We Need More Compassion to Fix Immigration Mess

I hear crying in the next room and I stop writing. It’s my nanny. I was sitting at my computer writing, which is my daily ritual. But I think that it’s more like a ritual that monks do. More like the monks in the Middle Ages, like a flogging, really. Rough leather whipped on my back: that ritual looking for a story, a reason to write. I flog myself writing in my mind. At least that’s what it feels like. I have no thoughts, so I flog myself in my mind some more. Just to know the writing is good.

Then I get a phone call and it’s for Carmen, our nanny. To be fair, she’s really more of a friend. I’m the crazy “American” that she works for. Even though I’m Mexican-American, to her I’m just an American.

“Is Carmen there?” he says in a heavy accented voice. He sounds serious.

I call Carmen and she takes the phone. She takes it as far as the cord can stretch, five feet to be exact—just for privacy. I try not to listen. Then she hears some news. I hear her say simply and tragically:

“No, no, no, mi primo no, no mi primo.” over and over again.

Then she begins to cry a soft whimper of hurt and pain that I imagine as more of a cry of loss than I can imagine. Tears flow down her cheeks. I assume someone is dead that is close to her. I look at her and ask the question that I already know the answer to.

“Is anything wrong?” I ask … I admit: stupid question.

She begins to cry trying not to. “My cousin and whole family have been arrested. The immigration came this morning; I don’t mean to bother you.”

I assure her that it’s ok. But I know it’s not.

She tells me they have been in this country 28 years, paid taxes bought a home and they were all just out the night before celebrating Father’s Day. Only their daughter was not arrested. She was in Europe working for an American corporation, Disney, no less. She had just got her papers. And she was in Europe with Disney. The company that proclaimed it’s a small world after all, a world of laughter a world of joy. The irony hits me square in the face.

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They are now gone and she does not know where they are. They were arrested like a family of criminals in front of all their neighbors. They were arrested like a Mob family. But they are just a simple Peruvian family that slipped through the cracks. A family that paid taxes, bought homes, helped our economy.

I’m feeling angrier and angrier and more ashamed of the country I love, the country my uncle died for and my father fought and worked in two wars for; a country where countless primos have fought. And I was ashamed this morning. I only could offer her the day off.

“Go home, do you need anything?”

And she just said, “No, I should work. It will take my mind of this.”

So she’ll work like all the immigrants that come to this country to do, and we all will keep our minds off this tragedy.

And still there will be no immigration reform.

There still will be a Congress paralyzed and a President that is now being called the “Deporter-in-Chief” by the Latino leaders who have realized he’s only going to give them “compassionate deportation,” which to some might be as callous as an international phone card to check on your remaining family back in the United States. Or the realization that our political leaders are fighting, but not for the immigrants and most of all not fighting for compassion.

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We will need real heroes to fix this mess, and when I say real heroes, I mean people who are not perfect but flawed in spite of their imperfection who still do heroic things like work with the other side to find a solution. They work to find a real solution for our broken system with no powerful lobby or voice or political party, the immigrants. People that need a sorely forgotten emotion called compassion.

We need Congress to act for the people in this nation that they represent even the future American citizens that they will represent. Because this country of ours has done something better than any other nation on this earth: the ability to make more Americans. The ability to recognize others in this world with the same dream.

We need Congress to act. And I will write today because that’s my work. I will work today like the millions of immigrants here do everyday and think somehow this will all go away.

And I drink my coffee that Carmen bring to me and think, “Yes, it’s a small world after all.”

***

k3l4obvqilty428a2y57Rick Najera is an award-winning writer-performer-director-producer and author with credits in film, television, theatre and Broadway. His latest book, Almost White:  Forced Confessions of a Latino in Hollywood, has recently been nominated as an “Inspirational Non-Fiction Book” by the International Latino Book Awards. You can follow Rick on Twitter @ricknajera.

Thank You/Gracias Mil to All Our LatinoRebels.Com Contributors

Contrary to what you hear on the Internet, LatinoRebels.com is a collective of several voices. While many of our pieces with “Rebeldes” bylines reflect the core group’s editorial voice, we also have published the works of 60 individual contributors to this site.

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That is a fact.

LatinoRebels.com is not the voice of one, it is the voice of many, voices that deserve to be heard and amplified.

