Friday, April 23, 2010

SB 1070: MEChA brings AZ policies to Yale in mock raid

This morning, I was furious to discover that, following a powerful, inter-group demonstration against a gross violation of civil rights, the Yale Daily News had literally relegated our action to the margins of “Cross Campus,” a column wherein the Yale Daily informs us of the silly antics of everyday Yale life. I was insulted to realize that while the YDN saw fit to devote nearly an entire page to the mystery of the “missing Yale gnome” and photos of drunk costumed a capella taps, it had not even bothered to contact the instigators of the demonstration for so much as a single quote to contextualize the political act. Instead, it trivialized the nature of our action to a single sentence smaller than the photo of the gnome in question. Because the Yale Daily once again failed to inform its readership of such significant legislation, I am writing this article to compensate for the YDN’s negligence.

This week has seen a devastating blow for civil rights in this country. The passage of Arizona’s S.B. 1070 is a chilling threat to the ideals this country rests on, the indivisible human rights the Civil Rights Movement labored so long and hard to bring to reality. On April 13, the Arizona legislature passed a bill that requires any state or local official to make a “reasonable attempt …to determine the immigration status” of any individual they come into contact with, and authorizes police officers to arrest that individual without a warrant on “reasonable suspicion” that the person is undocumented. The law does not specify what exactly constitutes “reasonable suspicion,” but nonetheless implicitly allows citizens [to] bring suit against any official or political entity that enacts policy that restricts the enforcement of federal immigration laws to less than the full extent permitted by federal law.” Two days after the bill was passed, 800 officers working across nine agencies descended upon four Arizona communities, ostensibly to “rip this thing out by its roots,” according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton. For all the money, time, helicopters, ski masks and weapons that went into this raid, these enforcers of offensive and demeaning laws arrested 47 people, of whom 17 were undocumented while others were mild mannerly, and I hope apologetically, dismissed to their homes.

Yesterday, members of MEChA, Jews for Justice, Fierce Advocates, and the Undergraduate Organizing Committee, along with other concerned Yale students, staged a mock raid in the Commons dining hall during peak traffic to raise awareness of the urgent seriousness of the issue. At 12:30, we released our “ICE agents,” who hounded unsuspecting students and demanded to see proof of residency. When students failed to procure the proper documents, we handed them an informative citation that explained that, if this were Arizona, they could have been detained. At 12:45, our leading Sheriff stood on top of a chair and shouted into a megaphone, “This is a raid!” Immediately, our agents rushed to the “undocumented students” we had planted throughout the dining hall, handcuffed them, and pushed them to their knees in the center of the dining hall. One by one, we stood and explained our demonstration through a megaphone held up to our lips. We informed the community of the passage of S.B. 1070 and the subsequent multi-agency raid on our communities in Arizona. Finished, we walked handcuffed and surrounded by ICE agents down Commons’ main aisle to disappear through Morse’s closing walls.

I am incredibly proud that, if only for 15 minutes, we were able to demonstrate to the Yale community the lived reality of our nation’s immigration debate. If you were shaken by the demonstration, then I hope that feeling shocked you into action. The dehumanizing nature of raids sweeps up anyone who does not fit the profile of what an “American” looks like to this or that police officer. I am glad that we were able to share that experience with students who, under the auspices of the Yale Corporation and within the sanctuary walls of our Elm City, would otherwise never experience the implications of our nation’s immigration policies. The border region exists as a distinct cultural terrain that, by its very nature defies static conceptions of citizenship. Around the world, people commute across cities to work; along the border, they must do the same. The U.S. has long recognized this special hemispheric relationship in its inter-American relations, as evidenced by the Monroe Doctrine and its subsequent interpretations, but has long done so in a way that prioritizes the movement of capital and resources at the expense of those deemed unworthy of U.S. citizenship.

I am continually dumbfounded and horrified by this country’s efforts to curtail illegal immigration by criminalizing the people who are most affected by this country’s own policies. When the C.I.A. topples democratically elected governments in Latin America and replaces them with U.S.-friendly dictators, where do they expect the people affected by those dictatorships to go[1][2]? When NAFTA and CAFTA and whatever other “special relationships” allow U.S. corporations to move their jobs to where they can pay cents for the hour and work their laborers to the bone, where do we expect those people to go? The United States’ “immigration problem” is symptomatic of forces greater than the people we are now seeking to punish — it has to do with foreign policy choices made by United States throughout history, preferential trade agreements and political situations in many foreign countries — and its resolution will not come until we realize that. Until then, if the Obama administration refuses to muster a serious examination of the policies behind this immigration problem, then we must demand it at least put an end to racist laws that, in seeking to keep immigrants out, serve only to terrorize communities of color. After all, does our President not realize that if he were 17 and in Arizona, he too would be caught up in a raid and very well arrested for his racial profile and name?

