Posted on February 22, 2011


Democracy is a word with many meanings. When President Obama says that the United States supports the movement of democracy against unjust dictators like the President of Egypt, nobody really believes him – because President Mubarak was a U.S. ally, an important ally to control the oil of the middle
east. When he says he supports the movement of democracy in Iran, we believe him – because the President of Iran is a U.S. enemy.
When the President says democracy is part of the values of the United States, he means the democratic process of elections. Elections can be controlled most of the time by those who have the money or who control the electoral process. Remember when George Bush lost the election but won the Presidency because his brother was Governor of Florida?
This Sunday Jorge Ramos will interview Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Univision’s Al Punto. He will explain how his bid to become the President of Mexico was stolen fraudulently. It would not be the first time that an election was stolen – or bought.
I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if George Bush had not been awarded the presidency by “democracy” or if Lopez Obrador had been the President of Mexico for the last four years. The violence in Iraq and the violence in Mexico would not have taken so many lives, could not have ruined so many lives. So it is hard for me to trust that kind of democracy.
On the other hand, the democracy of the street is different. The democracy of the street changed Egypt in a way that the democracy of the elections never could have. And in the wake of those 18 days of courage, there may well now be an honest election in Egypt – with a result which the U.S. will not be very pleased. That may happen because the democracy of the street has shown such a bright light that the U.S. may not be able to control it.
In 2006, over a million Latinos took to the streets of the major cities in the United States to stop the passage of the Sensenbrenner legislation, to stop the escalation of deportations, the use of local police as immigration agents.
We know now that the Obama administration has implemented most of the elements of Sensenbrenner. They are deporting more people – 1100 people a day – than ever before in U.S. history. And the Obama administration is pushing 287g and secure communities act agreements in hundreds of cities, counties and states across the nation, enlisting local police as immigration agents.
We know that President Obama has the power to stop the deportations of the undocumented parents of 5.1 million U.S. citizen or dream act eligible children. He has the power to grant them the status of “parole in place” – which will allow them to get a work permit, a drivers license and to stay legally with their children and spouses.
The election process in the U.S. has not given us the power to fix the broken immigration law. Both parties use the issue to their own advantage to win their elections – but neither wants to solve the problem. That is one kind of “democracy”, the democracy of elections and broken promises.
But suppose in 2006 we had stayed in the streets for 18 days, as they did in Egypt. Suppose we had used the other kind of democracy, the one that shines the light on injustices that election democracy leave in place.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus has taken our demand for the President to use his power to stop the separation of families to the White House. The White House is dragging its feet. Familia Latina Unida is calling for the assembly of one million of the families – to go to the streets.
I believe that kind of democracy is the one we need now.

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