Friday, December 07, 2012
12/10: ABQ Fair Redistricting Fundraiser
PLEASE COME TO A FUNDRAISER FOR OUR LEGAL FUND AT ARTICHOKE CAFÉ!
MONDAY, December 10, 5:00 PM – 6:30 PM
ARTICHOKE CAFÉ, 424 Central Ave. SW (corner of Central and Edith)
Suggested minimum contribution: $100.
Attorneys at the national League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) believe that we have a strong case and have agreed to represent us in court to overturn the unwise and unjust decision to eliminate our center city Council District.
LULAC is a 501(c)(3) corporation, and contributions for its advocacy litigation purposes are tax-deductible. This is a legal effort, not political, and your contribution, employer and identity are not subject to campaign reporting requirements. There is no limit to your contribution. Please make your check to LULAC, with “ABQ redistricting” in the memo space.
For more information or to donate on-line, see our website: http://abqfairredistricting.org. Just click on the “Contribute” link and you’ll be directed to a secure LULAC contribution site that sends donations directly to our defense fund.
You can also mail your check to us at: Albuquerque Fair Redistricting, 1106 Santa Fe Ave SW, Albuquerque, NM 87102.
Thanks, and see you on the 10th!
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Michelle Lujan Grisham Joins Congressional Hispanic Caucus in Support of Comprehensive Immigration Reform
Congresswoman-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham joined her colleagues from the Congressional Hispanic Congress today in reaffirming support for a comprehensive immigration plan.
“A comprehensive immigration plan must include a balanced, workable solution for the agriculture industry that ensures agricultural workers have a route to citizenship and employers have the workers and American agriculture continues to lead in our global economy,” Congresswoman-elect Lujan Grisham said at a news conference today.
The Caucus outlined nine principals of immigration reform, which include:
1. Requires the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. to register with the federal government, submit to fingerprinting and a criminal background check, learn English and American civics, and pay taxes to contribute fully and legally to our economy and earn a path to permanent residency and eventual citizenship;
2. Protects the unity and sanctity of the family, including the families of bi-national, same-sex couples, by reducing the family backlogs and keeping spouses, parents, and children together;
3. Attracts the best and the brightest investors, innovators, and skilled professionals, including those in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) studies, to help strengthen our economy, create jobs, and build a brighter future for all Americans;
4. Builds on the extraordinary success of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and incorporates DREAMers – those who were brought to the U.S. at a young age and are Americans but for a piece of paper – into the mainstream of life in the United States through a path to citizenship so that America benefits from their scholastic achievements, military service and pursuit of their dreams;
5. Includes a balanced, workable solutions for the agriculture industry that ensures agricultural workers have a route to citizenship and employers have the workers and American agriculture continues to lead in our global economy;
6. Ends the exploitation of U.S. and immigrant workers by providing sufficient, safe, and legal avenues for foreign workers to fill legitimate gaps in our workforce, with full labor rights, protection from discrimination, and a reasonable path to permanence that lifts up wages and working conditions for both native and foreign-born workers and their families;
7. Ensures smart an reasonable enforcement that protects our borders and fosters commerce by targeting serious criminals and real threats at our northern and southern borders and promotes the safe and legitimate movement of people and goods at our ports of entry and which are essential to our economy;
8. Establishes a workable employment verification system that prevents unlawful employment and rewards employers and employees who play by the rules, while protecting Americans’ right to work and their privacy; and
9. Renews our commitment to citizenship, to ensure all workers pay their fair share of taxes, fully integrate into our way of life and bear the same responsibilities as all Americans and reaffirms our shared belief that the Citizenship Clause of the Constitution is a fundamental freedom that must be preserved.
Thursday, November 15, 2012
Congressman Luján Elected First Vice Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Congresswoman elect Michelle Lujan Grisham elected Whip
Two Huge Cheers for New Mexico's Congressman Ben Ray Lujan elected First Vice Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus by his colleagues! And Congresswoman elect Michelle Lujan-Grisham elected as Whip.
