midnight.mission.1

Out on a Mission: NAK volunteers at a center for the homeless

Driving eastward on Interstate 10 at 5 a.m., the most obvious thing I can see is the lack of traffic, but as I look closer, I see the change from the affluent Westside neighborhood around UCLA to the economically-ravaged downtown area known as Skid Row.

With fellow members of Nu Alpha Kappa (NAK), we’ve made our way to the Midnight Mission center, located in one of the city’s poorest areas. Even at this hour, people are starting to line up outside the center to receive breakfast.

Twelve of us come to help serve food and clean the center. As we make our way into the center, everyone is quiet and sleepy.

“It’s hard for a lot of us to get up at this time, but we know that it’s for a good cause so it makes it a lot easier,” said Adan Calzada, a fourth-year sociology student and NAK fraternity member.

To most NAK members, it is nothing new to volunteer at the center.  But some do not know what to expect for their first time in this part of town.

“A lot of [members] are not familiar with these parts of Los Angeles. As for me, I grew up in South Central Los Angeles,” said Jose Moran, a fourth-year sociology student and member of the fraternity.

As we first walk in, I notice young kids, the youngest looking like he is three years old. At first, the children stay close to their parents, but after a while, they start playing around with fraternity members, and their smiles light up the fraternity members’ faces.

“The hardest part of coming here is always seeing how many kids live in these conditions… we try to interact with the kids because they are the future of this country. When people think of homeless individuals, they never realize that there are many children that are homeless as well,” said Moran.

The homeless thank the members as they serve food.

“There is no greater feeling than when people thank you and how you can really see it in their faces how much this really means to them,” said Victor Chan, a fourth-year biology student and first-time volunteer at the center.

After the food is served, it is time to clean. The members are now livelier than they were when they first arrived. They talk and make jokes not just with each other, but with the leaders at the center as they sweep, mop and wash the center, making sure that it will be clean for lunch.

But a difficult issue for NAK members is that they are not able to do more for the people on Skid Row. Many times they feel that they have to turn their backs on the individuals in need.

“It’s great how we come out and give three to four hours of our time, but the most important thing we can do is not forget when we go back to UCLA,” said Moran.

i_florez_cancun_500x279

“This Is Our Land”: Grassroots Climate Activists Head to Cancun

New America Media, News Report, Irene Florez, Posted: Nov 30, 2010

MEXICO CITY—It comes as no surprise that this year’s climate summit, COP 16 in Cancun, is working through an unambitious agenda and low expectations.

For grassroots environmental activists who have long eschewed purely governmental routes to change for legal routes combined with direct action, it’s business as usual.

On the ground in cities throughout Mexico, activists engaged in climate work are converging through public demonstrations as they make their way to Cancun on Dec. 3.

One of these groups is organized by Via Campesina and includes more than 300 activists making their way from Acapulco, Guadalajara, and San Luis Potosi to Mexico City and then on to Cancun.

Converging through rallies, marches, and civil disobedience, the Via Campesina caravans are meeting with allies in various towns and cities, alerting local populations about the Cancun summit and picking up new passengers at nearly every stop.

On the first day, 30 new passengers were picked up in this reporter’s caravan.

“We are in a critical moment. This week we can tell politicians that this is our land. We come from powerful indigenous communities and we demand that our voices be heard,” said Dania Flores of Direct Action for Rights and Equality based out of Providence, Rhode Island. “This is cyclical. Today we must defend that which Zapata once defended for our towns.”

Along the way, caravans have met with the electric workers’ union, the teachers’ union in many towns including the Malinche neighborhood on the outskirts of Mexico City, where more than 500 local activists welcomed the caravan with a rally for climate and citizen rights. Activists in Malinche are struggling against the proposed expulsion of 200 to 300 long-time residents in favor of a superhighway project.

In Morelia, located in the state of Michoacan, activists formed a massive spontaneous march, quickly filling Morelia´s main streets with slogans like “Zapata vive, la lucha sigue” and “Water and energy cannot be sold.”

