Thursday, April 13, 2006

'No Turning Back'

Here is a good quote by longtime scholar-activist, Jose Angel Gutierrez, who was interviewed for this piece:

"This is the first real social movement, bottom-up, grass-roots movement of the 21st century," said José Angel Gutiérrez, a longtime Hispanic activist. "Mexicans and other Latino immigrants are outing themselves and saying, 'You're not inviting me to the table, so I'm taking to the streets.' " The sleeping giant has awoken. And it's not only Mexican immigrants but also U.S.-born Mexican Americans like myself who support immigrant rights. Though many of us have been in the U.S. for several generations what is undeniable are the many familial, collegial, and frienship connections that so many of us have across the border. No wall no matter how high can erase this fact of existence over the past several hundred years.

My deceased grandmother's words have always reminded me how the border is a fiction (in social science we say, social construction). When she was a child (1920s), they used to call it "la linea." All it was was a line in the sand. It was a fluid "boundary" that hardened with the subsequent militarization of the border.

Today, they says it's a porous border. I need to get exact figures, but it is my understanding that as many persons as died in 9/11 have died crossing the border since then. If life chances are an indicator or porousness--and I believe that it should be one such indicator--then the fiction of a porous border is patently false and added militarization is no solution.

My grandparents were both ministers and my thoughts of them encourages me to ask and think, "What would Jesus do?" Jesus certainly wouldn't build a wall.


'No turning back'
Dallas police put immigration rally at 350,000 to 500,000; boycott today aims to show Hispanics' economic power
Monday, April 10, 2006

From Staff Reports
SMILEY N. POOL/Dallas Morning News

Protesters marched along Ross Avenue on Sunday afternoon. Organizers had asked participants to wear white shirts to symbolize peace, wave American flags and carry positive messages.


Voices on all sides of the issue showed up Sunday to be heard at the immigration rally in downtown Dallas.

As many as half a million people marched peacefully through downtown Dallas on Sunday for the rights of illegal immigrants, in the largest civil rights demonstration in the city's history - and to some experts, the birth of a new social movement.

"We came, we made history," said Victoria Garcia, a 21-year-old marcher from Dallas. Ms. Garcia, who was born in the U.S., said she participated because she was worried there wouldn't be enough marchers.

Between 350,000 and 500,000 participants showed up, according to Dallas police estimates. In Fort Worth, about 10,000 to 30,000 people marched.

Sunday's march brought together U.S. citizens and immigrants, both legal and illegal. It drew families and teenagers and a mix of veteran activists and those demonstrating for the first time. Police reported only one arrest, for public intoxication.

The effect of Sunday's marches on lawmakers in Washington remains unclear.

But experts say the rallies, plus an economic boycott planned for today, have certainly grabbed the attention of people across the country - including those who haven't thought much about the immigration debate before.

"This is the first real social movement, bottom-up, grass-roots movement of the 21st century," said José Angel Gutiérrez, a longtime Hispanic activist. "Mexicans and other Latino immigrants are outing themselves and saying, 'You're not inviting me to the table, so I'm taking to the streets.' "

Dr. Gutiérrez participated in Sunday's march and said he won't be coming to work today at the University of Texas at Arlington, where he teaches political science.

Roberto Calderón, a history professor at the University of North Texas who participated in Sunday's march, predicted that Hispanics, immigrant and U.S.-born alike will become more politically active, by joining community groups, registering to vote and running for office.

"There's no turning back," he said. "It makes concrete the larger demographic and cultural changes that are taking place for the community here in North Texas and Dallas."

The spark for Sunday's march, and for student walkouts two weeks ago, is changes to immigration law being considered in Congress. The most restrictive bill, which passed the House in December, would make felons out of illegal immigrants and those who aid them. Some marchers Sunday wore T-shirts that read "No HR4437," referring to the bill number.

On a grander scale, the messages of the march were evident in banners that people carried, from "We have a dream, too" to "Fair treatment" to "I am a human not a criminal."

Organized and focused

The demonstration was notable not only for its size but for its organization and focus. Participants had been told to wear white shirts to symbolize peace, wave American flags and carry banners with positive messages.

And marching under a clear blue sky, they did.

The rally was to begin at 1 p.m. at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe, at Ross Avenue and Pearl Street. Long before then, however, participants, most of them Hispanic, flowed in from remote parking lots and began taking their places in line. Some carried large U.S. flags; another group had a 5-foot banner reading "Legalización. It's our American dream too."

Pressured by the pent-up energy of the crowd, organizers moved the barricades at 12:52 p.m., and the marchers began proceeding slowly from the church west on Ross Avenue, accompanied by shouts through megaphones, cheering and drumbeats.

At City Hall, they listened to a series of speakers and waved their flags. Among the loudest ovations was for Bishop Charles Grahmann of the Dallas Diocese, who told the crowd: "We're on a journey, and it is a journey that is sometimes very difficult. ... We welcome the opportunity to voice our support for all of our people to become part of the American Dream."

One of the rally speakers was 16-year-old Gustavo Jimenez Jr., a Duncanville High School student who is credited with being one of the organizers of the student walkouts. "This was kind of a wake-up call to all of us," he said. "To let the government know it is going to mess with our families."

Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle attributed the peaceful nature of the protest to the work of the volunteers and organizers.

"It's been a very good day for the city," he said. "This is a family-oriented group that's come here to demonstrate. No one we saw looked like they were planning to cause any problems."

The march also drew small groups of counterprotesters. One group shouted from a parking lot at Ross Avenue and Harwood Street: "U.S.A., U.S.A., you're gonna go home, you're gonna go home."