As we prepare to celebrate our 4th year online (May 5, 2014), we take a moment to thank all our contributors. They are what make this page what it is. They have all written some amazing original pieces, and some of them have even gotten jobs from these bylines. That’s what it’s all about. So ¡GRACIAS! Now give them all a follow on Twitter:

  1. @aaronmiguel_
  2. @arodomus
  3. @AuthorISanchez
  4. @BellaVidaLetty
  5. @bezotes
  6. @BlancaVNYC
  7. @CarolinaADrake
  8. @charlespgarcia
  9. @ctsaenz
  10. @ludacristiano
  11. Daniel Robelo of @DrugPolicyNews
  12. @Dominizuelan
  13. @rodrigvm
  14. @Blmnob
  15. @erjusino_FBNET
  16. Edwin Pagán of @LatinHorror
  17. @efrain_nieves
  18. @ErikaLSanchez
  19. Eric Arce (he doesn’t have a Twitter handle, it’s cool)
  20. @kiki416
  21. Frank Salcedo (no Twitter handle, but a great writer from LA)
  22. @ginavergel7
  23. @HectorLuisAlamo
  24. @IcessFernandez
  25. @Iris_Estrada
  26. @GuerillaGrrl
  27. @JorgeEGalvaR
  28. @juansaaa
  29. Judi Jordan
  30. @LamontLilly
  31. @Librotraficante
  32. @marentesluis
  33. Luis Serrano of @Immigrantpower
  34. @minsd
  35. Matt Mendez of Librotraficante.com
  36. Dr. Michael Hogan
  37. @monica_promumi
  38. @muchomartinez
  39. @conrazon
  40. Rebecca Beard of RebeccaBeard.com
  41. @nickbelardes
  42. @coachomar
  43. @Mr__Christian
  44. @vato
  45. Patricia Pou Jové
  46. @Raul_Ramos
  47. @reynaldomacias
  48. @ricknajera
  49. @robvato
  50. @rscspokenword
  51. @salmendoza
  52. @sg_ndlon
  53. @SamARosado
  54. @DurgaOne
  55. @SusetLaboy
  56. @TanishaLove
  57. @taydolven
  58. @hispanictips
  59. @tonytorero
  60. @julito77

President Obama Addresses Immigration Reform Debate (VIDEO)

Today in a press conference, President Obama took two questions from Maria Peña of La Opinión about the immigration reform debate:

Did Peña’s second question even get answered?

Why Slate’s Piece About Latinos Becoming The Next Whites Failed

In a United States that is becoming more diverse every day, new questions about race, ethnicity and identity regularly appear in mainstream publications and discussions. Central to these debates is the country’s growing Latino population. These days, it seems every editorial outlet in the country has to write about Latinos (demographics! advertising!), even when those outlets’ Latino representation is grossly underrepresented or virtually non-existent.

Such is the case of Slate, a magazine that has been around since 1996. Now, I am not going to get into an analysis about how many Latinos have written for the magazine, but let’s be honest: Slate is not the publication that immediately comes to mind when you are looking for news content that accurately and authentically reflects what is it to be a US Latino today. Even when Slate has tried to address issues of Latino identity, it has always been from the perspective of the outsider looking in. It is safe to say that Slate has never been one to focus on drawing in more Latino readers, but apparently now that being Latino is “hot,” they seem to be trying.

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If yesterday’s “Will Today’s Hispanics Be Tomorrow’s Whites?” opinion piece by Jamelle Bouie is the editorial direction Slate chose, it has already failed.

In fairness, Bouie —who tweeted with me last night after I called the Slate piece perhaps the dumbest thing the magazine has ever published— did base his piece on a very interesting question: will the current concept of “whiteness” change as the US becomes more and more Latino? (Sidenote: Bouie and Slate kept using “Hispanic” in the piece, an early indication that the piece was already going to miss the mark.) That question has merit, and I applaud him for asking it. Still, how Bouie (and his Slate editors) executed his thesis is what troubled me the most.

Let’s begin:

Reason 1: The headline

I ask a simple question: if you are a Latino on Twitter or Facebook and you see a “Will Today’s Hispanics Be Tomorrow’s Whites?” headline, what would your reaction be?

Mine instantly took me here:

The headline —even though it successfully caused me to click on the link— quite frankly, was offensive. The use of “will” at the beginning of the question implied that this was a prediction that would eventually happen. Nothing could stop it. Following this logic, think about it: white = racist against Blacks, Hispanics could become the next whites, so therefore Hispanic = white, which means that Hispanic = racist against Blacks. Why such a sweeping generalization? Why not just say “will some Hispanics” and move along?

