AND BARACK’S CHALLENGE
THE GRASSROOTS MOVEMENT FOR THE RIGHTS
OF UNDOCUMENTED FAMILIES
THE STORY OF FAMILIA LATINA UNIDA/SIN FRONTERAS
By Reverend WALTER L COLEMAN
With original writings by Elvira Arellano, Rev Emma Lozano,
Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez, Dr. Jose Lopez and Dr. John Womack.
FROM THE PREFACE TO THE BOOK
The greatest challenge in writing this book was the decision of when to end its account – because the struggle continues and the stakes grow higher each year. We set out to record the struggle of one of the many faith based grassroots organizations in this country in the fight for the rights – and the survival – of undocumented Latino families in this nation. The position the two political parties took on the status of the eleven million undocumented became the line of demarcation in the 2016 elections. This polarization, in turn, was the result of the struggle of grassroots organizations like Familia Latina Unida to win the support of the Democratic Party.
Just as in the 1960’s civil rights movement, the struggle for basic equality and human rights, the struggle against white supremacy, was directed primarily at the Democratic Party. Democratic Party leaders had to choose the growing African American vote in the 1960’s – and now the Latino vote in today’s reality – over the white vote which left the Party when it took up the cause of people of color for human rights and equality.
The current struggle in the Latino community looked back even further in U.S. history to the civil war and, in particular, to Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation. The modern day U.S. apartheid is composed of gerrymandered congressional districts, voter suppression laws and the disenfranchisement of millions by immigration and criminalization policies. That contrived perversion of democracy created a House of Representatives that became the voice of whites living in fear and dread of the emerging majority of people of color. The resulting paralysis in national legislation gave birth to a movement at the grassroots to demand executive action on the part of the President.
The long struggle to convince the U.S. President to issue executive orders to protect millions of undocumented from deportation was, in effect, very similar to the movement – and the surrounding dynamics – that led to the emancipation proclamation. While the most sweeping of the executive orders were temporarily blocked by legal action and a divided Supreme Court, executive action remains the best way forward if the nation chooses a Democrat in the next administration. More important for the nation as a whole, President’s Obama’s commitment to executive action on behalf of the undocumented established the line of demarcation between democrats and republicans in the 2016 election, finally consolidating the Democratic Party in opposition to both mass deportation and mass incarceration.
The social and political realities of the Americas are fundamentally different than those of the British and Europeans which colonized and dominated the continent. The difference lies in the successful struggle of people of color to survive colonization, slavery, genocide and white supremacy. As we see a white nationalist movement rise again in Great Britain and Europe we do see a similar reaction reflected in the United States. The difference, however, is the massive and growing presence of people of color in the U.S. electorate.
The unified African American, Latino, Asian and Muslim vote in the United States is the heart of the resistance to the demagogic political forces which seek power by appealing to the racism of older whites, left behind by changes in technology and globalization – and all too willing to blame their difficulties on people of color. As the new majority emerges, however, it will also become the basis to challenge the neo-liberal, militaristic policies of the leadership of the Democratic Party. What progressives have failed to do in England and Europe will be accomplished by God’s determination to grow a great people, as many as the stars in the sky, in the midst of an empire.
We titled this book the “Faith of Elvira”. Elvira Arellano’s journey of faith north and her struggle to stay in the nation in which her son was born is representative of millions of others. As in the civil rights movement, the strength of the immigration movement lay in the faith of mothers like Elvira and the communities of faith they formed. Elvira’s journey led her to Chicago, a city from which a powerful movement had produced the first African American President and the leader in Congress of the Latino immigrant’s struggle for justice. Chicago also provided Elvira with a church that had been prepared for her and a partner with a courageous Latina faith leader – Sin Fronteras President and Pastor, Emma Lozano.
The unity between Emma Lozano and Elvira Arellano both motivated and represented the unity of the Latino community – with or without papers - on behalf of the undocumented. Lozano also brought Elvira - and thousands of others like her - into the African American Latino unity that had emerged from the Chicago movement, partly through the work of her assassinated brother Rodolfo Lozano. Rev Lozano brought this unity up to date, focusing on the connections between the struggle against mass deportation and the struggle against mass incarceration.
The unity of these two women also represents the potential for a unified Latino community to lift the long reign of domination and exploitation over the peoples of Latin America by the United States – as once the African American community forced the U.S. to withdraw its support for the wickedness of apartheid in South Africa.
The struggle recorded here was led by the witness of those who came to our church. I believe in a God, a powerful Spiritual Force in history, which intervenes in the affairs of humankind through those who are marginalized in the kingdoms of men. I believe also that the Kingdom of God, announced to the world through the sonship of Jesus and all the prophets from Abraham to Mohammed, is here, present, providing us with miracles that guide and heal and lift us up – both as individuals and as a people. This history of the grassroots struggle that miraculously set the terms of the 2016 election is a history as well of the mustard seeds of faith, the small communities of faith and resistance formed by people dispersed from their homelands into a hostile nation, in which lay the salvation of the Americas.
Elvira’s own account of her journey north is complemented by Dr. John Womack’s incisive historical sketch of the town from which she came. I have included many statements and insights from Emma Lozano as well as an interview with Congressman Luis Gutierrez who emerged as the tireless national leader of the movement. This history would not have been complete without words from Dr. Jose Lopez, another Chicago leader, who partnered with Emma Lozano and Congressman Gutierrez to win support for the undocumented in virtually the entire Latino population in the U.S. Finally, I would like to thank Minister Louis Farrakhan, Rev Jesse Jackson and Congressman Bobby Rush for their insights and their crucial contributions to this struggle. Pepe Jaques Medina and Marta Soler Sanchez gave us insight into the realities in Mexico and Central America which gave rise to the migration north and provided invaluable support for our struggle here as well as Elvira’s participation once deported back to Mexico. In reading this account I believe you will see that the real heroes of this struggle were the undocumented themselves. I have tried to do justice to at least some of them.
It has been my blessing to put my grain of sand into this movement of faith and resistance and to record some of its history for its next generation. We end this account on July 4th, 2016,in full recognition that the words commemorated on that date, that all men are created equal, have not yet been fulfilled in this country for men - or for women. We end this account here, not because the struggle is over, but because the next generation may benefit from this history as they are called to take up the struggle at this critical point.
Rev Walter L Coleman, July 4th, 2016