Elijah McGrew, 48, one of the counterprotesters, said: "They are breaking the law, and no one should get amnesty. If I break the law, I don't get amnesty."

Also in the group was Ben Blewusi, who said he came to the U.S. legally from Ghana. "Illegal immigration is a crime in every country. I believe they are a drain on the economy and don't pay taxes, and employers take advantage of them and enslave their labor. And as a result it drives down wages for legal migrants and U.S. citizens," Mr. Blewusi said.

Despite polls showing that large numbers of non-Hispanic whites and black Americans support more liberal immigration policies, comparatively few non-Hispanics joined the march. "I think a lot of white people would have expected to feel uncomfortable, although that has not been the case for me," said Jonathan Piper, a Deep Ellum resident who is white.

Saniyyah Rounds, a 22-year-old black student from the University of Texas at Arlington, said, "A lot of black people don't think this is their problem. What they don't realize is that this is a problem for all minorities. We can't segregate ourselves. We can't hold ourselves as different from Hispanics."

'We'll come back'

Organizers of the event who work with the League of United Latin American Citizens were emphatic - some said even heavy-handed - that protesters should carry the Stars and Stripes. While the message seemed to take hold, a smattering of Mexican flags did make it into the event.

Another message was an oft-repeated refrain from both participants and podium speakers: Today we march, tomorrow we vote.

Margarita Alvarez, 47, a native of Guatemala who was granted political asylum in 1996, said Sunday's march certainly may not be the last.

"We're here today to call for a just immigration reform," she said, "and if we have to, we'll come back and march again."

In Dallas and many other cities across the U.S., Hispanic leaders are organizing an economic boycott today to show the spending and labor power of Hispanics, native and immigrant alike. Supporters are being urged not to spend a penny. Some workers plan to call in sick. Some students had talked about staying home from school, although event speakers urged them not to.

How the two days' events will shape the thorny debate over immigration in Washington, Dallas and across the country, however, remains uncertain. But experts say the efforts stand to galvanize those on all sides of the issue.

For those fighting for the rights of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S., "these are almost intoxicating days," said Michael Young, a sociologist at the University of Texas at Austin who studies social protest movements. But for those who are frustrated with illegal immigration and want to secure the borders, "these could also be exciting days for them," Dr. Young said.

Jean Towell, president of the Dallas-based Citizens for Immigration Reform, echoed that thought.

"I think the more they protest, it's going to make the American citizens unhappy," she said. "The ones that will be unhappy will still feel that the illegals are wanting more than they deserve."

Ms. Towell's group, which she said has about 225 members, supports the House bill that would make felons out of illegal immigrants and build a 700-mile fence on the U.S.-Mexico border. A bill in the Senate that would put some illegal immigrants on the path to citizenship failed to win support Friday before Congress left town for a two-week break.

Ms. Garcia, the Dallas marcher who showed up to make sure numbers would be high, said she was amazed to see so many people.

Scanning the crowd near Dallas City Hall, where the demonstration route ended, she said: "It makes me feel proud that when something matters, we can all come together."

Staff writers Karen Ayres, Holly K. Hacker, Margarita Martín-Hidalgo, Andrew D. Smith, Dianne Solís, Jason Trahan, Frank Trejo and Katherine Leal Unmuth produced this report.

By the numbers

350,000 to 500,000: (estimated) Participants

50,000: (estimated) Paletas (frozen fruit bars) sold

750: Police and sheriff's deputies working the march

60: Portable toilets at Dallas City Hall

10: Scheduled speakers at Dallas City Hall

7: Ambulances assigned

2: People hospitalized for medical issues

1.5: Hours it took for march route to clear out

1: Total arrests (for public intoxication)

1 comment:


    Josh Roberts double-locked the door behind him and
    anxiously peeked through the curtains. He didn’t see
    any of the dreaded black uniforms of the Federales.
    Roberts turned on his computer and re-set the
    preferences for English grammar instead of Spanish.
    Ever since Texas independence turned the state into
    Nuevo Tejas, all English language publications were
    illegal. If anyone found out about Liberty, Robert’s
    underground newspaper, he and his family would be
    tossed into the Dallas County jail for . . . well, who
    knew for how long?
    Roberts had worked for the Dallas Morning News before
    it was banned and re-born as the Dallas Reconquista.
    Reconquista stood for re-conquest; the acquisition by
    immigration of the lost Mexican territories of Texas,
    California, New Mexico and Arizona. It once seemed
    like a ridiculous idea, but the numbers made it a
    After the 2006 amnesty bill gave citizenship to
    fifteen million illegal immigrants, another twenty
    million Latino illegal immigrants promptly moved to
    Texas. What Mexico lost at San Jacinto they won back
    with immigration. Once they had a majority of the
    electorate, the Latinos simply voted in Latino mayors,
    chiefs of police, state legislators and – finally –
    the Governor.
    Vicente Diaz was the Governor until he declared Texas
    independence from the U.S. and made himself
    Presidente. The 1876 Texas constitution vaguely
    allowed independence. But the real power behind
    independence came from the Mexico/Venezuela oil
    embargo and the millions of immigrants marching in the
    streets. The U.S. politicians quickly bowed to the
    wishes of Latino voters in their own states and let
    Texas go.
    However, an aide on Diaz’s staff had slipped Roberts
    secret documents which proved that the Mexican drug
    cartels provided the financing for Diaz. This was the
    bombshell Roberts planned for the front page of
    Liberty. As Roberts opened his newspaper layout
    program on his laptop, he heard a knock at the door.
    He went to the door and looked through the peephole.
    All he saw were black uniforms.