Did Bouie agree to such a headline? And before he makes the typical claim that a writer has no control over the headlines to the pieces he writes, as someone who has written for several national publications and also edited for major news organizations, I have always submitted a headline with my piece. If my editors don’t like the headlines, they let me know, and we try to come up with another one. So the Slate headline alone indicates that the piece was indeed “going there.” And I wasn’t liking it.

Reason 2: The photo

Now, if you get past the headline as well as the subhead, “How Hispanics perceive themselves may shape the future of race in America” (cue dramatic music), the next element you see is a photo:

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This is just editorial sloppiness.

A piece about how Hispanics will become the country’s future whites, and the first thing you see is that of four brown-skinned people at an immigration rally? I don’t know if the people in this picture are Latino or not (maybe that “white” lady on the left is Latina too), but these are “tomorrow’s whites?”

Tell that to people who have been racially profiled in Arizona or have been deported from their families. “Tomorrow’s whites” wouldn’t be fighting to fix an immigration system that disproportionately targets those from Central American and Latin American countries. For example, a enforcement-heavy system that removed in 2013 alone over 240,000 Mexicans, more than 47,000 Guatemalans, a little over 37,000 Hondurans and about 21,500 Salvadorans. And we now know that a majority of those removals weren’t even necessary. Juan Crow is alive and well in 21st century America.

Reason 3: George Zimmerman

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Yes, that’s Bouie’s intro. Not only is he asking if Hispanics will become “tomorrow’s whites,” but his writing implies that Latinos will just become a bunch of Zimmermans. Cue up the Gollum video.

I will say this once and only once: some Latinos are racist, and Latin America has perpetuated an institutionalized form of racism for centuries. That system is finally being exposed, slowly but surely. Latino Rebels even wrote a very detailed piece when the whole “white Hispanic” issue dominated the case.

But let me answer Bouie’s point directly. Here is how he began his piece about Hispanics and whiteness:

The Trayvon Martin shooting was hardly in the national consciousness before fault lines emerged around the case. Was Martin as innocent as he seemed? Did Zimmerman fear for his life? Did Martin provoke the incident? Was Zimmerman a racist?

Perhaps most controversial among all of these was the question of identity. Yes, Trayvon Martin was black, but is Zimmerman white? For Martin’s sympathizers, the answer was yes. For Zimmerman’s, the answers ranged from “it doesn’t matter” to he “is actually a Hispanic nonracist person who acted in self-defense.”

Remember: anti-blackness in Latin American countries is still pretty raw and has a long ugly history. When I heard that Zimmerman was half Peruvian, I didn’t even blink or think that Zimmerman’s initial reactions weren’t racially motivated. They were, and almost every Latino I know who saw the death of a young black boy as a national tragedy would say the same.

Bouie’s introduction suggested that Latinos wouldn’t be sympathetic to a Trayvon because in the end, we just all want to be white. Guess Bouie forgot to mention that when it comes to what two groups share most in common when it comes to securing better futures, those two groups are young black and Latino men. Or that when Univision has Zimmerman on TV earlier this year, there was pure outrage.

And for every Trayvon, there is also an Andy Lopez. Or a David Sal Silva. Or a Jesús Huerta. “Tomorrow’s whites” don’t die in police custody on a regular basis.

Reason 4: This Twitter thread

By the way, they also plan to write a rebuttal to Bouie’s piece.

Reason 5: Painting Latinos with a broad brush

By now, I am at the point where I should actively petition every editorial outlet in the country to sign the following: We promise to never ever portray US Latinos with broad sweeping generalizations without talking with actual Latinos who know the issues. I doubt that in this “Latino is the new white” debate, Bouie and other writers could even begin to fully understand that Latino identity means something different to different people. To some, it means celebration of a common culture, language and experience. To others, it means a complete rejection of a contrived government-created label (Hispanic, Latino) that ignores proud indigenous roots. Add the the fact that we’re talking over 20 countries here, and the conclusions about Latinos by non-Latino gets messy.

Reason 6: Louis CK IS Mexican

I guess Bouie never really knew that some of us Latinos think Louis CK is the greatest Mexican stand-up comic around, which would already refute the fact that Latinos are just striving for “whiteness.”