Congressman Luján issued the following press release from the CHC announcing the caucus’ new leadership. (Photo at right from Santa Fe Reporter)
Chairman Charles A. Gonzalez (TX 20) released this statement following the election of Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (TX 15) as CHC Chairman for the 113th Congress, Rep. Ben Ray Luján (NM03) as First Vice Chair, Rep. Linda Sanchez (CA39) as Second Vice Chair and Congresswoman-elect Michelle Luján Grisham (NM01) as Whip.
Chairman Charles A. Gonzalez (TX 20): “It has been an honor to serve as CHC Chairman alongside Congressman Hinojosa and I’m certain that his extensive experience as a legislator and an advocate for Hispanic issues will greatly benefit the CHC of the 113th Congress.“Congressman Hinojosa’s passion for extending opportunities to Hispanic youth was demonstrated by his tireless efforts on the CHC’s Education Task Force and as First Vice Chair. I look forward to seeing how his abilities as a strong leader and advocate, combined with the largest delegation of Latinos to ever serve in Congress, will advance the issues most vital to our community.”
Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (TX 15), Chair-elect:
"I want to thank my colleagues for showing their support as I proudly take on the role of the Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. For 36 years the CHC has focused on legislative priorities covering all areas that have a direct impact on the Hispanic or Latino community. We will continue to bring new ideas and new vigor to pave our way towards our great future in this country.
“In the 113th Congress we will have 30 Latinos in Congress. This is the largest Hispanic group in our nation's history to serve in Congress. The recent Presidential election proves that the Latino vote is a crucial voting bloc. No longer will our voices be silenced. No longer will we be placed in the back of the line.
“The challenges we face are arduous and no doubt we will suffer some set-backs during our climb, but we will not turn back. I along with my fellow CHC colleagues will join with President Obama as we work to pass comprehensive immigration reform. We will work together to not only allow DREAM Act students to earn a college degree, but to grant them a path to citizenship in the U.S.A., the country they already call home.
“As the new Chairman of the CHC, I will work to reorganize task forces to address high priority issues such as: our economy and creating jobs, addressing and improving the way home mortgages and micro loans are handled for our Latino communities and small businesses. On health care, we will address particular areas of the Affordable Care Act and make certain that our doctors and hospitals are reimbursed. In education we must protect the Pell Grant so that it does not drop below the current $5,550. We will also see that the Direct Federal College Loan Program continues to offer our children an opportunity to register and attend college.
“Again, I thank my colleagues for their faith in me and together we will continue to improve the quality of life for not only the Latino community but for all Americans."
Rep. Ben Ray Luján (NM03): “This is an important time for the Hispanic community across the country as we have seen our numbers and influence increase in all facets, from government to small businesses. I am honored to have the opportunity to represent the members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus as First Vice Chair, and I look forward to working with them and my colleagues in the House to advocate for an agenda that helps Hispanics, and indeed all Americans, by growing our economy, spurring job creation, and investing in education.”
Rep. Linda T. Sánchez (CA39): “It is an honor to have been selected by my colleagues to serve as the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ Second Vice-Chair. I look forward to working with the CHC to address the issues that matter most to Latinos. I am excited to work with the CHC to ensure we create jobs, grow our economy, and achieve comprehensive immigration reform. It is also with great pleasure that I welcome the new members of the CHC. Together we will fight to ensure that Latinos have a strong voice in Congress.”
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), founded in December 1976, is organized as a Congressional Member organization, governed under the Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives. The CHC is dedicated to voicing and advancing, through the legislative process, issues affecting Hispanics in the United States, Puerto Rico and U.S. Territories.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
Local Leaders Respond to Permanent Injunction Against Driver's License Residency Certification Program
On 10/4/12 the following was released from Somos Un Pueblo Unido.
