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.


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.


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.

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?

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:


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:


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.

Actor Amaury Nolasco to Produce Documentary on the US Latino Vote

We received the following announcement today from the folks at El Voto Hispano. To learn more about the project (of which Latino Rebels and Latino Rebels Foundation is helping to promote) and give, visit the film’s Kickstarter:


The producers of the documentary film, El Voto Hispano, who are currently seeking funding on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, are pleased to announce the addition of Amaury Nolasco to the production team effective immediately.


“His experience as an actor, working on a wide variety of sets and in some of the most elaborate productions of the past years, combined with his vast network in Hollywood and within the Latino community will be invaluable to the success of our project. His addition will also help in our immediate goal to raise funds through Kickstarter”, says Producer Alessandro Pietri.

Amaury has agreed to not only help secure the proper funding for the film, but also play an active role in the project’s development and voter outreach initiatives over the course of production.

“I’m very proud to be part of this project.  For me this film is much bigger than something we go to the theater to see. It’s a movement. It’s an educative tool that will be around for generations to come to empower our Latino youth and teach them the importance of the democratic process, and that it’s ok to speak up and have a voice. I never had tools like this, therefore, for a very long time, I didn’t vote. Now I want to make sure others don’t make that mistake”, said the actor.

“Even if you don’t know much about politics, you have the right to be heard. This is not an exclusive club that only a certain elite group of people are allowed to speak. We are all in the same boat,” he added.

Nolasco first became active in politics during President Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012. Since then his passion for getting involved in the political process has continued to grow.

In fact, he says he had never voted, in the United States or his native Puerto Rico, until the 2004 Bush-Kerry election which Bush eventually won. According to him, his reason for not voting was not wanting to participate in a process he was not informed enough about.

“His newfound passion for political activism and creating awareness among Latinos is admirable. He wants to give other Latinos the opportunities that he didn’t have growing up. His interest in the project is not just professional, its personal. We’re lucky to have someone as passionate as he is on board”, says Producer and Director Gianpaolo Pietri.

These days Amaury seems more aware of what’s important to him politically, and what’s at stake for Latinos so he wants to get more involved. Working as a Producer on El Voto Hispano will give the renowned actor an opportunity to combine his passion for film with his newfound interest in finding his voice in politics.

Amaury sees El Voto Hispano as the perfect vehicle for him to educate others in a way that he was not about what the issues are, why they are important, and what the price may be for those who choose not to participate.

“I was like that before. I never got involved or wanted  to be heard because I thought I wasn’t  politically savy enough or that my knowledge of politics was not at par with everyone else’s. I never wanted to say anything because I felt I didn’t know enough. Until I had enough, and came out to vote for the first time on the elections of 2004. I was not proud that I had waited that long. But now I was on the playing field letting my voice, my opinions, my ideas be heard.  All Latinos should do the same! Your opinion counts,” concluded Nolasco.

Help Crowdfund the New El Voto Hispano Documentary

A new film about the power of the U.S. Latino vote and its role in national politics is in the final stage of Kickstarter campaign to ensure its completion and distribution. “El Voto Hispano” promises to be the definitive piece about the much-hyped yet misunderstood U.S. Latino vote. You can help by supporting the Kickstarter campaign. It is a film that should be made for the very simple reason: if the community helps now, it will help highlight a more objective approach to the project and avoid commercialization of the film.


Here is the official Kickstarter video where the filmmakers explain why they are doing the project:

How does the project differ when it comes to exploring “the Latino vote?” Let the filmmakers explain:

The most important study done on this subject to date are the Pew Hispanic Center’s multiple reports on the last four elections (’06, ’08, ’10, ’12). There have been many articles written but their focus is usually in the wrong place. The reporting on this issue is usually a numbers game where stats are analyzed, broken down, manipulated, reinterpreted ad nauseum trying to make demographic sense of the cultural shift happening in America.

The numbers are important. Very important. But they only tell half the story. In looking at the polls, surveys, census graphs, focus groups, etc. etc. … the most important thing of all gets lost: The Human Factor. And that’s where our story begins.The drama of this story, its narrative, lies at the intersection of its three main characters: The Voter, The Politician, and the Media. We will examine the nuanced relationship between those who chose to lead, those who decide who will lead, and those who inform the public about the process.

This story has never been told on film, through characters, real people, breathing life into the numbers, the stats… and that’s what makes it dynamic and different.

You can go to Kickstarter right now and give. Minimum pledge is just $1. Spread the word. Share it with your friends. Let’s have a substantive debate about this topic. This is a film that needs to be made. Help now. Support “El Voto Hispano.” We are.

And so are others.

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.


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.


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.


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.

when will it stop

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.


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.

SNL Fails Again: Now It’s Non-Latino Kenan Thompson Mocking Dominicano Legend David Ortiz

Now we REALLY know that NBC’s Saturday Night Live does not give a crap when it comes to mocking Latinos. A few weeks back, we saw a non-Latina (Cecily Strong) fail with perhaps one of the most unfunny loud Latina stereotypes. Last night, it happened again with non-Latino Kenan Thompson doing a heavily accented and over-the-top Dominicano version of Red Sox slugger David “Big Papi” Ortiz.

Here’s the clip:

Where do we start? How about the fact that Thompson and his writers spent most of the skit getting belly laughs out of Spanish words. Look, everyone, I am saying funny things with a Dominican accent! Also, once again this is just another Latino caricature looking stupid. We would challenge Thompson to do the same with say, a Jewish character or an Asian one. Come on, we dare you.

Yeah, we know that some comedians have started a #StillNoLatinas (SNL) thing online and others have come up with brilliant responses to SNL’s “Latino problem.” No matter how much pressure Latino organizations are putting on Lorne Michaels, SNL does not care one bit. How do we know? Because it continues to produce these “FU”-type skits that play to the most ignorant stereotypes when it comes to Latinos. And the mainstream world LOVES it: Ha, ha, ha, see the guy with the funny accent saying Spanish words like tostones! (By the way, SNL, if you are going to do these skits more, at least get a bit more authentic with “Dominican” foods?)

Looks like Chico Escuela is back. But that doesn’t surprise us. It’s SNL. Privileged comedy for the privileged few.

Now, what would have been REALLY edgy would be to get an ACTUAL Afro-Latino Dominican comic do am Big Papi impression. Thompson might have filled one part of the piece, but the writing (and its lack of cultural knowledge) failed Thompson’s final delivery. But what are we thinking? That would be too hard, in the eyes of SNL.

Besides, Papi approved: