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March: To Bean or Not to Bean

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! According to the fine folks behind the U.S. Census as well as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Latinos are…white!

Caray! All those years of racial segregation, oppression, and resentment turn out to be just a big, 500-year-old misunderstanding! If we can all kindly deposit our now-void Race Cards into your designated drop-off site, gracias, the “racism-doesn’t-exist-now-get-out-my-neighborhood-Brownies!” conservatives would greatly appreciate it. Gangsters and vatos locos, to your nearest tattoo dude; they’ll laser your “Brown Pride” tat right off (maybe they’ll take care of your dragon that looks more like a dolphin, too).

Now, now, before I get too into the tarado-ness committed, maybe I should offer the reasoning behind why so many of us read “Hispanic origins are not races” on our census forms. According to the definitions set down by the U.S. Census Bureau, being Hispanic, Latino, Puerto Rican, etc. is an ethnic designation, while race is categorized by “non-scientific…social and cultural characteristics” and “ancestry” (huh?); thus, races are constructs such as black, white, “American Indian,” and (strangely enough) nationalities, too, like Vietnamese. In other words, one can be ethnically Latino but be racially black, white, American Indian, or some other race.

I suppose for many Hispanics calling themselves white will be a non-issue, a source of Eurocentric pride even. But I can’t help wondering where the majority of us Latinos – those that acknowledge both our Hispanic and indigenous roots – fit exactly. Are we still, after half a millennium of ancestry, to be regarded a mix of white and native? Are we some oil and vinegar concoction destined never to become a zesty blend worthy of our own dressing bottle? After all, the Ku Klux Klan never sent me an E-vite to one of their B.Y.O.S. (bring your own sheet!) hoedowns.

Then again, getting pissy over the narrow-mindedness of bureaucrats is like being shocked about finding traffic on the 405. But what made me really drop my taco in disbelief was seeing Mayor Villaraigosa on the local news, being interviewed about the confusion over the census’ racial question. His response? He says he personally checked “white,” because that’s what Latinos are, all while giving that slimy car salesman smirk of his. I mean, this guy got so much slack for being a member of MEChA in his original run for the mayor’s office. Slap on a headdress, make him give you that patented smile, and you have a dead ringer for Chief Wahoo, the Cleveland Indian’s mascot! You can practically see the cactus blooming from his forehead, for Quetzalcoatl’s sake! Qué vergüenza!

So congratulations, the U.S. Census and the most honorable Mayor Villaraigosa, March’s Tarados del Mes.

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Highlights of the UCLA’s Protest on the Recent Racial Incidents on UC Campuses

The recent incidents at the universities were: swastika sign in UC Davis, vandalizated LGBT center in UC Davis, “Compton Cookout” Fraternity Party in UC San Diego, noose founded in Library in UC San Diego, replicated noose with graffiti founded in UC Santa Cruz, “Tijuana Sunrise” and “ZBTahiti” fraternities party at UC Los Angeles. These incidents lead students to protest for diversity. Students block side paths of bruinwalk, in order to have students walk in the middle of the of the pathway aligned with different students, protesting for diversity in the University. The demands for the university Protest advocated for a diversity general requirement in which students will have a course that focus on identities and communities, other then their own ethnicity. They advocated to maintain admission and enrollment of the underrepresented groups. Chanting “UC, UC, can’t you see there is no one that looks like me!” This protest was held by Afrikan Student Union, American Indian Student Association, Asian Pacific Coalition, Mecha de UCLA, Muslim Student Association, Pacific Islands Student Association, Queer Alliance, Samahang Pilipino and Vietnamese Student Union.

Footage by Maria Renteria

UCLA Protest on the Racial Incidents on UC campuses from LaGente.org on Vimeo.

New Anti-Immigrant Law Focuses on School

Previously Published by New America Media; La Voz, Eduardo Bernal, Posted: Feb 28, 2010

PHOENIX–Conservative Arizona legislators want to make school districts collect data on the immigration status of students, according to a report in La Voz. The bill being discussed in the State Legislature would require the Department of Education to compile information about students enrolled in public schools who could not provide evidence of being legally in the United States.