That video actually complements my final point, but first let me call up Bouie’s concluding lament:

Our hierarchies are a little flatter, and—in public life, at least—we aren’t as obsessed with racial boundaries. But both still exist, and they take a familiar form: whites at the top, blacks at the bottom. The future could make a collection of minorities the majority in America, or it could broaden our definition of white, leaving us with a remix of the black-and-white binary. A country where some white people are Asian, some are Hispanic, and the dark-skinned citizens of America—and blacks especially—is still a world apart.

I have greater faith in Latinos than Bouie does.

Too bad Slate (and Bouie) never took the time to bring in a more nuance to this debate. Having been in a room where I was the only Puerto Rican in a room of “whites,” the one with the foreign name who “speaks English so well,” the one whose family goes back to places as diverse as North Africa and the Canary Islands, the little spic from the Bronx, Latino identity is about pride for who you are and never forgetting where you come from. My family is literally a rainbow of races, but we also have a bond that culturally unites us. It is this bond that keeps growing as Latinos get more and more connected online. The Latinos I know refuse to be boxed into other’s paranoid paradigms.

So why did Bouie even ask the question about whether Hispanic will become “tomorrow’s whites”?

Sure, there are some Latinos who will be “tomorrow’s whites.” However, from where I stand, that number is insignificant, just like other people of color striving for “whiteness.”

Hopefully Bouie and Slate do start listening more to what Latinos are saying, and even reading some of the comments being posted on the piece:

My Hispanic colleague commented on this issue and said:

“How can we ever be white. Maybe a few of the light skin ones could ‘pass’, but we [hispanics] suffer the same prejudice on our looks. We are short and brown. When I walk into a room full of Whites of European descent, I and everyone in there knows I am not one of them.”

“Everyone in there knows I am not one of them.”

That’s why “tomorrow’s whites” will never be “tomorrow’s whites.” They will be tomorrow’s Latinos.

***

EDITOR’S NOTE: Julio (Julito) Ricardo Varela (@julito77) founded LatinoRebels.com in May, 2011 and proceeded to open it up to about 20 like-minded Rebeldes. His personal blog, juliorvarela.com, has been active since 2008 and is widely read in Puerto Rico and beyond. He pens columns on LR regularly. In the last two years, Julito represented the Rebeldes on CBS’ Face the NationNPR,  Univisionand The New York Times. Recently, he was a digital producer for Al Jazeera America’s The Stream.

Florida Senate President Fears Some Undocumented Students Come From Terrorist Countries

Meet Florida Senate President Don Gaetz (R), who earlier today said the following about a proposed state bill (SB 1400) that would give undocumented students the ability to pay in-state tuition rates at Florida’s public universities and colleges:

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To give that quote some more context, here is more of what Gaetz said about SB 1400, a bill sponsored by state senator Jack Latvala (who, by the way is a Republican):

“I am told it is ‘good politics’ to support Sen. Latvala’s bill, that it will help Republican candidates appeal to Hispanic voters in the 2014 and 2016 elections,” he wrote. “Perhaps. It is certainly true that the Republican Party has lost much of the Hispanic support President Bush earned in 2000 and 2004 and that Gov. Jeb Bush still has in our state and across the nation.”

But Gaetz argued that SB 1400 is “not limited to Hispanics.”

“It casts a blanket of approval over non-citizens who are in this country without proper legal status from anywhere in the world, including countries which are caldrons of terrorism and anti-American violence,” he wrote. “There is no improper or careless intent behind the legislation, but this bill goes much further than merely reaching out to Hispanic voters.”

Gaetz later pointed out that undocumented students are able to enroll in public universities.

“The question posed by SB 1400 is not whether undocumented students will have access to a Florida public college or university education that is supported by Florida taxpayers — they already do,” Gaetz wrote. “The question is the extent to which parents, struggling to save for their own children’s education, and taxpayers, slowly recovering from a deep recession, should be mandated to pay for substantially increased tuition subsidies for non-citizens, who have not attained legal status in our country.”

Apparently, this whole SB 1400 bill is becoming a big issue with Florida Republicans. According to reports, state senator Joe Negron (another Republican) won’t even put in on the agenda of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Here is what Negron said today in a statement: ”After careful consideration, I have decided not to place Senate Bill 1400 on the Appropriations Committee agenda for our meeting on April 22, 2014.” Negron also said this: “Florida law does not prohibit students who are undocumented from accessing our state colleges and universities. Once these students favorably resolve their residency status, they could become eligible for in-state tuition.”