Local Latino and religious leaders hailed the permanent injunction finalized yesterday against New Mexico's "Foreign National Residency Certification Program." The program, enacted in July 2011, was successfully challenged by four state legislators and Marisela Morales, a long-time New Mexico resident of Silver City and Legal Permanent Resident. Ms. Morales was summoned, based on her national origin, to a special Albuquerque office to resubmit papers proving her identity and residency in New Mexico or face cancellation of her driver's license. To see permanent injunction, click here.
"This discriminatory program was clearly intended to fuel an anti-immigrant political agenda in New Mexico, and we are relieved that it did not prevail." said María Cristina López, Founding Board Member of Somos Un Pueblo Unido, a statewide immigrants' rights organization. "We're all for fighting fraud and abuse, but the state should not be wasting tax payer money by targeting people solely based on their race and national origin. It's simply unacceptable in New Mexico."
The plaintiffs were represented by MALDEF, a national Latino rights organization, and Albuquerque-based law firm Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldbert Urias & Ward, PA (Freedman Boyd).
David Urias, lead attorney for the plaintiffs said on Thursday "No one, of course, supports fraud in the driver's license application process, but there are other legal ways to ensure that fraud is prevented - implementing unconstitutional programs which target people solely on the fact that they weren't born in the United States, isn't one of them. The demise of this unlawful program will hopefully open up a dialogue that will result in lawful policies and procedures that address real problems, not make scapegoats out of immigrants for political gain."
The driver's license re-verification program was created and funded by the Taxation and Revenue Department and MVD at the height of a contentious legislative debate regarding the current policy that requires immigrant drivers, regardless of immigration status, to be licensed, registered and insured. The Governor pushed unsuccessfully for a full repeal of the law, while the majority of legislators supported reforming the law to strengthen identity and residency requirements, including fingerprinting of foreign nationals, and toughen penalties for fraud.
"MVD already has many tools that it can legally employ to fight fraud without discriminating against immigrants or punishing honest people who have gone through the proper steps to apply for a license," said Allen Sanchez, Director of the New Mexico Catholic Conference of Bishops. "Still, we support driver's license reform that would create even more tools to fight fraud, but safeguard the families who live in New Mexico and who have complied with state law."
Somos Un Pueblo Unido spearheaded a campaign in 2003 with law enforcement officials, victims rights agencies, and faith and civil right group to enable qualified immigrant drivers to apply for licenses, obtain insurance, and register their vehicles.
Monday, September 17, 2012
Luján Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month
“Hispanic Heritage Month represents an opportunity to reflect on the enduring contributions of a community that has strengthened the fabric of a nation whose diversity is a source of strength and pride. As one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States, Hispanics have increasingly played a vital role in our country as businessmen and women, members of the armed forces, teachers, and first responders.
“As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and this year’s theme of ‘Many Backgrounds, Many Stories…One American Spirit,’ we are reminded that we are united by the common bonds that include the belief in the American Dream and the desire for a brighter tomorrow.
“With the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, we also recognize National Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) Week. HSIs play a key role in educating approximately 50 percent of all Hispanics enrolled in colleges and universities. A quality education is essential to a stronger future not only for Hispanics, but for all young Americans. The role that HSIs play is critical to providing Hispanics with the opportunity to learn the skills and knowledge that is necessary to get ahead in an increasingly global economy.
“This month, as we recognize the impact of the Hispanic community and the rich culture, traditions, and values that have influenced our nation, let us continue our efforts to live up to the hopes and aspirations of a community whose influence on our nation runs deep.”
Friday, July 13, 2012
Community Members Announce Racial Profiling Complaints in San Juan County
From Somos Un Pueblo Unido:
IMMIGRANT GROUP CALLS ON SAN JUAN COUNTY TO STOP ARIZONA-STYLE LAW ENFORCEMENT POLICIES Community Members File Racial Profiling Complaints Against City, County, and Federal Agencies. Photo above from Somos
On Wednesday July 11, 2012, residents of San Juan County and members of Somos Un Pueblo Unido (Somos) announced the filing of several racial profiling complaints against local and federal law enforcement agencies. In the complaints made to the City of Farmington and San Juan County, six individuals alleged that the Farmington Police Department and the San Juan County Sheriff's Department changed the scope of investigation based on race, national origin, and language in order to inquire about immigration status-a violation of New Mexico's Prohibition of Bias Based Policing Act of 2009.