We, as Yale students, have the power to demand that Arizona Governor Brewer veto S.B. 1070, and we have the responsibility to do just that. However, the responsibility to end this crisis rests infinitely heavier on our President’s shoulders.

It was a bittersweet victory for me when President Obama was elected, simultaneously a moment to celebrate the advancement of people of color and a moment to mourn the repeal of same-sex equality measures in California and the utter silence on the subject of immigration throughout the campaigns. Nevertheless, I was proud and full of hope. Never did I expect the President I voted for to unleash and sanction the nativist forces of “Homeland Security” onto my communities. This time, anti-immigrant activists have gone too far. We can accept these domestic acts of terrorism no longer. It is time to reclaim our country and return it to the ideals of liberty and justice our Civil Rights predecessors have fought so hard to secure.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

[MEChA] YDN Coverage

Members of MEChA, Yale's Chicano student organization, staged a demonstration in Commons today at 12:45 p.m. to protest an Arizona bill that, if signed into law, would require police to take harsh measures to identify and deport illegal immigrants.

Students eating lunch in the dining hall witnessed a “deportation” of illegal immigrants: Starting at around 12:20 p.m., MEChA members wearing shirts with “ICE” (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) walked through Commons, demanding identification from diners and handing out fliers explaining the Arizona bill. Then, a MEChA student stood on a chair, blew a whistle, and shouted into a megaphone, commanding people to “get down” as illegal immigrants were suspected to be eating in the dining hall.

“America is for Americans,” he yelled, as illegal immigrants, also played by members of MEChA, were “arrested” and led out of Commons by other mock-ICE task force members.

The Arizona bill in question, if signed into law, would authorize police officers to pull over, question and detain anyone they believe may not be carrying government-issued proof of legal status.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Semana Chicana 2010: Latinos in Health

While I was unable to attend all of the events for this year's Semana Chicana: Latinos in Health (my first SC!), I can honestly tell you that I really enjoyed all of the events that I did manage to attend.

I think my excitement began when I saw the printed posters designed by our very own Francisco Tamayo. Truly excellent works. I stole some from the poster walls after the events ended for my own collection :) We are really lucky to have him as our resident artist/advertiser.

My first event was the Reproductive Health Workshop. It was really interesting for me as a Latina because I have never been to the women's center here at Yale, and also because I have never really considered reproductive rights and what the means for immigrants in the New Haven area. The speaker was a field organizer from New York, who explained how the organization had been able to improve healthcare access for Latinos living in a more isolated part of Texas by convincing the busing companies to bring regularly running bus routes into the area. This was among many of their other projects to improve access and education for immigrant families, but I found that this particular example led me to think about how basic things like transportation can really inhibit people's abilities to take advantage of public programs... just something to consider.

We were also presented with very chilling facts about the history of reproductive health and experimentation with sterilization in the US. I did not know about the sterilization programs that happened in Puerto Rico beginning in the 1930s, or the options offered to prisoners for temporary sterilization. Interesting that history books, even the ones who do mention sexuality and reproductive rights, decide not to talk about these episodes.

My second event was the Mental Health study break, and I know for a fact that everyone who learned how to dance left the event with much higher levels of endorphins. So clearly that was a successful study break! Alex Gutierrez and I left, completely prepared to appear on Dancing with the Stars... so look for us! (hahahaha)

And the final event that I was able to attend was the Nutrition Day dinner at la Casa on Saturday evening. This brought out a really diverse group of people, which was great to see, including some very nutrition and food/agribusiness oriented alumni. I was pleased to see new faces in the crowd! And besides Jazzmin, I really wanted to thank Francisco (again), Anna and Sandy for helping us make it as much fun as it was! I think that the combination of vegetarian caribbean food and the documentary about eating raw foods as a healthy lifestyle choice has opened up some horizons -- I know a friend of mine left the documentary saying that he was interesting in bringing more raw foods into his diet!

And so we'll see what next year has in store for Semana Chicana, but for now I think MEChA de Yale can rest assured that it was fun and informative on many levels.