It´s difficult to estimate how many will travel to Cancun given the cost of travel for international delegates and the difficulty posed to Mexicans who already face high living costs and unemployment.

The Via Campesina caravan currently has more than 300 delegates, including representatives from the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) and the Global Justice Ecology Project.

Official UN Summit delegates represent 163 nations. Delegates to the Alternative Global Forum for Life and Environmental and Social Justice, which takes place at the same time, represent one of three main carbon dioxide emitters: the United States, in addition to France, Mexico, and many others.

While COP 16 delegates will work toward an international treaty to curb greenhouse gas emissions, alternative summit delegates are working to voice their dissatisfaction with short-term, business-oriented solutions.

Neither group expects final solutions out of their convenings. For activists, success will come in the form of renewed support for the People’s Accord that came out of last year’s Cochabamba Conference , in addition to alliance building, and climate justice mobilizations organized around the summit .

Destabilizing Democracy in Latin America


Uncertainty was high as the police closed in, but instead of pursuing a criminal, they had surrounded a democratically elected president, aiming to overthrow him. Another coup attempt was underway in Latin America.

On Sept. 30th, 2010, a group of police officers led a protest over benefit cuts, in Ecuador’s capital, Quito. After President Rafael Correa spoke to the group of revolting officers, he was attacked with tear gas and was rushed to a hospital.  He later declared he was being held hostage in the hospital, and that the attack was a coup attempt. After hours of uncertainty, military units conducted a successful rescue operation against the revolting police. The subsequent shootout left four dead.

Ecuador has had a history of political instability; it has had eight presidents since 1996. President Correa was elected in 2006, and led an effort in 2007 to create a new constitution. However, disagreements between parties slowed this process.  Meanwhile, the country remained consumed by debt accumulated during previous governments. In 2009, Ecuador defaulted over $3 billion of debt and cut itself off from the IMF and the World Bank due to their detrimental effects on the economy.

Besides this year’s attempt in Ecuador, this decade has seen the military coup against President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras last year. In addition, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti resigned under U.S. pressure in 2004, and an unsuccessful coup also took place in Venezuela in 2002.

Professor Raymond Rocco, from UCLA’s Political Science Department, believes that the recent coup attempt in Ecuador “is a manifestation that the progress of democracy in Latin America is very tenuous.” The transition to democracy in many Latin American countries is not complete, and much disparities still exists. In addition, government institutions remain weak, and the military sometimes does not answer to the president.  It is not uncommon for soldiers to hold allegiance to particular generals, as opposed to the President.

What should Latin American leaders do? Professor Rocco believes that Latin American presidents must make sure to maintain mass popular support. In Venezuela, massive public demonstrations played a key role in the reinstatement of Hugo Chavez after the coup in 2002. It is necessary to maintain that mass support, since these leaders have derived their mandate from the people.

Professor Hector Perla, from University of California Santa Cruz’s Department of Latin American Studies, believes that leftist leaders should confront the problems brought by capitalism head-on. They must create broad progressive alliances, done by strengthening their own party base, as well as forming center-left coalitions. Professor Perla believes that maintaining unity and grassroots activism is key to maintaining democratic rule. This includes the use of alternative news sources, including social networking, to counter mainstream media’s role in destabilizing Latin American countries.

Progressive governments in Latin America will continue to be targeted. Therefore, it is necessary for people to remain politically conscious and look past the propaganda and rhetoric; they must make sure not to internalize their own repression by being indifferent.

Destabilizing Democracy in Latin America


Uncertainty was high as the police closed in, but instead of pursuing a criminal, they had surrounded a democratically elected president, aiming to overthrow him. Another coup attempt was underway in Latin America.

On Sept. 30th, 2010, a group of police officers led a protest over benefit cuts, in Ecuador’s capital, Quito. After President Rafael Correa spoke to the group of revolting officers, he was attacked with tear gas and was rushed to a hospital.  He later declared he was being held hostage in the hospital, and that the attack was a coup attempt. After hours of uncertainty, military units conducted a successful rescue operation against the revolting police. The subsequent shootout left four dead.

