After President Obama’s State of the Union address last night, I needed to get out of Casa Mala. I knew what was coming, the analysis, the discussion, and the disagreements about what needed to done and what tone to use in doing it. But I needed a drink, I need to sing and dance a little as an act of mourning because in all of these discussions, which I am now engaged in, there was little mention of actual people.
While I was preparing mentally for the State of the Union address, I saw on the Spanish language news about an immigrant mujer, Alexandra Nunez, who died from massive bleeding during an abortion in a clinic walking distance from Casa Mala. A single mother, like me, made a decision about her body and life within the limits placed on her because of law and who she is.
During the State of the Union speech, Obama spoke about the problems with getting health care reform passed and spoke on immigration from a law and order perspective, following the laws and securing the borders. He failed, as so many do, in pointing out where health care reform and immigration reform intersect, in the very lost life of mami Alexandra Nunez.
Health care reform threw and continues to throw the lives of immigrant women in the gutter (forget under the bus). By cutting access to legal and safe abortions and by cutting access for immigrants, via five year waiting periods to access government run programs to preventing the undocumented from buying their own health care, women like Alexandra Nunez and women like me, are left with little choice but to exert their own choices about their bodies within storefront clinics that offer abortions in one room and breast implants in another.
Many D.C. orgs and legislators are using the State of the Union speech as a way to link immigration reform and the economy. This, because the economy and jobs was centered in Obama’s speech and I would agree that is one way and a good way to garner larger support for comprehensive immigration reform, which many feel is dead in the water. But upon further internal reflection I am reminded of the recent rallies and protests for immigration reform and against punitive polices that seek to criminalize immigrants just for being immigrants, especially Latino immigrants.
The day before the State of the Union address, dozens of protesters risked their (short-term) freedom by blocking streets in the belly of the beast, Washington D.C. Gustavo Torres, who risked arrest had this to say:
“Moving CIR through a divided Congress is challenging but failing to act or taking destructive action when the administration has all the power shows a shocking disregard for the lives and civil rights of immigrants in this country,” said Gustavo Torres, Executive Director of CASA de Maryland. “Our families are suffering and if civil disobedience performed by scores of people that voted in this administration communicate the message that reelection is threatened, that’s what we’ll do.”
Mary Moreno Montejano, who also participated in the protest said in a conversation with me:
More than 200 people showed up. It was a high-energy event with lots of posters, chants and warmth on a cold, windy day. Several people came from Miami to take part, to represent the DREAMers walking to DC. It was also well attended by the media, though mostly Spanish language, as is usual at immigration rallies.
I went to support CASA de Maryland. I work for the Center for Community Change, and we work closely with them. We were at DHS because the change we were expecting hasn’t materialized. It’s startling to think detentions and deportations have escalated under Obama, our families are less secure, and the environment for all Latinos is more toxic with each passing day.
Still, even without the arrests, the rally was a success in energizing the crowd and making ourselves heard. It’s good to be reminded that we don’t have to sit idly by waiting for change to happen. We can make it happen! Everybody should take the streets on a regular basis to shake things up. Protesting is good for the soul.
Protesting is indeed good for the soul and it is a legitimate tool in our box of tricks when it comes to pushing not for compromises but rather justice for la comunidad. What is happening now, especially after the State of the Union address is a closing of ranks, an effort to push certain voices up and out and others down deeper into the margins.
There isn’t one right way to work on this, to make sure that everyone is included, wherever peeps are coming from. There is no monopoly on justice which is really the very right to live free that Obama referred to in his speech. This is not an “American” value. It’s a universal one.