Great piece by David Bacon. Scroll to bottom to link to earlier installments.
Immigration and the Culture of Solidarity
Posted on: 20/06/2011 by David Bacon
Editor’s Note: This is the final article of a series on border solidarity by journalist and immigration activist David Bacon. All articles in the series were originally published in the Institute for Transnational Social Change’s report Building a Culture of Cross-Border Solidarity. To download a PDF of the entire report, click here.
ONE indispensable part of education and solidarity is greater contact between Mexican union organizers and their U.S. counterparts. The base for that contact already exists in the massive movement of people between the two countries.
Miners fired in Cananea, or electrical workers fired in Mexico City, become workers in Phoenix, Los Angeles and New York. Twelve million Mexican workers in the U.S. are a natural base of support for Mexican unions. They bring with them the experience of the battles waged by their unions. They can raise money and support. Their families are still living in Mexico, and many are active in political and labor campaigns. As workers and union members in the U.S., they can help win support from U.S. unions for the battles taking place in Mexico.
This is not a new idea. It’s what the Flores Magon brothers were doing for the uprising in Cananea. It’s why the Mexican left sent activists and organizers to the Rio Grande Valley in the 1930s, and to Los Angeles in the 1970s. All these efforts had a profound impact on U.S. unions and workers. The sea change in the politics of Los Angeles in the last two decades, while it has many roots, shows the long-term results of immigrants gaining political power, and the role of politically conscious immigrant organizers in that process.
Today some U.S. unions see the potential in organizing in immigrant communities. But most unions in Mexico, in contrast to the past, don’t see this movement of people as a resource they can or should organize.
What would happen if Mexican unions began sending organizers or active workers north into the U.S.? In reality, active members are already making that move, and have been for a long time. Yet there is no organized way of looking at this. Where, for instance, will the people displaced in today’s Mexican labor struggles go? In 1998, almost 900 active blacklisted miners from Cananea had to leave after their strike that year was lost. Many came to Arizona and California. In Mexico City, 26,000 SME members took the indemnizacion and gave up claim to their jobs and unions. Many of them will inevitably be forced to go to the U.S. to look for work.
Cananea miners and Mexico City electrical workers have a wealth of experience and a history of participation in a progressive and democratic union. They can help both workers in the U.S. and those they’ve left back home, building unions in the places they go to work. But to use their experience effectively, unions on both sides of the border need to know who they are and where they’re going, and see them as potential organizers.
SOLIDARITY and the migration of people are linked. The economic crisis in Mexico is getting much worse, with no upturn in sight. With a 40% poverty rate, the government still has no program for employment beyond encouraging investment with lower wages and fewer union rights. And since the maquila sector is tied to the US market, it experiences even worse mass layoffs than other Mexican sectors, with the waves of unemployed then crossing the border just a few miles away from their homes.
Six million Mexicans left for the U.S. in the NAFTA period, a flow of people that now affects almost every family, even in the most remote parts of country. Migration has become an important safety valve for the Mexican economy and also relieves pressure on the Mexican government. It uses the tens of billions of dollars in remittances to make up for social investment cut under pressure from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Teachers’ strikes, like the one in Oaxaca in 2006, mushroom into insurrections because there is no alternative to migration and an economic system increasingly dependent on remittances.
Economic reforms and displacement create unemployed workers – for border factories, or for U.S. agriculture and meatpacking plants. Displacement creates a reserve army of workers available to corporations as low wage labor. If demand rises, employers don’t have to raise wages. In a time of economic crisis, unemployed people are used to pressure employed workers, making them less demanding, and more fearful of losing their jobs.
Displacement and migration aren’t a byproduct of the global economy. The economic system in both Mexico and the U.S. is dependent on the labor that displacement produces. Mexican President Felipe Calderon said on a recent visit to California, “You have two economies. One economy is intensive in capital, which is the American economy. One economy is intensive in labor, which is the Mexican economy. We are two complementary economies, and that phenomenon is impossible to stop.”