Ecuador has had a history of political instability; it has had eight presidents since 1996. President Correa was elected in 2006, and led an effort in 2007 to create a new constitution. However, disagreements between parties slowed this process.  Meanwhile, the country remained consumed by debt accumulated during previous governments. In 2009, Ecuador defaulted over $3 billion of debt and cut itself off from the IMF and the World Bank due to their detrimental effects on the economy.

Besides this year’s attempt in Ecuador, this decade has seen the military coup against President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras last year. In addition, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti resigned under U.S. pressure in 2004, and an unsuccessful coup also took place in Venezuela in 2002.

Professor Raymond Rocco, from UCLA’s Political Science Department, believes that the recent coup attempt in Ecuador “is a manifestation that the progress of democracy in Latin America is very tenuous.” The transition to democracy in many Latin American countries is not complete, and much disparities still exists. In addition, government institutions remain weak, and the military sometimes does not answer to the president.  It is not uncommon for soldiers to hold allegiance to particular generals, as opposed to the President.

What should Latin American leaders do? Professor Rocco believes that Latin American presidents must make sure to maintain mass popular support. In Venezuela, massive public demonstrations played a key role in the reinstatement of Hugo Chavez after the coup in 2002. It is necessary to maintain that mass support, since these leaders have derived their mandate from the people.

Professor Hector Perla, from University of California Santa Cruz’s Department of Latin American Studies, believes that leftist leaders should confront the problems brought by capitalism head-on. They must create broad progressive alliances, done by strengthening their own party base, as well as forming center-left coalitions. Professor Perla believes that maintaining unity and grassroots activism is key to maintaining democratic rule. This includes the use of alternative news sources, including social networking, to counter mainstream media’s role in destabilizing Latin American countries.

Progressive governments in Latin America will continue to be targeted. Therefore, it is necessary for people to remain politically conscious and look past the propaganda and rhetoric; they must make sure not to internalize their own repression by being indifferent.

Carlos Slim

Jobs vs. Charity? World’s Richest Man Responds

Carlos Slim

Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire who Forbes lists as the world’s richest man, does not believe in charity. He believes that the only way to fight poverty is through employment.

“Trillions of dollars have been given to charity in the last 50 years, and they don’t solve anything,” Slim told an audience at the Forbes Global CEO Conference in Sydney. His point is that society would benefit more if the rich directed their abilities toward building businesses that would create jobs rather than donating money. Carlos Slim’s net worth is $53.5 billion.

Slim’s stance on charity brings up questions about what a wealthy person in his position should do with his or her money. Slim’s idea of creating jobs for the poor is generally a good idea but it’s far more complicated than that.

On the one hand, how long will it take for those jobs to be created and for the vast majority of the poor to be employed? On the other hand, to give to charity is to donate directly to the cause but how much does that help the people get out of poverty?

Do you believe rich people have a commitment to help the poor? If so what should people in Slim’s position do with their wealth?

Natalie Rondon
Fifth-year, political science

“Yes, I believe rich people have a commitment to at least help the poor in their own country…you should want your country to be well-off. Just as a person you should have compassion.”

Mia Davis
Third-year, Afro-American studies

“Give to the poor, but at the same time, if you can make a way for people to be self-sufficient, that’s also a good thing too. With charity you may be able to reach out to more people, but with employment there’s only so many people you can hire.”

Luis Rondon
Fourth-year, political science

“Yes, by creating more jobs you will help people the most. It’s not about giving because people are going to get used to receiving [benefits] without working for them.”

What do you think? Let us know with your comments!

Carlos Slim

Jobs vs. Charity? World’s Richest Man Responds

Carlos Slim

Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire who Forbes lists as the world’s richest man, does not believe in charity. He believes that the only way to fight poverty is through employment.

“Trillions of dollars have been given to charity in the last 50 years, and they don’t solve anything,” Slim told an audience at the Forbes Global CEO Conference in Sydney. His point is that society would benefit more if the rich directed their abilities toward building businesses that would create jobs rather than donating money. Carlos Slim’s net worth is $53.5 billion.

