Dealing With Disappointment
By Elvira Arellano
Mothers share a powerful secret. From the first moment that we feel a child growing within us, we can already see in our minds eye a fully grown and fully developed human being, a fighter, a genius, a leader. This mother’s wisdom also allows us to see the potential for social change.
President Barack Obama’s appearance at the recent summit of the Americas in Columbia has brought to the surface the great disappointment the people of Latin America feel about the U.S.’s first African American President. President Obama promised a new relationship of “equal respect” with the nations of the south.
Little seems to have changed. Obama, like his predecessors, has continued to push free trade agreements which line the pockets of U.S. corporations but devastate the development of Latin American countries who are trying desperately to develop the capacity to form productive economies. The U.S. continues to highhandedly demand the right to extract raw materials without regard to environmental or worker safety. The President continued to push U.S. military control under the guise of the ineffective war on drugs. And for all the talk of a new era of equal respect, the U.S. stuck to an unpopular position excluding little Cuba from the summit. In the end, that high handed position resulted in the refusal of the participating nations to sign off on any agreements. The summit was a dismal failure.
My disappointment is intense. Now that I live and work south of the Rio Grande, I look every day at the consequences of 20 million North Americans who provide the market for the drug trade that is causing so much death and violence throughout my country. The guns and the bullets that terrorize us also come from the U.S. Every day I see young men who have joined the armies of the cartels because there are no other jobs. The greatest exports from the North are poverty and violence.
We notice that, at the summit, the President promised to move immigration reform in the first year of his second term – just as he promised to move it in the first year of his first term – and didn’t. He blamed his failure on the Republicans. We can’t forget that he passed his health care legislation without a single Republican vote because he had super majorities in both houses in his first year in office. We won’t forget that the healthcare legislation he did pass explicitly excluded those the President called ”illegals” from even buying insurance at market rates.
We won’t forget the record high number of deportations and separation of families over the last three years and we will watch very closely his August promise to use his discretion to stop deporting parents with U.S. citizen children or spouses and young people who came to this country before they were eighteen, a promise he has not fully lived up to yet.
Some speculate that Obama is just a shrewd politician. They argue that when he doesn’t face a second election Obama will come through for us. From my experience with Obama in Chicago, as he rose almost uncontested from state senator to U.S. Senator to President, I am skeptical. Barack Obama is first of all a politician who will respond to those who have political influence. Still I know, like most of those reading this column, that the alternative is worse. It seems like we have no place to go, no ground to stand on. That is where the wisdom of mothers comes into play.
Great changes have taken place in Latin America and Latin America is looking for Latinos in the United States to make their growing numbers felt in the politics of the Americas. We will get immigration reform when our numbers – and our unity – make it a political requirement. We know that influence is growing, the way a baby grows inside of a mother. We will be patient, keep the pressure on and do whatever we have to do to protect ourselves in the meantime.