To employers, migration is a labor supply system. U.S. immigration policy is not intended to keep people from crossing the border. It determines the status of people once they’re in the U.S. It is designed to supply labor to employers at a manageable cost, imposed by employers. It makes the laborers themselves vulnerable, especially those who come through guest worker programs where employers can withdraw their ability to stay in the country by firing them.
The economic pressure that produces migration has a big impact on relations between U.S. and Mexican labor. Today, for instance, governments and employers on both sides of the border tell unions that support for labor supply, or guest worker, programs is part of a beneficial relationship. Any movement for solidarity has to address this corporate pressure. A union alliance with employers on immigration policy, based on helping them use migration as a labor supply system, creates a large obstacle to any effort to defend the rights of migrants.
Instead, U.S. and Mexican unions need a common program on trade, displacement and investment, which calls for increasing the security of workers and farmers, and reducing displacement and forced migration.
ANTI-IMMIGRANT policies were part of cold war politics in the U.S. labor movement. As late as 1986, the AFL-CIO supported employer sanctions, the section of U.S. immigration law passed in 1986 that essentially made work a crime for people without papers. They argued that that if undocumented workers couldn’t support their families, they’d deport themselves.
The growth of the cross-border movement coincided with rise of the immigrant rights movement. In the 1990s, as labor activists pushed for support for unions in Mexico, they also organized to repeal sanctions. First the garment unions called for repeal, then SEIU, the California Labor Federation, and others. They argued that employers used the law to threaten and fire undocumented workers to keep them from organizing unions. Unions trying to organize and grow began to see immigrants as potential members — workers who would strike and organize. They therefore opposed the idea of pushing Mexicans back across border, because they wanted them to become active in the U.S. They saw immigrants not just as a force on the job, but in politics. As people gained legal status and then became citizens, they could also vote and elect public officials who would act in workers’ interests.
Today, unions criticize the racial profiling law SB 1070 in Arizona for the same reason — not just that it leads to discrimination, but that it’s wrong to make workers leave.
In 1999 the AFL-CIO reversed itself and called for repealing sanctions, for amnesty for the undocumented, for protecting the organizing rights of all workers, and for family reunification. The federation already had a longstanding position calling for ending guest worker programs.
Gradually, unions have seen the importance of workers with feet planted on both sides of the border. This is an important part of building a culture of solidarity. Some unions, like the UFW, have gone further and tried to develop strategic partnerships with progressive organizations in the immigrant workforce, such as the Frente Indigena de Organizaciones Binacionales (FIOB). It has hired Oaxacan activists, fluent in indigenous languages, as organizers, and supported indigenous Oaxacan communities in protests against police harassment in cities like Greenfield in the Salinas Valley.
OAXACAN immigrants today are an important and growing section of many immigrant communities in the U.S., especially the rural areas where people work in farm labor. The FIOB is one of many organizations among Oaxacans that people have brought with them from their home state, or have organized as migrants on their travels. Many of its founders were strike organizers and social activists in Oaxaca and the fields of north Mexico. Years ago they saw the organizing possibilities among people dispersed as a result of displacement, but whose communities now exist in many places in both Mexico and the U.S.
For over half a century, migration has been the main fact of social life in hundreds of indigenous towns spread through the hills of Oaxaca. That’s made the conditions and rights of migrants central concerns. But the FIOB and its base communities today also talk about another right, the right to stay home. Asserting this right challenges not just inequality and exploitation facing migrants, but the very reasons people migrate.
According to the 2000 census, Hispanic American Indians (the category used to count indigenous Mexican migrants) in California alone numbered 154,000 — undoubtedly a severe undercount. These men and women come from communities whose economies are totally dependent on migration. The ability to send a son or daughter across the border to the north, to work and send back money, makes the difference between eating chicken or eating salt and tortillas. Migration means not having to manhandle a wooden plough behind an ox, cutting furrows in dry soil for a corn crop that can’t be sold for what it cost to plant it. It means that dollars arrive in the mail when kids need shoes to go to school, or when a grandparent needs a doctor.