Slim’s stance on charity brings up questions about what a wealthy person in his position should do with his or her money. Slim’s idea of creating jobs for the poor is generally a good idea but it’s far more complicated than that.

On the one hand, how long will it take for those jobs to be created and for the vast majority of the poor to be employed? On the other hand, to give to charity is to donate directly to the cause but how much does that help the people get out of poverty?

Do you believe rich people have a commitment to help the poor? If so what should people in Slim’s position do with their wealth?

Natalie Rondon
Fifth-year, political science

“Yes, I believe rich people have a commitment to at least help the poor in their own country…you should want your country to be well-off. Just as a person you should have compassion.”

Mia Davis
Third-year, Afro-American studies

“Give to the poor, but at the same time, if you can make a way for people to be self-sufficient, that’s also a good thing too. With charity you may be able to reach out to more people, but with employment there’s only so many people you can hire.”

Luis Rondon
Fourth-year, political science

“Yes, by creating more jobs you will help people the most. It’s not about giving because people are going to get used to receiving [benefits] without working for them.”

What do you think? Let us know with your comments!

Vertigo Films 2010

Monsters, Aliens, and Mexican Immigrants: Tired allegory makes “Monsters” lose its appeal

What do monsters, aliens and Mexican Immigrants all have in common? Apparently they’re all dangerous creatures that must be extinguished.
Well, at least that’s what the movie “Monsters” implies. This sci-fi thriller is more of a snooze filled with tired allegories of the present border situation in Mexico.

The film looks through the eyes of an American journalist who must bring his boss’ daughter back to the US. The problem is that aliens have invaded the border, making it near impossible to travel from Mexico to the US without encountering danger or death.

The political premise of the movie: immigrating to the US is hard. The American couple basically learns what it’s like for immigrants to reach the US. And in case you missed the allegory, the main character makes sure to mention how “it’s different looking at America from the outside.”

The exaggerated innuendos prevent the viewer from enjoying the movie as a horror flick and the movie ends up feeling more like a parody of immigration instead. In an MSN interview, the director Gareth Edwards denied that there was an allegory to immigration in the film saying “The allegory [I] was interested in was: You have a monster or an enemy or evil that you don’t like, and it’s like…at what cost is it worth destroying that monster?”

I disagree. Aside from taking place in Mexico and the main characters being American, there are many scenes that suggest negative stereotypes associated with immigration. Not only does the journalist haggle with the ferry officer, who is a glorified version of a coyote, he also loses a passport and must bribe officers to help him and his companion find a way to travel to the U.S. by land. Sound familiar?

Likewise, there is no sense of desperation or terror emitted from the characters. Traveling through dark forests, dark rivers, and unknown lands with the possibility of running into the octopus-like aliens would produce more panic than encourage a journey of personal reflection. The lack of tension and action from the monsters only add to the impression that the movie is a criticism to how Americans treat and view immigrants.

The director’s view of the movie as a general quip to the limits one will go to when confronted with a threat may have been believable if he hadn’t included a geographical conundrum. The American couple supposedly travels through the northern part of the Mexican border which is mostly desert land. But the couple ends up walking into a pyramid temple with a view of the border instead. The magical moment of the end scene is overshadowed by the pyramid’s unrealistic and odd placement. The movie just doesn’t live up to its intriguing premise.

Fall 2010 Immigration Issue

Fall 2010 Letter from the Editor: The Immigration Issue

At the turn of the 20th century, the Statue of Liberty greeted immigrants as they arrived to Ellis Island. An immigrant herself, Lady Liberty was a gift from France. Despite her foreign roots, this iconic symbol of American ideals, representing freedom and democracy, was designated a national monument in 1924.

More recently, the Statue of Liberty, widely identified as a tourist destination, serves not only as a physical marker of American identity to the world, but connects the nation’s population to a common land and shared history.

But what does Lady Liberty stand for during this critical moment when discussions on immigration policy enter our daily lives? As globalization continues to collapse some boundaries and allows ideas, goods and people to move more easily, borderlines on our domestic front have become a literal place of divide.