"We have lived in this area for many years, contributing to the local economy and paying taxes. Like most families, we want a better future for our children," said Veronica Perez, a spokesperson for Families United for Justice a recently formed group of immigrants and allies in Farmington. "We used to live in peace, but in the last year, many of our families have been victims of racial profiling and discrimination as result of the collaboration between the local law enforcement, jail and immigration officials. We live in constant fear and no longer feel safe calling the police. How is that good for public safety?"
Somos also submitted a complaint to the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General and its Office for Civil Rights claiming that local DWI checkpoints have become de facto immigration checkpoints. The complaint stated "It is our understanding that ICE should not be conducting immigration checkpoints beyond 100 miles from the border and local law enforcement shouldn't be questioning individuals about immigration status at a DWI checkpoint, the purpose of which is to prevent and apprehend drunk drivers."
The complaint also alleged that area ICE agents were disregarding ICE's own policies by placing ICE Detainers an individuals in order to hold them at the San Juan County Detention Center despite these individuals not having been arrested for a criminal violation and at the County's expense.
"We are working with these brave community members in Farmington to stand up for civil rights and public safety," said Rayos Burciaga, Board Member of Somos Un Pueblo Unido. "Based on eye witness accounts, it seems that ICE agents are colluding with local law enforcement officials and the local jail to racially profile individuals and violate their constitutional rights. New Mexico is better than that."
"My parishioners deserve to live without fear and intimidation," said Father Vigil, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Farmington. "We live in a country where due process rights should be respected. We should be integrating Latino families, not separating children from their parents."
"In the past year, I have witnessed the devastating effects of this country's broken immigration system and the violation of immigrants' civil rights in the Farmington community," said Iris Calderon, an immigration attorney from the Calderon Law Firm based in Albuquerque. "US citizen children are separated from their fathers only for failing to provide evidence of legal status at a DWI checkpoint. DREAMers have been put into deportation proceedings for speeding tickets and other minor traffic violations. When the civil rights of immigrants are violated, the consequences are dire."
Residents also complained that the Farmington, Bloomfield, and Aztec Police Departments, as well as the San Juan County Sheriff's Department, do not have written policies and complaint forms that are updated and compliant with the bias-based policing ban, as is required by the 2009 law.
"These agencies need to take the community's concerns about racial profiling more seriously," added Perez, "It's the only way that trust can be restored."
Somos Un Pueblo Unido: is a statewide civil and immigrants' rights organization that worked along side the NAACP and other groups to pass the Prohibition of Bias-based Profiling Act in 2009 at the State Legislature. Somos is also part of a national campaign called "Restoring Trust" that will host events nationwide on Wednesday to call attention to the public safety hazards of collaboration between local jails and ICE.
Friday, July 06, 2012
Unemployment More than Double for Hispanics than Whites in Abq
Following is a press release from NM Voices for Children regarding a report released on July 2nd, 2012.
The unemployment rate for Hispanics in Albuquerque is more than double the rate for Whites. That’s according to a report released on July 2, 2012 by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). The report looks at unemployment rates for Hispanics in 25 metropolitan areas, including Albuquerque.
According to the EPI report, the unemployment rate for Hispanics in Albuquerque was 11.3 percent in 2011. That was up from 9.3 percent in 2010. Albuquerque had the highest ratio of Hispanic-to-White unemployment of all the metro areas. For every White worker who is unemployed, 2.5 Hispanic workers are out of jobs.
“There are several factors at play here. First, the construction sector lost the most jobs after the housing bubble burst, and there was a high concentration of Hispanics in that sector,” said Gerry Bradley, Research Director at New Mexico Voices for Children. “Also, the Hispanic population in New Mexico is younger than the White population overall, so they tend not to have as much seniority at their jobs and generally have lower levels of education than Whites,” he said.
