I almost didn’t make it to the Latinos in Social Media Top Blogueras Retreat in Washington D.C. this Monday. It felt like the airline goddesses were giving me signs but I made it just in time to attend a special policy briefing at the White House. Neither the President nor the First Lady would be there since they were in Chicago for the NATO Summit, but I snagged a seat close to the front just in case. As I walked to the briefing room, I passed by the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and thought, “Too bad Cecilia Muñoz isn’t in that office anymore so I could speak with her”. Then I saw the agenda.
And she would be taking questions. Those who have been reading VivirLatino or following my work know that I have written here and in other places about Muñoz and the role she plays as a Spanish language cheerleader for President Obama’s immigration polices. I quickly crafted my question in my notebook.
Muñoz opened up the briefing speaking about how important her job was in terms of representing not just Latino interests but all interests and how her position and the positions of so many other Latinas in the Obama administration were proof of the importance and power of the Latino community. Then she took questions and my hand shot up.
“Hi and thank you for taking my question. I’m Maegan Ortiz from VivirLatino.com. Given how you are held up as a role model for Latinas because of your success in the non-profit world and now government, how would you answer critics who question your promotion of policies that have proven to harm Latinas, especially undocumented women, for example survivors of domestic violence being put into deportation because of Secure Communities, the thousands of kids put into foster care because their mothers were deported, and a lack of both real prosecutorial discretion and administrative relief for DREAMers?”
I certainly didn’t expect Muñoz to give an answer any different than what she has said in the media. Many of our readers should be familiar with the talking points : Congress, President has to enforce the law, prosecutorial discretion, limited executive actions available, targeted enforcement. Muñoz didn’t take any further questions and quickly left the briefing room.
The rest of the briefing featured other Latino White House officials, including Julie Rodriguez – the Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement, Alejandra Ceja – Chief of Staff, Office of the Under Secretary, Department of Education, Lisa Pino – Deputy Administrator for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program of the Department of Agriculture, and Marissa Duswalt – Associate Director for Policy and Events, Let’s Move! Initiative.
Not surprisingly, the goal of the briefing from the perspective of the White House seemed to be to prove/remind the bloggers/media makers what a great job the Obama administration is doing for the Latino community. One handout even read “Hispanic Community Highlights”. The usual stats and talking points were there and I’d be happy to share if people are interested in that level of regurgitation. This isn’t to say that there isn’t good work happening, like efforts pointed out by USDA Deputy Administrator to expand access to food programs like SNAP (food stamps).
\But there remained more questions than answered as the really incredibly diverse range of bloggers lined up to name their issues. This included mamis of kids with disabilities who saw their kids isolated and locked out of services for being disabled and Latino, disabled Latinas themselves, educator and educator parents wondering about bilingual education, racism, and an increase in high stakes testing, cuts to grants for Latinas seeking post-graduate degrees and so much more. The White House pointed to legislation that needed to be passed but was stalled (by Republicans of course). When that wasn’t a fall back position, blogueras were told they were misinformed.
While all the blogueras had different niches, Ana Roca Castro summed up the briefing nicely by saying that yes we all want to be engaged, yes we all want to work for equal access and justice for our communities, yes we need to be more educated as to how systems work so we can engage and fight but no somos titeres, no somos pendejas.
Stay tuned for more notes/reflections about the Latinos in Social Media Top Bloguera Retreat.