“There are no jobs here, and NAFTA pushed the price of corn so low that it’s not economically possible to plant a crop anymore,” says Rufino Dominguez, former binational coordinator for the FIOB, and now head of Oaxaca’s Institute for Attention to Migrants. In the 1980s, Dominguez was a strike organizer in Sinaloa and Baja California. “We come to the U.S. to work because we can’t get a price for our product at home. There’s no alternative.”
Without large scale political change most local communities won’t have the resources for productive projects and economic development that could provide a decent living. “We need development that makes migration a choice rather than a necessity — the right to not migrate,” explains FIOB coordinator Gaspar Rivera Salgado, a professor at UCLA. “But the right to stay home, to not migrate, has to mean more than the right to be poor, the right to go hungry and homeless. Choosing whether to stay home or leave only has meaning if each choice can provide a meaningful future.”
At the same time, because of its indigenous membership, FIOB campaigns for the rights of migrants in the U.S. who come from those communities. It calls for immigration amnesty and legalization for undocumented migrants. It campaigned successfully for translation and language rights in U.S. courtrooms, and protested immigration sweeps and deportations. The FIOB also condemns the proposals for guest worker programs. “Migrants need the right to work, but these workers don’t have labor rights or benefits,” Dominguez charges. “It’s like slavery.”
Today there is increasing interest among U.S. farm worker unions in activity in Mexico, much of it concentrating on workers recruited into H-2A guest worker programs. In the past, farm worker unions opposed the programs on principle, arguing that the workers recruited were vulnerable to extreme employer exploitation, and deportation if they struck or protested. Today unions like the UFW and FLOC argue that they can organize these workers to win contracts, better conditions, and protection for their rights. But this comes at a price. Some no longer call for the elimination of guest worker programs, which exploit far more workers than those represented by unions. And if unions recruit guest workers themselves, how can they then strike or use jobsite actions against the employers hiring them?
While farm worker unions and organizations like the FIOB disagree about guest worker programs, they do agree about the rights of workers. “Both peoples’ rights as migrants, and their right to stay home, are part of the same solution,” Rivera Salgado says. “We have to change the debate from one in which immigration is presented as a problem to a debate over rights.”
For many years the FIOB was a crucial part of the political opposition to Oaxaca’s PRI government, until the PRI was defeated in the elections of 2010. Juan Romualdo Gutierrez Cortez, a schoolteacher in Tecomaxtlahuaca, was the FIOB’s Oaxaca coordinator and a leader of Oaxaca’s teachers union, Section 22 of the National Education Workers Union, and of the Popular Association of the People of Oaxaca (APPO).
The June 2006 strike by Section 22 started a months-long uprising, led by the APPO, which sought to remove the state’s then-governor Ulises Ruiz and make a basic change in development and economic policy. The uprising was crushed by Federal armed intervention, and dozens of activists were arrested. To Leoncio Vasquez, a FIOB activist in Fresno, “the lack of human rights is a factor contributing to migration from Oaxaca and Mexico, since it closes off our ability to call for any change.”
During the conflict, teachers traveled to California from Oaxaca, and spoke at the convention of the California Federation of Teachers. Solidarity efforts between U.S. and Mexican teachers have barely started, but with the vast number of Mexican students in California schools, and with many immigrants themselves now working as teachers, the basis is growing for much closer relationships. Mexican teachers, members of Latin America’s largest union, have also organized a leftwing caucus that now controls the union structure in several states, including Oaxaca.
During the 2006 uprising, the state government issued an order for Gutierrez’ arrest, because he’d been a very visible opposition leader already for years. In the late 1990s he was elected to the Oaxaca Chamber of Deputies, in an alliance between the FIOB and Mexico’s leftwing Democratic Revolutionary Party. Following his term in office, he was imprisoned by then-Governor Jose Murat, until a binational campaign won his release. His crime was insisting on a new path of economic development that would raise rural living standards, and make migration just an option, rather than an indispensable means of survival.
