Tag Archives: immigrants

Hero of the Week: May 17, Pablo Pantoja

17 May
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

The Republican National Committee was very happy to have Pablo Pantoja on its payroll. Energetic, savvy, a decorated National Guardsman — what could be better? As a Latino in Florida, a state the GOP needs to win or steal to have a shot at the White House, he was well positioned to represent the hypothetical rebranding the party rolled out earlier this year. As the RNC Hispanic Outreach Director, his role was very important.

Sadly for the GOP, Pantoja also possesses a heart and a mind. Reflecting on the corrosive failure of the GOP’s fake embrace of minorities after their loss in November, he decided he’d had enough. In a powerful statement, he left his position and switched parties, becoming a vocal Democrat.

Yes, I have changed my political affiliation to the Democratic Party. It doesn’t take much to see the culture of intolerance surrounding the Republican Party today. I have wondered before about the seemingly harsh undertones about immigrants and others. Look no further […]

The complete disregard of those who are in disadvantage is also palpable. We are not looking at an isolated incident of rhetoric or research. … I think you get the idea. When the political discourse resorts to intolerance and hate, we all lose in what makes America great and the progress made in society.

It’s a scathing indictment of the othering done by the GOP as it attacks immigrants and minorities at every turn while callously courting their votes. Coming from an informed insider, it is particularly damning. As a nice parting shot, Pantoja also made a contribution to the ACLU for efforts to protect immigrant rights. Well done, sir, and welcome.

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 26, Jose Antonio Vargas

26 Jun

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to Jose Antonio Vargas.  A Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, Vargas recently outed himself as an undocumented immigrant.  You probably recognize Vargas’ name; he was a former reporter for The Washington Post and shared a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings.

TSM has addressed the issues of inequities before in how we treat undocumented youth. Vargas came to the United States as a young boy from the Philippines.  At age 16, Vargas realized, quite by accident, that the documentation he had been given by his grandfather (green card) was fake.  Not wanting to hurt or betray his grandfather:

I decided then that I could never give anyone reason to doubt I was an American. I convinced myself that if I worked enough, if I achieved enough, I would be rewarded with citizenship. I felt I could earn it…But I am still an undocumented immigrant. And that means living a different kind of reality. It means going about my day in fear of being found out. It means rarely trusting people, even those closest to me, with who I really am. It means keeping my family photos in a shoebox rather than displaying them on shelves in my home, so friends don’t ask about them. It means reluctantly, even painfully, doing things I know are wrong and unlawful. And it has meant relying on a sort of 21st-century underground railroad of supporters, people who took an interest in my future and took risks for me.

Vargas started working on what would be an amazing career at Mountain View High School, joining the choir and the speech and debate team while keeping the secret that his social security card was a fake and photocopied at the local Kinkos.  Being an undocumented immigrant was not the only secret Vargas was carrying:

Later that school year, my history class watched a documentary on Harvey Milk, the openly gay San Francisco city official who was assassinated. This was 1999, just six months after Matthew Shepard’s body was found tied to a fence in Wyoming. During the discussion, I raised my hand and said something like: “I’m sorry Harvey Milk got killed for being gay. . . . I’ve been meaning to say this. . . . I’m gay.”

Being openly gay just added to the enormity of being in the country without documentation.  He was unable to accept an internship with the Seattle Times and endured a struggle to work within the system and lawyers to make him a citizen all to find out, “My only solution, the lawyer said, was to go back to the Philippines and accept a 10-year ban before I could apply to return legally.”  Consequently, Vargas decided to keep under the radar and continue to pursue a career in journalism.

Finally, after acquiring the needed documentation, Vargas was able to secure a position with the Washington Post.  I celebrate Vargas today as a part of LGBTQ History month for his courage and perseverance.  He told NPR that refused to marry a woman so that he could stay in the country legally, “Living with one lie is enough.”  I will be eagerly awaiting to see what happens to Jose Antonio Vargas.  Click here to read the NYT Article.

Papers: Stories of Undocumented Youth

13 Jun

There are currently 12 million adults that  are undocumented here in the United States;  two million of those are children.  I confess that my heart sinks and hurts every time I see people carrying signs about building walls to keep people out–signs that read: Real Americans Build Walls to Protect America.  Really?  Protect America from what?  I always wonder if these people, people I consider to be racist, ever think about Native Americans.  Can you imagine if all of the Native peoples of America said, “we need to build a wall to keep out all of those damn European immigrants?”   I also worry about how do we care for the undocumented youth that are here.

A friend of mine here in Portland also worries about the undocumented youth here in the United States and she and her partner are doing something about it.  Rebecca is the Executive Director of Student Alliance Project and she and her partner Anne produced a documentary called Papers.  I decided to write about Papers because it fits perfectly into the theme of social justice for TSM and because the story of Jorge was particularly moving. Often times, children are brought to the United States when they are infants and this is the only country they know, yet they have no where to go once they graduate from high school.  The state of Texas in 1975 passed legislation that prevented undocumented youth from attending school.  In 1982, the US Supreme Court found this legislation unconstitutional.  Today, Texas was the first and is one of the only states that does not charge out of state or out of country tuition for undocumented youth to attend university in their home state.  To order your dvd copy of Papers, contact Rebecca.  For those of you that are teachers, you will definitely want to have a copy of this movie.  If you are a student, or just someone that wants to help eradicate racism and give voice to undocumented youth, please contact me.

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