Latvala (did we mention that he is a Republican?) posted this on his Facebook yesterday:

Children should have the opportunity to receive a college education regardless of their parents’ immigration status. Here’s what others are saying about SB 1400:

Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford:
“The State of Florida invests thousands of taxpayer dollars to educate children who are here through no fault of their own. The time has come to stop penalizing them for the mistakes of their parents.”

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush:
“Punishing these children for their parents’ acts by creating obstacles to a college degree isn’t in their interests, or ours. President Obama and the federal government have failed to reform our broken immigration system. This proposal would ensure Florida keeps and capitalizes on the talent of all Florida students who want to attend our exceptional colleges and universities.”

American Conservative Union Chairman Al Cardenas:
“Granting in state tuition rights to these children, who have lived most of their lives in our state, is not only fair but most importantly smart. Most of them will make their future home in Florida and will be far more productive to our state to their families with a college education. Regardless of your feelings on immigration reform, this is a wise proposal to assure a more productive workforce for our state.”

Council of 100 Chairman Steve Halverson:
“Florida taxpayers annually make a substantial investment in the K-12 education of their children, and it is vital to the state’s economy that we support their continued learning, regardless of immigration status. The Council of 100 urges the Florida Senate to continue its thoughtful review of the topic…”

Associated Industries of Florida:
“All Florida high school graduates should qualify for in-state tuition at our public colleges, universities and independent universities regardless of their immigration status, subject to meeting all admission standards. While the federal government continues its inaction on a national immigration policy, the Legislature should do what it can to ensure our workforce is well educated and prepared for demands of a growing economy.”
Like this if you agree that these students should have the opportunity to receive an affordable college education! ‪#‎sayfie‬

And today, Latvala reportedly said this:

But back to Gaetz and his American flag backdrops:

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Seriously? Gaetz must come from a part of Florida that likes to believe that an “illegal” invasion is coming. Oh yeah, that’s exactly from where he’s from—a district where 77.7% of voters are “Single-Race Non-Hispanic White.”

By the way, you CAN help. Just go here and call.

Gabo Forever

Today the world learned of the death of Colombia’s Gabriel García Márquez, considered by many to be the greatest writer in the history of the Spanish-speaking world. Gabo, as he was so affectionately known, was 87 years old. The Nobel Prize winner died in Mexico City.

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Two years ago, we published a list of Gabo’s literary works for his 85th birthday. He was and will always be an inspiration to many of the Rebeldes, some of whom point to the following line from Cien años de soledad as the reason they began writing when they were teenagers:

Muchos años después, frente al pelotón de fusilamiento, el coronel Aureliano Buendía había de recordar aquella tarde remota en que su padre lo llevó a conocer el hielo.

Today we shared many posts and tweets about Gabo and what he meant to many of us. What follows are just some of the reactions from our social media community. We let their words speak for us:

About the opening lines of Cien años, one Facebook member told us: “I knew I would finish and love that book as soon as I read those lines.”

Then there were some additional testaments:

“THE GREATEST WRITER EVER. PERIOD. “ONLY GOD KNOWS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU.” ~ LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA”

“He was the original rebel!! Grande maestro grande!!”

“Es la crónica de una muerte anunciada. Hasta siempre.”

“Descansa en Paz, Gabo! Gracias por tu mágica literatura.”

“La vida no es la que uno vivió, sino la que uno recuerda, y cómo la recuerda para contarla. en paz descanse.”

“Macondo está de luto. Vuelan ahora las mariposas amarillas…”

Twitter is also honoring and remembering Gabo with the following hashtags: #AdiósGabo and #GraciasGabo. Here are just a few of those tweets:

 

 

#GraciasGabo.

“Cae agua de luna en Macondo, limpia un pecado inmortal.” (“Moonwater falls on Macondo, washing away a immortal sing.”)

David Sal Silva: An American Tragedy (Epilogue)

Last year, LatinoRebels.com ran a three-part series by local Bakersfield journalist/writer Nicholas Belardes about the in-custody death of David Sal Silva. This weekend’s news that no charges would be filed by the local district attorney led to the following epilogue by Nicholas. The previous posts in the series are linked here: “Part One: Culture of Drugs,” ”Part Two: Culture of Violence” and “Part Three: Analysis Of A Protest.” (All photos in the following are credited to Nicholas Belardes.)