Gaspar Rivera-Salgado believes that “in Mexico we’re very close to getting power in our communities on a local and state level.” He points to Gutierrez’ election as state deputy, and later as mayor of his hometown San Miguel Tlacotepec, and finally to the election of Gabino Cue as governor. The FIOB’s alliance with the PRD is controversial, however. “First, we have to organize our own base,” Rivera Salgado cautions. “But then we have to find strategic allies. Migration is part of globalization, an aspect of state policies that expel people. Creating an alternative to that requires political power. There’s no way to avoid that.”
FIOB presents an important example of another kind of binational organizing and solidarity that complements efforts by unions. It has a strong base among communities on both sides of the borders. It has a carefully worked-out program for advocating the rights of migrants and their home communities, discussed extensively among its chapters before it was adopted. And it sees the system as the problem, not just the bad actions of employers or government officials.
THE interests of workers in the U.S. and Mexico are tied together. Millions of people are a bridge between the two countries, and their labor movements. A blacklisted worker in Cananea one year can become a miner in Arizona the next, or a janitor organizer in Los Angeles. Who knows better the human cost of repression in Mexico than a teacher from Oaxaca in 2006, or an electrical worker who lost his or her job and pension in 2009?
Raquel Medina, a Oaxacan teacher, spoke at the 2007 convention of the California Federation of Teachers. She did more than appeal for support for Section 22. She helped teachers from Fresno and Santa Maria understand why they hear so many children in their classrooms speaking Mixteco. She helped them see that the poverty in her home state, the repression of her union, the growing number of Oaxacan families in California, and the activity of those migrants in California’s union battles, are all related. She connected the dots of solidarity. Educators should go back to their schools and union meetings, she said, and show people the way the global economy functions today – how it affects ordinary people, and what they can do to change it.
The historic slogan of the ILWU (and of many unionists beyond its ranks) is “an injury to one is an injury to all.” Today, an updated version of it might say, “An attack on a union in Mexico is an attack on unions in the U.S.” Or it could say, “An attack on Mexican workers in Arizona is an attack on workers in Mexico.” Or it could say, “Organizing Mexican workers at carwashes in Los Angeles will help unions in Mexico, by increasing the power of those willing to fight for the mineros and SME.”
David Bacon is a California writer and photojournalist. His latest book is Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants.
The Institute for Transnational Social Change (ITSC) is a hub for cross-border collaboration among key worker-led organizations (independent unions, worker centers, NGOs, and academics) in Mexico and the United States. The institute seeks to address the needs of a low-wage workforce that is often hard-to-reach – migrant workers, women in the garment industry, farm workers, miners, and other workers in industries dominated by highly mobile transnational corporations — and to increase opportunities for cross-border collaboration. The present report is part of a series of publications sponsored by ITSC. For more information about the ITSC, contact Gaspar Rivera-Salgado at UCLA, firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read earlier installments, click on any of the following links:
Growing Ties Between Mexican and U.S. Labor
The Rebirth of Solidarity on the Border
Labor Law Reform – A Key Battle for Mexican Unions Today
The Hidden History of Mexico/U.S. Labor Solidarity
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Great piece by David Bacon. Scroll to bottom to link to earlier installments.
Posted by Angela Valenzuela at 8:24 AM
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
What they couldn't get passed in regular session, SB 9 got passed in special session--a bill that legitimates discrimination and bigotry in the state of Texas and that will predictably violate constitutional rights of residents and citizens. It will have to ultimately get settled in lawsuits that will be very costly to our state that will take a few years to play out before this gets overturned. This legislation is toxic and hateful.
The Miami Herald
Posted on Wed, Jun. 15, 2011
Texas Senate passes 'sanctuary cities' bill
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram
AUSTIN — Embracing one of Gov. Rick Perry's top priorities, the Texas Senate voted 19-12 on party lines early Wednesday to pass a so-called sanctuary city bill despite impassioned warnings from the chamber's Hispanics that the bill will breed discrimination and make Texas "an unwelcoming place."
Senate Bill 9 would halt state aid to local governments that prohibit local officers from inquiring about immigration status. Sen. Tommy Williams, R-Woodlands, the bill's sponsor, said the bill would permit -- but not require -- officers to ask about citizenship or immigration status when they arrest or detain someone.
