At the door was a registration table where attendees could sign up for more information from the organizers, the Coalicion Pro-Derechos de La Raza, the Raza Rights Coalition. People filed in on a hot Thursday evening, many with their children, to hear what was to be said and to be heard by the community.
The event began with a moment of silence for a member of the Raza Rights Coalition who had recently passed away.
What followed was an introduction by the Raza Rights coalition discussing the police, La Migra (the Border Patrol) and the recent rise in organizing by Caza Migrantes (literally, migrant hunters), violent vigilantes calling themselves Minutemen. The MC also spoke of the Raza Rights coalition's 15 year history of organizing in the communities of Sherman and Logan Heights.
Roll call followed the introduction, as the MC listed off the representatives who had been invited. Most only sent photos of themselves to sit in their places including Donna Frye, Toni Atkins, Barbara Boxer, Duke Cunningham and Duncan Hunter who's name received a round of boos from the crowd. Present were representatives from the offices of Juan Vargas, Bob Filner and assemblywoman Lori Saldana.
The speakers included representatives from the Raza Rights Barrio Logan Comittee, the Comittee for Human Rights of Escondido, Somos Raza (a youth group within the Raza Rights Coalition) and others.
The first speaker began the night by demanding legalization for the entire latino community and said that he rejects the idea of a guest worker program that ties one's rights to one's employment. He also made a demand for unmarked drivers licenses and for more development of hospitals and businesses in the latino community. He spoke of how fences will never stop people from crossing borders because they are crossing out of necessity and went on to say that politicians are responsible for the more than 3,300 deaths on the border. The speaker encouraged people to ask why they are being told they cannot be legalized. He ended by saying that "luchando, se gana", through struggle, we will win.
Sonya from Somos Raza spoke on behalf of the youth in her community. Her focus was to demand that the Minutemen and La Migra stop harassing their communities and that they both leave. She also reiterated, as was said many times throughout the night, that migrant people are not terrorists. One speaker said, "we are working people, not terrorists".
Another speaker spoke of his brother going to war in Iraq. He, and later an audience member who was the mother of a soldier in Iraq, pointed out that latinos are not stopped from entering, fighting and dying in a war like they are stopped from moving freely. The speaker spoke of the 30 Billion dollar fund the US government is holding all of the taxes paid by undocumented people in. Bringing home the fact that people died fighting to defend this land from US invasion, he said "we want to liberate this land, not conquer it."
The last speaker spoke of the under-representation of latinos in Escondido, where latinos are over 40% of the population and none of the local government is latino. Also, she spoke of the massive police and Border Patrol presence in the community of Escondido as a form of racial profiling.
After this the representatives of the representatives got up and made vague statements about how they want to work with the community and how they would take these concerns back to their bosses, the congresspeople and assemblypeople.
More questions continued as many in the audience spoke of the violence the Border Patrol inflicts, as in the recent case of the two boys beaten in an apartment complex in San Ysidro. Others talked of the $3,000 cost for citizenship applications being prohibitive. One audience member spoke of INS detentions of latino US citizens who don't know their rights. One of the last speakers from the audience was a member of the Raza Rights Coalition. He gave a very powerful comment, pointing out that the police are not the solution, but the problem. He said that community power is the solution, and that through unity and struggling together, the people of the community can defend their own rights, in the land that they have been in long before there was a city called San Diego or Los Angeles.
As an organizer working on a No Border campaign, the night was both very moving and also a huge learning experience for me. The close relationship that the Raza Rights Coalition has to the community is beautiful and powerful at once. The depth and complexity of the injustices committed in the name of migration control still amaze me. The institutionalized racism, which is so apparent to this community, is so strong and so present in these communities. Overall, the night was an inspiring call to continue putting my sweat into this long, difficult struggle.
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It's ridiculous that la migra is everywhere(or anywhere for that matter). I documented a sighting here: http://flickr.com/photos/57639142@N00/tags/immigration/
...that the pro-border folks didn't show up to disrupt YOUR meeting? Even though it was racist by definition? It's called respecting the rights of other to meet and speak freely.
And in case anyone wonders if its really illegal for BP to be anywhere...it's not. They can go anywhere that you and I can legally go - and a whole lot of places we can't.
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