Sunday, September 20, 2020

Guest Blogger: Alfredo Estrada “A Whimper, Not a Bang?”

As the latest issue of LATINO hits the newsstands, our elected representatives have just returned from a drowsy August recess to grapple with bombing Syria and closing down the Federal government. This year, immigration reform has grabbed most of the headlines in Congress. But no sooner had the so-called Gang of Eight led by Sen. Marco Rubio passed its bill in the Democratic Senate than it was declared DOA in the Republican House. According to many, it’s now six feet under. And so the epic battle for immigration reform may end with a whimper, not a bang.

The result will depend not just on Middle Eastern politics and fiscal mayhem but what they heard from their constituents while on vacation. Many Republicans understand they can’t regain the White House if they continue to insult the fastest-growing bloc of voters. But they may decide that it’s not worth the danger of being “Ted Cruz-ed,” and having to face challengers from the (far) right in the primaries. If a bill does emerge from the legislative rubble of the House, it may well be a watered-down version of the Senate’s, sending troops, fence builders and drones to the border but making the path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented workers more like an obstacle course.

This would be the worst of all possible outcomes, not meaningful reform but a cynical ploy to keep increasingly restive Latino voters on the reservation. If so, will our leaders buckle to the inevitable pressure from both sides of the aisle to cut a deal, or will they draw a line in the sand? Some would argue that anything is better than nothing, but that logic dissolves when the stakes are so high for so many of us. Will we turn tail, or stand and fight? That’s the most intriguing question to be answered in the coming weeks, as many of us in our nation’s capital observe Hispanic Heritage Month. This celebration of our culture started by President Reagan has devolved in recent years into a mind-numbing marathon of rubber chicken enchilada lunches. If immigration reform crashes and burns, we’ll have nothing to celebrate, and we won’t deserve the awards we’ll give ourselves.

In her article The Children’s CrusadeAna Radelat raises another interesting question. By far the most visible group during the fight for the Senate bill was the Dreamers, who literally besieged Congress wearing their trademark blue graduation gowns. Why were many of our so-called leaders silent? Was there pressure from the White House to keep their heads down, as many of our sources implied or suggested off the record? There could be a shrewd political calculus at play here. During the last attempt at immigration reform under W., Latinos became a lightning rod for conservative shock jocks. So why not let conservatives like Rubio take the heat this time? Even if this strategy were to succeed, our community has not been well served, since our voices were not heard in the debate.

Our cover story by Patricia Guadalupe features three rising political stars: Representatives Raul Ruiz, Michelle Lujan Grisham and Joaquin Castro. Latinos have made their mark in the freshman class of Congress, and these three are proof positive. Following this article, readers will find our 2013 Congressional Report Card, which rates 30 lucky non-Latino members of Congress with thumbs up or down, like Roman gladiators. The editors of LATINO enjoyed compiling this, and it contains some of the most outrageously bigoted comments made by the likes of  Reps. Steve King and Don Young. Both of them received a “three thumbs down” rating, by the way.

As more and more non- Latino elected officials have large numbers of Latino constituents, their positions become increasingly relevant. It’s important for us to know how they stand not just on immigration reform but also bilingual education, cuts to food stamps, making English the official language, and other issues that will affect our lives. And informing our readers of this is an essential role for Latino-owned media such as this publication to play.

Next month, LATINO Magazine presents NUESTRO FUTURO, our  2013 Latino Education Conference. Our flagship annual event takes place at 8 AM-2 PM on Wednesday, October 23 at the Capital Hilton, 1001 16th St. NW in downtown Washington, DC. This unique conference will bring together opinion leaders, government officials, members of Latino organizations, corporate executives, educators and students to address ways of encouraging Latinos to enter the STEM field. Partners include ExxonMobil, GM, Lockheed, Microsoft, Cisco, Dept. of Energy, NASA and others. For more information, please contact us at info.nuestrofuturo@gmail.com.

Attendance is complimentary but please reserve your place at http://www.latinomagazine.com/registration.htm. We hope to see you there!

Alfredo Estrada is the editor of LATINO Magazine, which focuses on issues, politics and culture. His latest book is Havana: Autobiography of a City (Palgrave, 2009). If you have any comments, please contact him at ajestrada@latinomagazine.com.