Under pointed questioning from Democrats, Williams defended the bill as a needed deterrent against criminal elements entering the country from Mexico and said it would help establish a coherent statewide policy.
"This is not about political parties, nor is it about race or hate or fear-mongering," he said.
Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, evoked memories of 9-11 in saying that the bill could help "provide some additional protection .. . from those people who are here to harm us."
But the chamber's seven Hispanics assailed the bill in an emotional round of speeches before the final vote, saying the measure would lead to racial profiling and harassment of Latinos.
Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, the dean of the Senate, asked the Hispanic senators to stand.
"Look at these members of the Senate," Whitmire declared. "This legislation to will force them to prove that they are U.S. citizens. Members, we can do better. This is a sad day."
Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, said the bill will result in "unintended consequences," resulting in expensive civil rights lawsuits because of racial profiling. He also predicted that "Texas will be viewed as an unwelcoming place" for immigrants.
Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, a former Marine, recalled being subjected to bigotry while growing up and warned that the bill would lead to discrimination against "anyone who looks like me."
"I shouldn't have to prove my citizenship because my skin is a little darker than yours," he said. "This bill is hurtful, it's ignorant and it's offensive."
To read the complete article, visit www.star-telegram.com.
© 2011 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.
Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/06/15/v-print/2267498/texas-senate-passes-sanctuary.html#ixzz1PLqcCANM
Posted by Angela Valenzuela at 6:33 AM
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Chamber outlines 'Steps to a 21st Century U.S.-Mexico Border'
Posted Jun 9, 2011, 1:57 pm
Cronkite News Service
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Chamber of Commerce laid out a coordinated border plan Wednesday that calls for combined improvements in infrastructure, security, immigration policies and trade, instead of the current piecemeal approach.
The public and private investment in such a program is needed to create a 21st century U.S.-Mexico border that will allow both countries to be secure and to compete in the global economy, the report said.
"Our security and our prosperity intersect at the border," said former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, chairman of the U.S. Chamber's National Security Task Force, who unveiled the report.
"I am going to put an exclamation point around immigration reform," added Ridge, who called for cooperation across the partisan aisle in Washington.
The report said the Nogales Port of Entry, the largest gateway for fresh produce from Mexico, is a critical passage for other products and agricultural commodities moving between both countries. Action and investment in places like Nogales will be critical in improving the relationship between the two countries, the report said.
Such investment would be a "down payment" in the effort to create a "world-class border," said Patrick Kilbride, senior director, Americas, at the chamber.
The report said the Nogales West Point of Entry is currently in the middle of a $200 million expansion project. But that expansion will require as many as 200 border patrol officers more than the 300 currently staffing Nogales West, the report said.
"If it was your own business, if it was your own crossing, you would make the capital investment," said U.S. Chamber President Thomas Donahue at Wednesday's event.
The report also noted the need to give special attention to American businesses, American workers and those who wish to work in this country, to improve the current bottleneck conditions at the borders. Suggestions include a streamlined temporary-worker program, to make it less attractive for workers to enter this country illegally.
One industry greatly impacted by border policy is agriculture, a $10.3 billion industry in Arizona.
"Produce is one of the most innovative industries," said Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Nogales-based Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, who was on hand for Wednesday's event in Washington. But time-sensitive produce can be bottled up at the border for as long as 10 hours, the report said.
Since farmers are now trying to serve a world marketplace, Jungmeyer said, there will always be plenty of fruits and vegetables in grocery stores. But whether that produce is mostly imported to or grown in the United States will be decided by the availability of labor.
The report is not meant as a criticism of either the U.S. or the Mexican government. Donahue credited Homeland Security with making a "Herculean effort" in this interdependent problem.
"The will is there, the intention is there... but there is more work to do," he said.
Arizona Chamber of Commerce CEO Glenn Hamer welcomed the U.S. chamber's involvement.
"Given the clout of the U.S. chamber, they are going to have a bigger effect than the Arizona chamber," he said. "But that said, all state chambers have a role to communicate and expand this robust trade relationship.
"It's a win-win for both countries. And for states like Arizona, where Mexico is the largest trading partner, the positives that can come out of the report are even more profound," said Hamer.