“This report shows the need to improve educational opportunities for Hispanics. The most effective way to do this is to start before children enter the K-12 school system so they are ready to learn when they begin school,” Bradley added.
The overall unemployment rate for May 2012 was 6.7 percent for the state and 6.8 percent for the Albuquerque metro area, according to the NM Department of Workforce Solutions.
The EPI report is available online at: http://www.epi.org/publication/ib336-hispanic-metropolitan-unemployment/
Friday, June 15, 2012
DREAM Act Realized Finally for Some
Image to the right is from Lalo Alcaraz; artist, cartoonist, writer.
The DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) is an American legislative proposal first introduced in the Senate on August 1, 2001. To read the history of the DREAM Act please see this wikipedia link.
This new direction will affect nearly 800,000 humans who live with fear of deportation from the US. In 2011 ICE deported 396,906 people and is exceeding that record high this year. While researching how many young immigrants have been deported since 2008 I came across this website; We Dream, We act with this article Undocumented Youth Sit-In at OFA Denver Office. Their demand was finally heard: "We need the strength of an executive order to stop our deportations. Prosecutorial discretion has not stopped them."
Thank God for elections so some of these injustices can be acted on finally. Obama is addressing the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials' annual conference next week. The hispanic/latino vote is critical to Obama's re-election. For whatever reason the President's administration decided to act on this sensible legislation and pass an executive order, he is to be commended. Just imagine the joy running through so many hearts today that their DREAM now can be realized.
Image above from We Dream We Act by J. Valas
Below is the press release from the DHS:
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano today announced that effective immediately, certain young people who were brought to the United States as young children, do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria will be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings. Those who demonstrate that they meet the criteria will be eligible to receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization.
“Our nation’s immigration laws must be enforced in a firm and sensible manner,” said Secretary Napolitano. “But they are not designed to be blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case. Nor are they designed to remove productive young people to countries where they may not have lived or even speak the language. Discretion, which is used in so many other areas, is especially justified here.”
DHS continues to focus its enforcement resources on the removal of individuals who pose a national security or public safety risk, including immigrants convicted of crimes, violent criminals, felons, and repeat immigration law offenders. Today’s action further enhances the Department’s ability to focus on these priority removals.
Under this directive, individuals who demonstrate that they meet the following criteria will be eligible for an exercise of discretion, specifically deferred action, on a case-by-case basis:
1.) Came to the United States under the age of sixteen;
2.) Have continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of this memorandum and are present in the United States on the date of this memorandum;
3.) Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education
development certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
4.) Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety;
5.) Are not above the age of thirty.
Only those individuals who can prove through verifiable documentation that they meet these criteria will be eligible for deferred action. Individuals will not be eligible if they are not currently in the United States and cannot prove that they have been physically present in the United States for a period of not less than 5 years immediately preceding today’s date. Deferred action requests are decided on a case-by-case basis. DHS cannot provide any assurance that all such requests will be granted. The use of prosecutorial discretion confers no substantive right, immigration status, or pathway to citizenship. Only the Congress, acting through its legislative authority, can confer these rights.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
CHILE-PAC Endorses Cara Valente-Compton for House District 19
Today, Democratic Candidate Cara Valente-Compton announced her endorsement by CHILE-PAC, a Political Action Committee advocating Hispanic interests throughout New Mexico. Valente-Compton is only the third candidate endorsed this election cycle.
"New Mexicans need strong leaders in Santa Fe, and Cara has exhibited the leadership, dedication to public service and love for our state and our people. We at CHILE-PAC are confident that Cara will bring these qualities to the Roundhouse, and represent District 19 with passion,” CHILE-PAC’s Executive Director, Dennis W. Montoya, said. “Fresh, new perspectives and creative ideas are sorely needed in our legislature. Cara's lifelong experience with the unique blend of cultures and issues affecting New Mexico give her the ability to be an effective legislator for our state," said Montoya.