In our current time of economic crisis it’s easy to place blame on a different group rather than look for a rational explanation. In many cases, this threatening and burdensome “other” has been specified as the recent immigrant, whose roots in the US are perhaps more recently formed but no less valid.

In front of a congressional hearing on migrant workers, Stephen Colbert satirically voiced the anti-immigrant opinion. “My grandfather did not travel across 4,000 miles of Atlantic Ocean to see an America overrun by immigrants!” said Colbert. “He did it because he killed a man in Ireland.”

Colbert’s statement raises some tough questions. How does one, such as Colbert’s grandfather, qualify the transition from immigrant to that of non-immigrant? Under what circumstances does the notion of citizenship reconcile the label of “immigrant”? How does the idea of citizenship contribute to our idea of a nation-state? And, how does our society, as opposed to our legislation, define a citizen anyways?

If, as in Colbert’s grandfather’s case, an action hurting one’s community is enough to move one from his or her country of origin, it is astounding that actions such as keeping families together or working toward positive social contributions that empower communities are not enough to stay in another. Contemporary times make it much more difficult to gain the “right” to be in this country, one that, if based on precedence, should be freely available to all.

The complexities and gravity of immigration will only continue to intensify. I ask that you also take a moment to reflect on your own community and consider how social relations play into immigration and current events as you begin to navigate this vivid and intricate issue.

Yours,

Sam Lim

slim@media.ucla.edu

Read The Immigration Issue here

Fall 2010 Immigration Issue

Fall 2010 Immigration Issue

Fall 2010 Letter from the Editor: The Immigration Issue

At the turn of the 20th century, the Statue of Liberty greeted immigrants as they arrived to Ellis Island. An immigrant herself, Lady Liberty was a gift from France. Despite her foreign roots, this iconic symbol of American ideals, representing freedom and democracy, was designated a national monument in 1924.

More recently, the Statue of Liberty, widely identified as a tourist destination, serves not only as a physical marker of American identity to the world, but connects the nation’s population to a common land and shared history.

But what does Lady Liberty stand for during this critical moment when discussions on immigration policy enter our daily lives? As globalization continues to collapse some boundaries and allows ideas, goods and people to move more easily, borderlines on our domestic front have become a literal place of divide.

In our current time of economic crisis it’s easy to place blame on a different group rather than look for a rational explanation. In many cases, this threatening and burdensome “other” has been specified as the recent immigrant, whose roots in the US are perhaps more recently formed but no less valid.

In front of a congressional hearing on migrant workers, Stephen Colbert satirically voiced the anti-immigrant opinion. “My grandfather did not travel across 4,000 miles of Atlantic Ocean to see an America overrun by immigrants!” said Colbert. “He did it because he killed a man in Ireland.”

Colbert’s statement raises some tough questions. How does one, such as Colbert’s grandfather, qualify the transition from immigrant to that of non-immigrant? Under what circumstances does the notion of citizenship reconcile the label of “immigrant”? How does the idea of citizenship contribute to our idea of a nation-state? And, how does our society, as opposed to our legislation, define a citizen anyways?

If, as in Colbert’s grandfather’s case, an action hurting one’s community is enough to move one from his or her country of origin, it is astounding that actions such as keeping families together or working toward positive social contributions that empower communities are not enough to stay in another. Contemporary times make it much more difficult to gain the “right” to be in this country, one that, if based on precedence, should be freely available to all.

The complexities and gravity of immigration will only continue to intensify. I ask that you also take a moment to reflect on your own community and consider how social relations play into immigration and current events as you begin to navigate this vivid and intricate issue.

Yours,

Sam Lim

slim@media.ucla.edu

Read The Immigration Issue here

Fall 2010 Immigration Issue

Illustration by Maria Esmeralda Renteria

The Path to Citizenship: If the DREAM Act passes, undocumented hopefuls must decide between enrollment or enlistment

Can you imagine paying $20,000 or more for your tuition without any loans or financial aid? Can you imagine having to choose between eating or buying your textbooks for the quarter? Can you imagine having to take public transportation for up to four hours just to get to and from UCLA? Can you imagine being undocumented?

