Unity: The Solution We Are Searching For

By Janet Murguía, President and CEO, NCLR

Marlene Sept. 7 Rally (3)

 “Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.”

Standing in front of hundreds of thousands of people, with millions more watching throughout the country and across the globe, President Obama once again reminded us that there will be no more stalling, that the time to pass comprehensive immigration reform is now. The journey so far has had its ups and downs. As a community, Latinos were unquestionably frustrated when the promise of immigration reform slipped through the president’s fingers in his first term. At the same time, Mr. Obama has proven himself an ally, fighting against anti-immigrant state laws and granting deferred action to thousands of hopeful dreamers.

But with a second term comes a renewed faith that we will see this through. In his inaugural address, it was no mistake that the president mentioned the word “together” not once, not twice, but seven times. If there has been one thing lacking in Washington over the past four years, it has been a willingness to work together—and both parties share in the blame.

It would be wise for our elected officials to remember that solutions are found in bipartisanship and compromise, and the only way for our nation to move forward is to work together.

Our leaders have a lot on their plates in the coming months, and immigration reform is the main course. But thanks in part to the strong Hispanic turnout in the 2012 elections, it looks as if both parties are finally ready to come to the table and deliver meaningful reform that will once and for all address the deep problems with our immigration system.

We cannot let this momentum die. It’s not going to be easy, and it would be naïve for either side to think that they are going to walk away 100% satisfied. But this is a real opportunity for Congress and the Obama administration to show the American people that they can work together and deliver the solutions that this country needs to get back on track.

The saying may be cliché, but it’s wholly appropriate in this case—united we stand, divided we fall. There will be tough legislative battles ahead on everything from the federal budget to gun violence, and they will test whether our elected officials truly plan to put partisan politics aside and do what’s best for the economy and the American people.

We’re a Unified Voice for Communities

By Jesus Altamirano, Regional Field Coordinator, Colorado

Not much can keep our Affiliates down when they band together.

Our Colorado Affiliates know this well. Recently, NCLR Affiliates El Comite de Longmont, Scholar-to-Leader Academy, GOAL Academy, and Mi Casa Resource Center, descended on Denver to speak to U.S. Senators Mark Udall (D) and Michael Bennet (D) about the impact of the impending debt crisis, the so called “fiscal cliff.” Like NCLR, our Colorado Affiliates are concerned about the effects extreme cuts would mean to the millions of American Latino families who rely on vital social services and they expressed just that to their senators.

Kudos to our Colorado Affiliates for being champions for communities! Check out some photos of their advocacy below and then tell us what the impending fiscal cliff crisis could mean to you.

Colorado advocates in their meeting Colorado advocates outside the meeting Colorado advocates in their meeting

Foreign-Born Service Members Exemplify the Best of What It Means to Be American

On Veterans’ Day we honor all of the men and women who have chosen to serve our country by joining the military.  We pause to acknowledge the profound debt owed to those who have fought, sacrificed, and died to protect the United States of America, and to those service members currently defending our nation overseas and at home.

We include in our gratitude those members of the military who, though not born within our borders, demonstrate their love for and commitment to our country by serving in the armed forces.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reported last year that since September 2001, 74,977 members of the military have become U.S. citizens through naturalization ceremonies in places as diverse as Iraq, Afghanistan, El Salvador, and Thailand.  With deep appreciation, NCLR recognizes our foreign-born service members who have decided to pursue the American Dream and their fullest potential as citizens.

We take pride in our veterans and in our servicemen and servicewomen pursuing citizenship.  In 2010 NCLR partnered with Texas Affiliate the Mexican American Unity Council to host a special USCIS naturalization ceremony for several military personnel before the 2010 NCLR Annual Conference.  You can view scenes from that ceremony in this video after the jump.

Thank you to all of our service members who have committed their lives to the defense of the United States of America.  Your selfless example inspires and educates us all on the dedicated and courageous character of American citizenship.

The Chavez National Monument Honors the Man and the Latino Workers He Championed

By Janet Murguía, President and CEO, NCLR

In a moving ceremony this week, President Barack Obama designated the home and final resting place of one of the Latino community’s greatest icons, Cesar Chavez, as both a national monument and a national park.

Members of the NCLR familia—Board members and Affiliates, including the Cesar Chavez Foundation, many of whom have worked for decades with Chavez and the United Farm Workers (UFW)—were privileged to be present at the ceremony, acknowledging a man who played such a vital role for the millions of Latinos across the country who still remember and revere his legacy.  The recognition of such an integral part of our history is something that our community will not soon forget.

One of the great things about this monument is that it is so fitting a tribute to Cesar Chavez.  I have talked with Arturo Rodriguez—Chavez’s successor as UFW President and a former, much-revered member of the NCLR Board of Directors—many times about the Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz property.  While the property is modest and humble, much like Chavez himself, it is also, like him, a deeply inspiring and spiritual place.  As the headquarters of the UFW, it is a living testament to what a small group of people—from even the humblest backgrounds—can do to change the world.

Before Chavez and the UFW, those who picked our crops and put food on our tables were invisible.  In an act of unfathomable courage and self-sacrifice—his 25-day fast in 1968—Chavez called attention to the plight of America’s farmworkers, inspiring leaders from all over the country to join him in this struggle.  The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sent a telegram expressing solidarity.  The Kennedy family, led by Robert F. Kennedy, went to his side.

By the end of the fast, Chavez had made great strides in his quest to bring dignity, respect, and humanity to the neglected and mistreated workers in our country’s history.  He put a face and a name to the people who toiled in the fields for pennies a day and without access to basic needs such as clean water and sanitation.  The farmworkers behind the produce on the shelves of America’s grocery stores now had a voice.

Alongside monuments to presidents, generals, and other famous men and women, we now have a monument to those workers whose names we don’t know and who will never be in any history books—a true testament to our nation that we honor all of our heroes.  Because, as Chavez often said during the course of his life:  by honoring me, you are really honoring them.

The greatest way to honor Chavez is by continuing his struggle.  We still have a long way to go to get full equality, respect, and dignity for our farmworkers.  And we are fighting those who refuse to see the humanity of today’s immigrant workers and wish to make them again invisible.

The designation of this new monument does many things:  it cements Chavez’s rightful place in American history, it ensures that that history will not be lost to future generations, and it gives us a much-needed educational tool and powerful symbol in our effort to fulfill Chavez’s legacy.  We are grateful to President Obama and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar for making this long-held dream a reality.

César E. Chávez to be Memorialized with a National Monument

Today the president will unveil the César E. Chávez National Monument in Keene, Calif. The monument’s home will be at one of our esteemed Affiliates, the César E. Chávez Foundation.

Watch the unveiling live at: http://t.co/60Fz3p4e. Things get started at 11:15 PT/2:15 ET.