My response to Martin Rodriguez who proposes that, in regards to having any influence over immigration policies, “marches and protests don”t work — we need to find new ways of changing policy – they kick you, you say ecuse me, they kick you again, you say ecuse me, they kick you again, you say ecuse me, – how long before you realize that saying excuse me isn’t going to make them stop kicking you!!! the same with marches and protesting!!!!”
Martin, there is no contradiction between the use of protests/marches and strategies that use naturalization, voter registration, and get out the vote campaigns. Along the way, these strategies have won many victories. The 2006 march, which drew out one million people, had a lot to do with the defeat of the Sensenbrenner bill and the growth of political power in our communities. It is no coincidence that California is now an exemplary state in its support of undocumented immigrants. It was not that long ago that the voters supported Proposition 187, Prop 209, and English Only policies in California. Today, the majority of voters support legalization – and it has been a combination of marching, protesting, and grass-roots organizing that has resulted in pro-immigrant legislation supporting: cities opting out of e-verify, the right of undocumented students to attend college with financial aid, the right of anyone stopped at a DUI checkpoint to call a friend or relative with a license to pick up their car, and now a bill, AB 60 that would give a California driver’s license to any person who shows payment of taxes, regardless of their immigration status. There is no better example of the use of these strategies than that of the Dreamers who, before the 2012 elections, showed the capacities for exerting political power by presenting 11,000 signatures, courageously leading protests in the streets, putting their undocumented status on the line, and courageously holding a series of sit-ins across the country. It was this pressure, and the work of many community-based legal teams, that led to Obama’s executive order granting “deferred action status” and implementing a Deferred Action Policy. I also saw many of these students, alongside community people, out on the streets (working more than 8 hours a day) in the last election that helped to turn the tide in local and national elections. This latter type of work, however, is usually very quiet, behind the scenes, and not as noticeable by the media or by those who think that all our Latino communities know how to do is to march and protest. History shows that strikes, fasts, marches, protests, etc. — are effective and can result in gains for our communities – and, as we have learned, can be further strengthened if also combined with electoral strategies that can result in policies and representatives that are made accountable to our communities.