By Gracia Molina de Pick
As a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Denver, I went with the goal to feel the pulse of the Democratic Party and its official candidate, Barack Obama, regarding the Latino agenda.
Our immediate goals were to demand a stop to ICE’s immigration raids that terrorize our community violating human and civil rights. Basically, we wanted to awake the conscience of the Democratic leaders and the Obama campaign, to receive their support, in stopping the raids in our homes and jobs, raids that have caused the separation of our families. More than 90,000 Latino children, many of them U.S. citizens, have been deported and separated from their families, left by themselves.
In Denver, we participated in a migrant march with representatives from all the Western states. That was the main reason we went to the convention.
Among the Democratic delegates are those who are in favor of deporting undocumented immigrants, those who are in favor of legalization, and then there are those who abstain.
Our leaders Dolores Huerta, Senator Ken Salazar and Federico Peña, these last two from Colorado didn’t have a relevant or prominent role in the convention. We didn’t see any brown faces behind the podium among those chosen by Obama. We don’t want to seem like we’re complaining here. But we do need to bring out to our community relevant information in order to not give out our vote without demanding respect from Obama and the Democratic Party.
In Denver there were 110 Latino delegates, or 12 percent of the total, and 273 African-Americans, or 24 percent. Our percentage is close to our total population in the country. The convention took place in Colorado and it had the goal of encouraging the Democratic vote from the West. For this reason we have to consider that our population in Colorado is 20 percent, in Nevada we are 25 percent, and in New Mexico it is 45 percent. In total, there are 19 electoral votes that Democrats can gain in this region, today under Republican control.
In Ohio there are 20 electoral votes, and with this comparison, we can get an idea of the importance of the Latino vote. In these states, that vote can mean victory for the Democrats.
In his acceptance speech, Obama didn’t talk about immigration reform but he did use the phrase “illegal workers.” We know that the word “illegal” is not within our vocabulary. The use of that term promotes the notion followed by the Minutemen and the KKK that raza = illegal = criminal. We don’t deserve that allusion, not even when Obama used it to comfort the racists inside and outside the party.
Obama didn’t mention the patriotism of Latinos in Iraq, whose deaths are a majority, something that is also ignored by the citizens of the U.S. We also know that some of those who have died in the war receive posthumous citizenship, but that their families do not receive that benefit because they are undocumented.
When Obama mentioned U.S. leaders he included Dr. Martin Luther King, but not Cesar Chavez, even though Obama used, without citing the source, the saying, “Yes we can,” the phrase of our struggle since the beginning of the movimiento more than 40 years ago.
In Denver, the door to the West, Obama didn’t mention its Indigenous origin nor its Mexican-Indigenous past, with which he would’ve paid tribute to the region’s history and he would’ve reached out to our community and our vote.
Obama insists we need change! That traditional politics don’t work and that change doesn’t come from Washington but through the demands of the people, and that the community should rise. He insists in new ideas and new leadership.
It is us, Mexicanas and Mexicanos, Chicanos and Chicanas, Latinos and Latinas, who should demand justice for our community and respect for our human and civil rights.
We owe it to our youth, the future of this country that needs to accept that the majority of the people in the world is people of color. We shall all scream, in unity, Ya basta, Si se puede (Enough! Yes we can!), with justice, respect, and dignity for all.
Translation by Pablo Jaime Sainz