Others said this report is repeating what they have been saying for years.
"It's great that the chamber is engaged in this, no question about that," said Nelson Balido, president of the Border Trade Alliance. "But this is nothing new. We've been telling people all along about this need to get moving."
Balido explained that nothing will give the United States a more immediate return than investing in both of its borders.
"We have to integrate security and trade. Not balance, integrate," he said. The chamber report is another tool to highlight and verify what his alliance has spent 25 years lobbying for, Balido said.
Pointing to this country's current economic straits, the chamber's report calls for U.S. and Mexican governments, businesses, and citizens to "think strategically about their common future," suggesting not enough has been done in alliance between all stakeholders.
"How we manage those borders says something about who we are as a nation," Donahue said in the preface to the report.
Posted by Angela Valenzuela at 5:30 AM
Thursday, June 2, 2011
A 'Huge Weapon' For Obama--or any party or politician, for that matter. One would hope that this would all be construed as an opportunity. Our leadership simply needs to embrace these indomitable, unrelenting shifts and begin working together--all of us--for a better tomorrow.
05/31/11 02:49 PM ET Updated: 05/31/11 07:40 PM ET
WASHINGTON -- The biggest political story over the past week didn't involve a bus tour, sordid tweets sent from a congressman's account or even the posturing over whether to raise the nation's debt ceiling.
Instead, it was the no-thrills release of a 16-page report by the Census bureau, which underscored a massive paradigm shift in how politics is conducted.
On May 26, the Census released what an official at the bureau described as "the latest, most up to date data on the Hispanic population in the United States." The numbers, culled from its 2010 survey, tell a remarkable -- albeit anticipated -- story: The Hispanic population is growing at a rate much faster than any other demographic.
"The new census data affirms that one of the great stories of the 21st century is the changing majority of America from a majority white country to a majority minority country," said Simon Rosenberg, president and founder of NDN, a Democratic-leaning think tank that has focused heavily on Hispanic issues. "From a national political standpoint it’s a huge development."
Currently, 50.5 million Hispanics live in the United States (roughly 16 percent of its 308.7 million population), a significant increase from the 35.3 million Hispanics in the country in 2000. The 15.2 million difference accounts for more than half of U.S. population growth during that same time period.
And in some areas of the country, that ratio is even more pronounced.
In the South, for instance, the Hispanic population grew by 57 percent between 2000 and 2010, while overall population growth in the region during that same time period was only 14 percent. In the Midwest, the Hispanic population grew by 49 percent, more than 12 times the population growth of all other groups during that period. Hispanics doubled or more in population size in 912 of the United States' 3,143 counties. Only six of those counties showed negative percent change in the Hispanic population.
Gaming out the political ramifications of such a dramatic demographic shift is not an easy calculus. The Hispanic population is not monolithic; nor does it vote on singular issues, often prioritizing immigration reform below economic matters. What works as an electoral motivator in Florida may fall short in Illinois.
Operatives from both sides of the ledger agree, however, that a both Democrats and Republicans have a generation-defining opportunity at hand. But only one party seems positioned to take advantage. In 2004, 5.1 million Hispanics voted for Democratic candidates, 4.3 million for Republicans. In 2008, the ratio changed, with 7.8 million voting Democratic and 3.6 million voting Republican, according to data compiled by New Policy Institute.
"When you talk about Democratic secret weapon -- it isn't so much a secret because everyone sees it coming -- but this is the year it could come," said Carlos Odio, Deputy Director for the Latino Vote Program during Barack Obama's 2008 campaign. "No one ever expects the flood to happen, but there is so much room for growth. If Democrats and progressives really played this, it could be a huge weapon. The census reinforces that."
Hector Barajas remains acutely aware of the weapon. As a Spanish media spokesman for both George W. Bush's 2004 presidential campaign and John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign as well as communications director for the California Republican Party, he has watched the evolving relationship between the GOP and the Latino population from a front row seat. His post in California has particularly presented challenges, with the bulging Hispanic community forcing statewide candidates into a sharp political pull between demographic realities and conservative political pressures.
