exposes what we have been told not to, it’s an act of rebellion. The look on officer’s faces is always priceless,” says Dulce.

The Georgia activist believes that every action, be it stopping a deportation or participating in an act of civil disobedience, has a huge impact.

“I know people that have openly stated that they do not want undocumented immigrants here, but after the action here in Atlanta they have been more open about learning and asking questions about who we are. Thus far I do not regret anything that I have done, and I know that we can only escalate from here,” Guerrero says.

It’s been eleven years… will the DREAM Act ever pass?
If there’s a bill that could, that would be the DREAM Act. Its power does not stem from the politicians that have tried countless times to push it through, but from the clamor of people. A roar that in the past few years has increased in volume and strength thanks to the valor of hundreds and thousands of undocumented youth and organizations such as NIYA and DreamActivist that have made the passage of this bill their sole issue, igniting a movement that is only bound to grow and become louder.

Dulce Guerrero certainly thinks the DREAM Act will pass. “The Undocumented youth activists are putting it at the forefront by sharing their stories, coming out publicly, and escalating in their actions. So we are certain that we will be able to see the DREAM act pass!

According to the DREAM Act portal, over three million students graduate from U.S. high schools every year. Most get the opportunity to test their dreams and live their American story. However, a group of approximately 65,000 youth do not get this opportunity; they are smeared with an inherited title, an “illegal immigrant.” These youth have lived in the United States for most of their lives and want nothing more than to be recognized for what they are, Americans.

To see all the events click here.