Epilogue: Protesting David Sal Silva’s Beating Death

I was at the hospital again, this time for an x-ray of my left foot for an appointment I would never keep. I waited three months. I was in Texas writing by the time I was notified. There were other appointments at the same hospital. The cancer doctor who said I didn’t have cancer. The bloodwork. The chest x-ray. I left each appointment just as I came. Questions piled regarding the mysteries of my health. I’d told a doctor “you’re not listening.” Had given her a detailed timeline of my injury. The cancer doctor at Kern Medical Center said I needed to Google my answers.

This is the hospital in Bakersfield that turned David Sal Silva away when he sought help. Each time I showed up I slowed next to the corner of Palm and Flower streets. Each time I imagined David Sal Silva’s howls, his vomiting in the darkness, his blood still damp in the morning as if grass could bleed dew.

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I blame Silva for the drugs he was on. I blame the hospital for turning him away. I blame officers, even their hungry, snarling attack dog, for working his heart into an explosive frenzy. I blame society for not caring. I blame what has been defended by law officials as the legality of his beating for de-humanizing all of us when it comes to the force officers can use when other solutions are apparent. I blame a lack of compassion, a lack of empathy in the media’s own opinion-makers.

I blame the contradictions regarding the word, drugs. We live in a drug-crazed society, both intolerant and in denial. I wonder why so many love Matthew McConaughey as the heroic drugged-up detective Rust Cohle in True Detective, but could hate Silva, a man like Cohle who was looking to be reborn through the fires of the down-and-out.

Often when drugs are connected with a death, the substance abuser is vilified. Any related cause-and-effect complexities are ignored. So I’m not surprised by Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green saying there would be no charges in the death of Silva, a man who was addicted, self-abused, outcast, alone, desperate, high, wanting help, wishing for a new life, then fell asleep, only to be awakened by an attack from officers and a K-9, all while tragically across the street from a hospital and drug treatment center.

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I wasn’t surprised when a longtime journalist, one who admittedly is friends with the previous district attorney posted on my Facebook, “Without Silva’s drug intoxication, he might have compiled willingly or certainly after the first dog bite. But his reactions set everything else in motion. It sounds nice to have deputies try to use their weight to subdue him, but in the face of a thrashing violent big man, that doesn’t support officer safety. So the officers applied force in a legal way.”

It doesn’t surprise me the local sheriff would blurt words out like some militaristic automaton stuck on repeat, “The facts are the facts. I knew the facts and I knew the result would be the same because you can’t change the facts.”

It doesn’t surprise me the same newspaper would only offer the point of view of the officers in its re-telling of details, presenting a highly illogical connecting-of-the-dots between Silva’s death and his drugged state of mind, instead of looking into the highly complex cause and effects of his fatal night that also includes a culture of police violence.

“Silva refused to comply,” the newspaper said.

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Where this media language is vague is it doesn’t take into account how the officer could assume Silva was in his right mind to comply (the article also stated the officer suspected drugs prior to attacking Silva). At what point, for example, is a mental patient expected to comply or not comply? How is it that violent mental patients in hospitals are restrained without strikes and blows? How was it even possible to make such a judgment against Silva that he should be attacked for standing up? Sounds like a medical issue that could have been addressed across the street at the hospital.

“I hate the system here,” an emergency room doctor at the same hospital once confided in me.

This is an American tragedy being repeated, one where families of addicts (along with the rest of us) need to ponder this fine line between the legality of reasonable and excessive force, and then protest.

I’ve thought many times while passing Silva’s stop-sign memorial: this is Bakersfield’s Fruitvale Station. I imagine writing a story similar to the tragedy of Oscar Grant, a man who was trying to better his life, who found himself struggling in cuffs, who was shot in the back in cold blood on a BART platform.

Silva was trying.

I wonder about writing such a film and its resulting impact were such a movie to be made.

Silva was exiled from a health facility before being beaten and bit to death under a grey blanket of legalities. In his death I see the dispassionate, the robotic coldness in men and women: the D.A., law officials, the media people who love their relationships with law organizations (and so rarely criticize them) who like too many in society seem to be coldly unaware of the humanity in others, making excuses in the name of legality like so many Southern politicians and officials once said while supporting lynch-laws.

