Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The fight continues in Farmers Branch

by Victor Landa
Web Posted: 04/13/2008 05:00 AM CDT

San Antonio Express-News

Democracy is not a guarantee. Even in this country, where we lionize the
benefits of equal rights, human rights and democracy as God-given; where we rely
on that idea to proselytize our belief in the virtue of freedom, even if it
be done with military might; even here, even now, democracy is a work in
progress.

The prevalent idea in the United States, up to the early 1960s, was that
democracy was a limited concept and that some folks were more free than others.
I remember a recent conversation with my mother in which, as part of the
story she was telling about an incident that happened many decades ago, she
nonchalantly mentioned how on the day she was recounting she had stopped to pay
her poll tax. She went on with her story, treating that part as no more than an
aside. I was aghast.

"Hold on, hold on, hold on," I said, making the "time out" sign with my
hands for emphasis. "¿Cómo que poll tax?"

It's well documented that the powers-that-were tried, by many means, to
deny democracy. The poll tax was one such tactic. But it failed because it
was wrong and went against the basic tenets of our political faith:
Everyone is equal under the law and one person's vote is no greater than
another's. My mother tells the story of how the community had come
together, pooled their resources, to "buy" poll taxes (it's interesting
how they thought of it as purchasing the right to vote) for as many
persons as possible. The 1964 Voting Rights Act was long in coming, but
when it was enacted, it became the single most effective tool in the
struggle for democracy in America. Through the years, the VRA has been
the principal weapon against the tyranny of political exclusion and
discrimination. And as the years have passed, the battles in favor of a
more perfect democracy have continued, even to this day.

If we don't hear about those fights, it may be because those of us
entrusted to tell those stories are falling short in our duty. It may
also be because the battles are rendered in tucked-away courtrooms where
there's little possibility of generating revenue for a profit-hungry
media. But just because the headlines are scarce, and the battle more
tactical than before, it doesn't mean that the fight is over and democracy
has won. In our country, democracy has prevailed, mostly because the fight
to preserve it is ongoing. There's a cloud of dust rising over the most
recent battle for democracy in Farmers Branch. That's where a couple of
civil rights lawyers have come to the defense of a community that hasn't
been able to gain equal representation.

The Latino community in Farmers Branch is substantial, large enough to
warrant equal representation in their municipal government. Their problem
is that their City Council is structured with at-large districts and try
as they may to prepare and field candidates from their community, their
voting power is diluted. Civil rights lawyers Rolando Rios and Domingo
Garcia have gone to Farmers Branch to fight the cause. One of three
plaintiffs in the case is Jose Galvez, who ran for City Council last May
and lost. The lawsuit contends that had single-member districts been in
place last May, Galvez would have won and the Latino community would have
gained equal representation on the municipal council.

The defendant, the City of Farmers Branch, contends that the Latino
community is not concentrated enough to warrant single-member districts.
In other words, there may be plenty of them, but they don't all live in
one place, so geography trumps democracy. The odd thing about this
argument is that it proves the plaintiffs' case.

The Latino vote is denied because it is diluted. It's OK to keep democracy
from Latinos because they're politically weak. Odd as it sounds, a poll
tax may be easier to contend with. The suit is not over, far from it. In
fact, the trial has been going through its preliminary stages and is set
to start in earnest on May 8.

I doubt it will happen, but I'd like to see the fight for democracy in
Farmers Branch lead the headlines as much as the war to spread it in the
Middle East does.

____________________________________
vlanda@sbcglobal.net

URL:
<_http://www.aldiatx.com/sharedcontent/dws/aldia/opinion/stories/DN-garcia_12dia.ART.State.Edition1.466b673.html_
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AL DIA, Dallas, Texas


Las Mega Marchas, 2 anos

12:00 AM CDT on Saturday, April 12, 2008

Domingo García

El 9 de abril del 2008 marcó el segundo aniversario de la histórica
Megamarcha en Dallas, la más importante en la historia de Texas. Mucha gente hoy se
pregunta ¿Qué ha cambiado? Y la respuesta es que muchas cosas han cambiado.

En el 2006 los republicanos controlaban el Senado y la Cámara de
Representantes y apoyaban leyes como la HB4437, leyes que hubieran hecho criminales a
todos los inmigrantes indocumentados. Por primera vez en décadas, estudiantes
de Dallas y áreas vecinas abandonaron las aulas en protesta. Estudiantes como
Gustavo Jiménez y grupos juveniles de Lulac usaron el poder tecnológico de
internet, como MySpace, correos electrónicos y mensajes de texto para
organizarse a lo largo del metroplex.

Después de las primeras protestas estudiantiles, los líderes locales
hablaron con los jóvenes y decidieron canalizar toda esta energía de una manera
positiva que ayudara a la comunidad.

Así fue como grupos juveniles, grupos inmigrantes, activistas y líderes
comunitarios empezaron en el Restaurante Tejano a organizar la Megamarcha para el
domingo de ramos, el 9 de abril del 2006.

Cuando empecé a sacar los permisos para la marcha y preguntaron cuánta gente
asistiría, la respuesta fue 20,000 personas, que en aquel momento era la
cifra que pensábamos podíamos alcanzar.

La marcha que se organizó en dos semanas rebasó las expectativas. Más de
500,000 personas salieron a manifestarse en un hermoso y soleado día.

Recuerdo a las abuelitas marchando con sus nietos, trabajadores de
construcción, artistas y personas de todas las esferas sociales juntas, unidas
reclamando justicia para todos los inmigrantes en EU.

Un océano de camisas blancas con banderas americanas arrazó Dallas. Los
inmigrantes tuvieron voz ese día. Fue uno de los días más satisfactorios y
emotivos de mi vida.

El impacto de esta marcha fue eliminar la propuesta HB4437 y detener el
movimiento antiinmigrante. Se registraron nuevos votantes y desde entonces miles
de residentes legales se han hecho ciudadanos americanos y los demócratas,
que por lo general siempre han apoyado posiciones políticas inmigrantes más
amigables, ahora representan la mayoría en el Congreso.

En el condado de Dallas una nueva generación de votantes latinos ha ayudado
a elegir nuevos jueces latinos y Dallas es ahora un condado dominado por los
demócratas.

Intentos en ciudades como Farmers Branch por aprobar leyes antimigratorias
han sido derrotados una y otra vez, en diferentes niveles, en las cortes.

Por primera vez en la historia, municipios como Irving tienen en la papeleta
electoral a latinos lanzando sus candidaturas para la alcaldía, el concejo
municipal y el distrito escolar.

Hoy nuestra comunidad ya no está a la defensiva, sino a la ofensiva. En el
2007 el Senado rechazó por un pequeño margen una ley que habría dado a
inmigrantes un camino justo a la legalización y la ciudadanía.

Hoy los tres candidatos a la presidencia, John McCain, Barack Obama y
Hillary Clinton, apoyan una reforma justa para los inmigrantes.

La semana pasada estuve en Washington D.C. y tuve la oportunidad de
conversar con el senador Edward Kennedy y él se siente optimista de que la reforma se
puede lograr aún.

Dos años después podemos sentirnos orgullosos por lo que la comunidad latina
logró en Dallas, aunque aún queda mucho por hacer.

La Megamarcha del 9 de abril del 2006 fue el comienzo de un nuevo día para
los inmigrantes en Dallas y en Estados Unidos, y es por eso que nunca debemos
olvidar que la historia la escribimos nosotros y no dejaremos que nadie más
la escriba.

Ahora más que nunca debemos continuar la lucha, esta vez con nuestro voto.

Domingo García es abogado y activista en Dallas.

http://www.domingogarcialaw.com/

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