“I want to thank CHILE-PAC for endorsing my candidacy. Knowing that CHILE-PAC shares my vision of a bright future for New Mexico and commitment to fight for New Mexico families every day gives me such encouragement,” Valente-Compton said. This endorsement comes on the heels of recent candidate finance reports showing Cara Valente-Compton outraising her opponent by nearly 9 to 1. (Available on the Secretary of State’s website.)
“As State Representative I will work to help fix the economy the right way, by helping small businesses, funding education, and making sure our government is more accountable and transparent. We must focus on providing tax credits to small businesses that hire new workers—incentivizing job growth, and subsidies that help small businesses keep employees on the payroll—preventing layoffs.”
Established in 2011 by several Hispanic leaders and individual members of New Mexico LULAC, CHILE-PAC stands for Concerned Hispanics Involved in Legislative Empowerment Political Action Committee. It is organized to support candidates who share a common cause of preserving the traditions, heritage, customs and values of New Mexico.
About Cara A. Valente for State Representative
Cara is a first year law student at the University of New Mexico and has a degree in Political Science. She and her husband Charles have four children and reside in the Parkland Hills neighborhood of Albuquerque. For more information please visit Cara’s website: http://electvalentecompton.com/
Wednesday, April 04, 2012
Hector Balderas Statement on Marco Rubio's Alternative to the Dream Act
“Senator Rubio’s claim that the DREAM Act in its current form will cause “chain migration” ignores a critical reality: there are millions of young people who have lived here since childhood and they just want to achieve the American dream like anybody else.
The undocumented youth in this country are our students and neighbors. They want to work. They want to succeed. They want to become entrepreneurs. But without a path to citizenship -- which Senator’s Rubio’s proposal does not include -- those dreams won’t be possible.
We need to address the realities of how we live and work. The original DREAM Act accomplishes just that. By providing a path to citizenship for young people who truly want to be here, we can build a nation that is more fair and more full of opportunities. And there is nothing more American than that.”
NM-1: CHILE-PAC Endorses Eric Griego for Congress
Today, Democrat Eric Griego (NM-1) announced his endorsement by CHILE-PAC, a Political Action Committee advocating for Hispanic interests throughout New Mexico. Griego is only the second candidate in this election cycle to be endorsed by the organization.
The latest endorsement adds to Griego’s political momentum following his victory at the Democratic Pre-Primary Convention on March 10th. There, Griego defeated his two primary opponents, Marty Chavez and Michelle Lujan Grisham, by 8 and 15 points, respectively.
"New Mexicans deserve a representative who understands their needs and aspirations, and will fight to secure opportunities and fairness for our families,” CHILE-PAC’s Executive Director, Dennis W. Montoya, said. “We can count on Eric Griego’s consistent record of standing up to powerful corporate interests to fight for New Mexico’s children, seniors and working families.”
“I thank CHILE-PAC for supporting my campaign to rebuild the American Dream for New Mexican families,” Griego said. “The status quo in Washington today favors only the richest 1% and big corporations, and sending more of the same establishment politicians to Congress will not change that.”
“I believe that the role of government is to help people,” Griego continued. “That is why, as Congressman, I will continue fighting to increase educational and job opportunities for New Mexican families, and protect Social Security and Medicare for seniors, not more tax cuts for millionaires.”
Established in 2011 by several Hispanic leaders and individual members of New Mexico LULAC, CHILE-PAC stands for Concerned Hispanics Involved in Legislative Empowerment Political Action Committee. It is organized to support candidates who share a common cause of preserving the traditions, heritage, customs and values of New Mexico.
About Eric Griego for Congress:
Eric Griego is a New Mexico State Senator and former Albuquerque City Councilor running for the open seat in New Mexico’s First Congressional District. The seat is currently held by Democratic Rep. Martin Heinrich, who is running for the open U.S. Senate seat. The NM-1 district is rated “Likely Democratic” by the Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball.