Luis Avila, a community organizer from the group Stand for Children, told La Voz that this law will waste school resources by turning teachers and educators into immigration agents. This year legislators have proposed a number of anti-immigrant measures that don’t address the serious problems related to immigration, like human smuggling and trafficking, said Kyrsten Sinema, a Democratic state legislator.

New Bill May Save Undocumented Students from Deportation

Previously Published in IExaminer, News report, Paul Kim, Posted: Feb 24, 2010

On March 15, 2009, Alonso Chehade, an undocumented immigrant from Peru, was arrested at the US/Canada border for unlawful presence in the United States. After remaining in the detention center for two weeks, Chehade was later released with the assistance of his family, who posted a $7,500 bond to free him from prison.

For undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., Chehade’s story is not uncommon. In 2007, three hundred thousand people were detained for illegally residing in the U.S. For the years between 2003 – 2008, deportation increased by 60 percent in the U.S. From these statistics, we can see that the number of deported immigrants is on the rise, which impacts the communities they live and work in.

Chehade’s experience as an undocumented immigrant is different from the first generation’s. The decision to live undocumented in the US was his parent’s decision, not Chehade’s. Therefore Chehade became an undocumented resident through no action of his own.

Enter the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors), a proposed bill that would give undocumented minors a chance to enlist in the military or go to school in the U.S., thus preparing a way for them to become citizens. Introduced by Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois and Rep. Howard Berman of California, the bill has not yet officially passed Congress. Yet with the help of certain individuals, this bill could pass soon, allowing people like Chehade to become citizens of the U.S. Without citizenship, undocumented immigrants cannot apply for government IDs, such as driver’s licenses and strips them of many opportunities that citizens take for granted.

“My hardships began when I went to UW,” said Chehade. “There were some things I wanted to do that I couldn’t do, like study abroad. I didn’t have enough money for going out of the state and I couldn‘t do internships. You need social security to do internships.”

Many other immigrants, like Ju Hong, an acquaintance of Chehade, have to work menial jobs that will hire undocumented workers.

“You can’t get a decent job because the only jobs are construction work or restaurant work,” said Hong. “You get low wages and are treated really badly.”

In addition to the numerous legal barriers students face, the social stigma attached to being an undocumented immigrant can make some feel they don’t belong to American society. One may be tempted to ask: “Why should we care for a resident who is living here illegally? Why can’t they go through normal channels to gain citizenship?” It is important in this circumstance to realize that people like Chehade and Hong had little control over their lives when they came to the U.S; their fates were decided by their parents. The DREAM Act allows qualifying individuals a chance to gain citizenship in the U.S. and pursue their dreams.

Chehade and Hong are working tirelessly to raise awareness regarding the DREAM Act. As the founder of DREAMERS for Positive Change, Chehade gets to connect with other individuals that have similar experiences to Chehade’s. Chehade’s case has also received the attention of numerous prominent politicians, such as Senator Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray. While Hong participates in two organizations aiming to raise awareness about the DREAM act – the Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco and Korean Resource Center in Los Angeles.

Hong emphasizes: “I want to make it clear that the DREAM Act is not just for Latinos. There are 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., of which 2 million are Asians. In the Asian American community it is embarrassing to talk about these kinds of issues. But we have to step up and support the issue.”

So, if passed, what would the DREAM Act mean to the community at large? First, it would allow undocumented minors the opportunity to live legally in the U.S. as citizens. Since the bill is aimed at those minority residents aspiring to go to college, the bill would also help create educated and productive members of the community. Finally, the bill would reinforce the principles of the American Dream, which are founded on equal opportunity, equality, and diversity.

There are numerous ways to get involved in the passing of the DREAM Act. Calling your senator will inform him/her that immigration reform is a significant issue that needs to be addressed. Telling friends, family, and others about the DREAM Act would also raise awareness of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.

The following link provides information on how to participate:dreamactivist.org