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I told that journalist he lacked compassion. He can’t see that every baton strike, every dog bite, every crush and scrape was another string of rope for Silva.

***

nickb_poetryNicholas Belardes is a journalist, novelist and poet in Bakersfield, California. He has worked in television, radio and print news. You can follow him @nickbelardes or visit his site.

The Only Video You Need to See About Current White House Hunger Strike

Just watch.

For more, go to NotOneMoreDeportation.com, Puente Arizona or follow #Not1More on Twitter.

The Drug War = Mass Deportation: 250,000 Deported for Drug Offenses in Last 6 Years

The drug war has increasingly become a war against migrant communities. It fuels racial profiling, border militarization, violence against immigrants, intrusive government surveillance and, especially, widespread detentions and deportations. 

Media and politicians have tried to convince us that everyone who gets deported is a violent criminal, a terrorist or a drug kingpin. But a newly released, first-of-its-kind report shatters that notion, showing instead that the majority (some two-thirds) of those deported last year were guilty of minor, nonviolent offenses – including thousands deported for nothing more than possessing small quantities of drugs, typically marijuana.

The report, an analysis of federal immigration data conducted by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, details how roughly 40,000 people have been deported for drug law violations every year since 2008. That means that nearly 250,000 – one-quarter of a million – people were deported for nonviolent drugoffenses in just the past six years. A nonviolent drug offense was the cause of deportation for more than one in ten (11% of) people deported in 2013 for any reason – and nearly one in five (19%) of those who were deported because of a criminal conviction.

US_Immigration_and_Customs_Enforcement_arrest

Much as the drug war drives mass incarceration, it also appears to be a major driver of mass deportation. Indeed, the report reveals that simple marijuana possession was the fourth most common cause of deportation for any crime, and the most common cause of deportation for crimes involving drugs. On average, more than 6,600 people were deported in each of the last two years just for personal marijuana possession, and overall, nearly 20,000 people were deported last year for simple possession of any drug or drug paraphernalia.

By contrast, relatively few of those deported were drug traffickers, let alone violent ones.  “Convictions for drugtrafficking accounted for only one percent of deportees recorded as convicted of a crime,” the report’s authors note, “while marijuana possession was more than three times that level.”

What becomes of the people who are deported? The sad, simple truth is that they will first likely be disappeared within the (increasingly for-profit) U.S. prison and detention system; then sent back to their countries of origin, where they may no longer have any ties to family or community, may lack basic survival needs like food, housing and health services and may face serious threats to their security. Those who are removed from the country are usually barred from reentry, often for life – no matter if they have family members who are U.S. citizens or decades-long ties to their communities of residence here in the states.

The result, then, is thousands of families broken and communities torn apart every single year.

Because of these grave consequences, advocates for drug policy reform and defenders of migrants’ rights have begun to team up to demand humane reforms to both drug and immigration policies. Central to our demands is that no one be arrested, incarcerated or deported for merely using or possessing drugs – which necessarily entails two major drug law reforms: (1) legalize and regulate marijuana, and (2) stop arresting and criminalizing people for using or possessing everything else.

These commonsense reforms are hardly controversial: recent polls indicate that substantial majorities nationwide seem to favor both proposals. Yet, though modest, they would have a huge impact: sparing tens of thousands of people from deportation every year, while saving tens of thousands more from the anguish of an arrest, conviction, jail or prison sentence, and criminal record; and saving millions of dollars in currently wasted criminal justice resources.

Such steps are critical for dismantling the war on drugs and ending the war on immigrants – a fight that is, in many ways, one and the same.

***

Daniel Robelo is research coordinator at the Drug Policy Alliance (www.drugpolicy.orgThis piece first appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance Blog./em>

Latino Rebels Radio Launches with #AJAMBorderland and #Not1More

Tonight, Latino Rebels Radio launched. Every Sunday night. Live at 10pmET. Click here. We just WENT FOR IT. The convo was real and live. The tech things will work themselves out in future shows.

The show focused on the premiere of Al Jazeera America’s “Borderland.” We even got a surprise call from Kishana Holland @treschicstyle, one of the cast members of the series. Kishana added her thoughts about the show and how real it was.

We also talked with NDLON’s Tania Unzueta about the #Not1More campaign.