“United as one – or “Number One”?” By Elvira Arellano

Posted on February 9, 2011


President Obama has been speaking since the state of the union address repeating his new theme. He has been saying, “We have to make the United States Number one in the world again.” He seeks to inspire people to develop new technologies,new ways to win the competition to be the greatest economic power in the world. This theme is, I suppose, a theme that will show his political leadership and lead to his reelection. It is his answer to the millions of people who are facing unemployment.
Here in my little town in the state of Michoacan in Mexico, the idea of the United States becoming number 1 again does not seem so impressive to me. When I walk down the streets I see that more than half of the families have a member of their family in the United States. Some have been gone for years. They went to find work and it is now almost impossible for the undocumented to travel back and forth. I remember that when I was in the United States, I so often longed to see my father whose voice I occasionally heard on the telephone.
The passage of NAFTA permitted the corporations in the United States to flood Mexico with cheap corn – and that put millions of people out of work in Mexico, and in my town in Michoacan. The collapse of the Peso, brought about by U.S. banks, further broke the economy of our town. These conditions drove me first to the maquiladoras on the border and finally to follow my brothers to find work in the United States. That is the reality that “the U.S. being number 1” means to me.
Then when the wave of fear and hate after 9/11 swept across the United States and immigration agents began to seek us out, I looked every day into the eyes of my little son, my little U.s. citizen son, and wondered if that day they would come for me, if they would come to take me away from him. Then one morning they came and I saw the panic in his eyes as they took me away from him.
That is the second thing I think about when I hear the words “making the U.S. number one in the world.” After the U.S. used our labor at very low wages so that they could compete with the low wages they paid in China, so that the U.S. could be number one, they grew afraid of the growing number of our brown eyed children and decided to reduce our numbers with a campaign of hate – so that the U.S. would remain their number one country in the world.
The new census has shown that most of the population growth in the United States is coming from Latinos. It is also now becoming clear that 10% of the workforce will be the 5.1 million children who have undocumented parents, whose families the government is trying to tear apart at the rate of 1100 deportations every day. And yet inspite of Obama’s stepped up deportation campaign, new studies show that the number of undocumented has not decreased in the last two years. We are many.
When Jesus began to organize the people, when he was preparing for his march on Jerusalem, about 5000 people were gathered to hear him preach and to see him heal the sick and drive out demons. The disciples told Jesus to send them away because it would cost too much to feed them. Jesus told the disciples to take their few fish and loaves of bread and share it with the people – and there was enough for everyone with 12 baskets left over.
There is a difference between being number one and coming together as one. But coming together as one is what we must do if we are to defend the families of these 5.1 million children and end the terrorizing of Latino communities throughout the United States. Familia Latina Unida has proposed that we form a million family human chain on May 1st across the cities of the United States to demand that President OBama use his legal power to stop the deportations that separate families. Maybe besides defending the families, we will show the United States that it is better to be together as one than to be number one.
We are many. We must also be “One”.

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