OUR HOUSE IS NOT IN ORDER By Elvira Arellano

Posted on August 5, 2011

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Before I went into sanctuary in Chicago, I first talked to my son to be sure he supported that action. Then I talked to my church. Then I talked to the other families in Familia Latina Unida. Before you go into a battle, you have to get your own house in order.
There seems to be a disconnect between the Latino community and their elected officials in the United States. It doesn’t seem like we have got our house in order. The polls show that immigration reform is the number one concern of Latino voters in the United States. The Latino caucus now numbers 21 members of Congress. That is a block of votes that during deadlocks, like the recent one over the debt, become very powerful.
The tea party candidates ran on a program of cutting spending and cutting taxes. Once elected they formed a block and used their leverage in the Republican Party. They waited for the right moment, when their votes would really count, and they acted. We may hate what they are doing but we cannot deny that they are effective.
President Obama asked the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to approve the budget deal he worked out with the Republicans and the Democratic leadership. He said he needed to put the debt issue behind him so he could focus on his reelection. What did our Latino members do?
When we watched Congressman Gutierrez on television, sitting down in front of the White House, holding on to a banner that asked the President to stop the deportations and separation of families, what we saw was one congressman standing alone. Congressman Gutierrez has been faithful to our community for decades. But he is not the only Latino member of Congress. One Latino congressman actually signed a public letter promising to get arrested with Gutierrez but, after a call from the White House, decided not to show up!
Every Latino family that has suffered from Obama’s one million deportations is grateful to Congressman Gutierrez. Moreover, he shows the way things are supposed to work – the way things work in the Anglo community. When I was in Chicago, Senator Durbin, one of the big shot leaders in the democratic party, ran a candidate against Congressman Gutierrez. His well funded opponent criticized Gutierrez for spending so much time and energy on immigration reform and for not being cooperative enough with the democratic leadership. The voters responded by soundly defeating that opponent and returning Gutierrez to Congress. Congressman Gutierrez has continued to fight for our community, the community that elected him. He has continued to stand up to the Democratic Leadership and the President AS WELL AS the Republicans
Every single member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus ran on a promise to fight for comprehensive immigration reform. Remember their speeches? So where were they when Gutierrez was in front of the White House?
The caucus all signed a letter demanding that the President use his executive powers to stop the deportations of the parents of U.S. citizen children and dream act eligible students, At the Natinal Council of La Raza convention the crowd chanted “Yes You Can” telling the President to use the power they gave him to keep his promise.
The President responded in a letter last week saying he was going to continue the deportations and separation of families. He basically just slapped in the face our representatives – and all of the Latinos who voted for him.
Why weren’t the rest of our Latino members of Congress standing with Gutierrez last week? What would have happened if all of the members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, or even just ten members, had stood with Gutierrez? The President must now think he can just ignore whatever the Caucus says.
And this week – did the Congressional Hispanic Caucus tell the President that to get their votes for his deal with the Republicans, the President must agree to their demands, the demands of their community, to get their votes? If the Latino members of Congress had done that on Tuesday, than 1100 people would not be deported today, and every day after that, leaving behind wives, husbands and children, the lives they have worked for turned into garbage.
You can be sure that at the next election our members of Congress will make wonderful speeches telling us how hard they fought for immigration reform. They will blame the Republicans – just as President Obama is doing. But what did they do yesterday when they had the power? Actions speak louder than words. If our representatives won’t stand up to the President, he will continue to turn his back on us. We elected the President because he made us a promise. We elected Latino members of Congress to make him keep that promise. It appears that only one of them – Congressman Gutierrez – is doing his job.

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