Recently, he's been making the rounds to various Republican Party entities, urging them to readjust the rhetoric and appreciate the trends, noting Obama's failure to deliver on key promises to the Hispanic community creates an opening. One part of his pitch includes a slide showing that even if all immigration into the United States came to a halt, the Hispanic population would continue to grow, with births inside the country rising at an even faster rate than net immigration.
"Every 30 seconds a Latino turns the age of 18," he told The Huffington Post. "There are about 11 million Latinos over the age of 18 who are U.S citizens and not yet registered to vote. 2.4 million of them reside in Texas, 2.2 million reside in California. Can you imagine if half of them got registered in Texas, how it would change the politics there?"
White House officials dispute those exact figures (the unregistered in Texas, they say, is about half that) but not Barajas' broader point. Demographic changes have, indeed, altered the electoral map, or at least given the campaign liberty to say that the map is more open than ever before. In recent weeks, a number of stories have referenced the Obama reelection campaign's plans to play in Texas in 2012. His Chicago campaign headquarters has a map of North Carolina, Nevada, Iowa, New Mexico, Ohio, Colorado, Texas, Georgia, Florida and Arizona -- all growing or major Hispanic states -- tacked to the wall.
"Texas is a huge uphill battle," said Odio. "It will take a lot of outside players. I think it is doable. But it might not be a 2012 thing. It might be a 2016 thing … The tide has already shifted, and it's a gradual but accelerating process whose real impact will be seen, as with most things in campaigns, on the margins."
One of those margins is the simple conduct of the campaign itself.
As the Hispanic population grows, it also moves outside city borders. The top five fastest growing counties, in terms of Hispanic population, were Luzerne, Penn. (479 percent change); Henry, Ga. (339 percent change); Kendall, Ill. (338 percent change); Douglas, Ga. (321 percent change); and Shelby, Ala. (297 percent change). States where the Hispanic population doubled in size from 2000 to 2010 include Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and South Dakota, hardly bastions of bi-coastal liberalism.
In practical political terms, such growth indicates that the structure of elections will become fundamentally different. Whereas the suburbs have served as traditional battlegrounds for national or statewide campaigns, over time, the competitiveness of those locales will change. As the minority population grows outside the cities, the pool of physical land over which the two parties will compete may shrink.
Already in Texas, Hispanic population growth has spurred a high-stakes debate over how to restructure redistricting in the state. Republicans, reading the demographic tea leaves, have tried to create a super-majority Hispanic district in the Dallas-Forth Worth area so as to confine the effect of their vote. Hispanic officials, who once salivated at the idea of a firmly held House seat, are now inclined to fight the plan.
"They see the potential to have more of these districts with 30 to 40 Hispanics then to get a supermajority one," said Moses Mercado, a Democratic operative in D.C. who advised John Kerry's presidential campaign. "The growth is unbelievable. Instead of one super district you will have four or five … The [census] numbers were above what everyone was thinking. It is extraordinary, the large growth. And you are already seeing the impact of it."
Recognizing that trend, the Republican Party has begun a broad discussion about how to stem the flooding of Hispanics away from the GOP.
Conservatives in California have used the 2010 gubernatorial defeat as a hook to debate whether the party could win back Hispanic voters by emphasizing cultural issues or if larger, tonal changes were needed as well. In Texas, the redistricting issue has overshadowed the news that local Republican lawmakers are calling for less punitive immigration laws.
Nationally, GOP officials stress that they are re-doubling the effort for Hispanic candidate recruitment. But even then, many voice concerns that if the Republican Party is to ride and not be overwhelmed by the democraphic trends, something more will be needed than superficial overtures.
"Good candidates, whether they are Republicans or Democrats, understand how they have to adapt their strategies and embrace different groups in their areas," said former Republican Congressman Henry Bonilla.
"Smart candidates will still run smart campaigns and embrace all ethnic groups," he added. "Those who don't get it will sing and dance around them, and the ethnic groups will understand they are recipients of just a little pandering."
Take a look at the census data below:
Posted by Angela Valenzuela at 9:17 AM