This is a reality that many undocumented students face every day. Brought to the US at a young age, many have excelled academically, with over 65,000 of them graduating from high schools every year.

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) would open the door to young people whose parents brought them to this country as children without proper documentation. If they complete two years at a four-year institution, obtain a degree from a two-year community college, or serve at least two years in the military and show good moral character, the bill would provide them a pathway to earn US citizenship.

Illustration by Maria Esmeralda Renteria

Although the DREAM Act would benefit some undocumented students, not everyone fully supports it. Those who support the DREAM Act, including anti-war and immigrant rights activists, became opponents of the bill because of the military component. They believe that enlisting in the military to obtain citizenship would contribute to the recruitment of undocumented students who will be targeted and drafted at high numbers.

The debate became more controversial when the DREAM Act was attached to a defense authorization bill by longtime supporter of the DREAM Act, Nevada Sen. Harry Reid. The bill is enacted each year to specify the budget and expenditures of the US Department of Defense. On Sept. 21, 2010 the bill fell four votes short of the 60 needed to pass.

“There is a huge conspiracy theory that the DREAM Act will recruit more people in the military, but if that was the case the DREAM Act would have easily been passed through the defense bill. It would have been favored by all Republicans, but the opposite happened. The DREAM Act actually stalled the defense bill. The reality and the theory don’t make sense,” said Nancy Meza, UCLA alumna and the Media and Communications Chair for DREAM Team Los Angeles, a coalition of organizations in the Los Angeles area supporting the DREAM Act.

The military component is seen as a draft that will increase military recruitment targeting undocumented students that are typically of low socioeconomic status. “The DREAM Act is a way to bring more of these undocumented [students] into the ranks, they understand that college is an expensive alternative for a lot of these folks so they’re offering the military,” said Marco Amador, a Los Angeles community organizer and collaborator of the film “Yo Soy El Army: America’s New Military Caste,” which explores the effects of the militarization of immigrant communities.

“We need to acknowledge that there has been military recruitment in our communities even before the DREAM Act was drafted,” said Meza. It’s necessary also to take into account that although military recruitment has been occurring in our communities and undocumented students are not eligible for any federal financial aid, they are still graduating at the top of their high school class and going on to higher education. For undocumented youth, the benefits of the DREAM Act would be enormous.

The DREAM Act is offering students a choice between pursuing higher education and enlisting in the military. In an interview on democracynow.org, Gabriela Pacheco, a 25-year-old student from Ecuador who grew up undocumented in Florida said, “I believe that for a lot of the students graduating from high school their desire is to go to college, and it’s what’s being proven right now.” Earlier this year, she and three other students walked 1,500 miles from Miami to Washington, DC, in what was called the “Trail of Dreams” to bring awareness to the DREAM Act.

Leisy Abrego, Assistant Professor at UCLA’s César E. Chávez Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies and leading scholar on undocumented students, made her decision to support the bill on loyalty to students she knows have worked hard to pass the DREAM Act.

“[I] don’t support the military component, but based on the political reality that we’re in, I do support [the DREAM Act],” said Abrego.

The DREAM Act also receives support from students and those in the military. “I definitely support the DREAM Act as it is with the military component,” said Army Reserve member and third-year Chicana and Chicano studies student Margarita Peralta. Peralta said she didn’t consider herself being heavily recruited. “It’s a decision you come to yourself,” she said.

There are undocumented students that want to join the military as a personal choice. For example, David Cho, a fourth-year international finance student at UCLA, said publically at the Campus Progress National Conference that he is undocumented and wants to serve in the U.S. Air Force.

The DREAM Act is at a stage where it has the highest likelihood of passing in the last 10 years. Not supporting the DREAM Act would only minimize the efforts undocumented have made and the risks they have taken. Undocumented students have been the ones that put their lives on the line. It is the undocumented students that should have that personal choice whether they decide to go on to higher education or if they want to enlist in the military.

“As DREAMers we are ready and willing to take the responsibility about educating our community. We see a hurdle; we don’t see a road block,” said Meza.

This is not an easy choice but when have the choices for undocumented students ever been easy?