In a demonstration of organizational strength and local grassroots momentum, Griego won the State Democratic Pre-Primary Convention on March 10, 2012 with 41% of the delegates’ votes, compared to only 33% for the heavy early favorite Marty Chavez and 26% for the third candidate, Michelle Lujan Grisham.
Friday, March 30, 2012
Op Ed by Hector Balderas; The Legacy of Cesar Chavez Is Our Legacy
This weekend, millions of Americans will pause to reflect and honor the legacy of Cesar Chavez.
Cesar Chavez will always be known as a tireless advocate for the poor and underrepresented. When he saw an entire group of our society struggle with no one speaking for them, he not only lent his voice, but helped them realize how to make theirs heard.
For most of our nation’s history the migrant workers who picked the lettuce, the peas, the beans, the cherries, and the grapes were paid almost nothing. They suffered their injustice without hope. With his nonviolent approach to change, Cesar Chavez led the pickets, the marches, the strikes, and the boycotts until finally farm workers achieved higher wages, better working conditions in the fields, and the right to bargain collectively.
As a leader in the fight for justice for migrant workers, and of the Latino civil rights movement in general, Cesar Chavez helped generations of Latinos in America realize a sense of self-empowerment, whether it was standing up to brutality or simply registering to vote.
Cesar Chavez was guided by a simple principle -- to leave the world a better place than we found it. He showed us that a single voice can change our country. And he showed us how strong a people can be when they bind their hearts and efforts together in a sense of community.
The hope and optimism that Cesar Chavez articulated inspired generations after him. As a young boy growing up in Wagon Mound, my mom and I lived in public housing and survived on Medicaid and food stamps. But even as a boy growing up in family and community that did not have much, I never knew we were poor. Instead, my mother filled her children with a sense of hope and optimism. She taught us that with hard work, a strong sense of community, and the willingness to stand up for what is right, the sky was the limit.
Sadly, today there are far too many families in too many New Mexico communities who have lost that sense of hope – who no longer believe that the sky’s the limit. They worry about a lack of jobs in their communities, whether or not they can pay their mortgage, how they will send their kids to college, or if their kids will even finish high school. For the first time, they’ve lost hope that their children will have it better off than they did.
And it’s no wonder. When they look at Washington and see our political and leaders arguing over how big of a tax cut to give the wealthiest among us, people lose hope.
When they look at Wall Street and see that not one single person that caused our nation’s economic crisis has gone to jail or been held accountable, people lose hope.
Cesar Chavez taught us that there’s a better way. That the only way to strengthen our society is by investing in all our people – not just the most privileged. By investing in public education, rural infrastructure, and our struggling small business owners, and protecting programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, we will not only be helping our most vulnerable, we will be strengthening our entire nation.
As Chavez once said, “We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community. Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.”
That is a lesson our political and corporate leaders could stand to learn.
But we cannot rely on them. If there’s anything that Cesar Chavez taught us, it’s that we must take our destiny into our own hands. Only we can ensure that our voices are heard and that our communities thrive and succeed.
That is what inspired me to enter into public service. Throughout our entire history as a nation, only seven Latinos have ever been elected to the U.S. Senate. We need more people from our community to step up and be active, not just by running for office, but by getting engaged in our community, and by using the most simple but powerful weapon we have – our votes.
Even with that, there are many cynics who wonder if we will ever be able to truly bring change, if we are too much of an underdog. To them, I say that I began every one of my political campaigns as an underdog. But that’s OK because I’m in good company. We are a state full of underdogs.
But if there’s one thing that Cesar Chavez taught us – and that history has proven – it is that we as a community, we as a people, and we as a nation are at our strongest when our underdogs make their voices heard.
This weekend, the dream still lives and our hopes continue to sustain us. Cesar Chavez’s struggle is our struggle, and the struggle ennobles us. Let us honor him by never losing his sense of abetter world, and let us prove to our mothers that we still believe that the sky’s the limit.
Hector Balderas is New Mexico State Auditor and a Democratic candidate for the United States Senate.