I was two years old in 1988 when I left Guadalajara, Mexico with my mother to join my father in the United States. I don't remember the long car ride or when the world I was barely learning about drifted away. My mother also left her own world behind -- but her amazing courage led her to decide that my health, safety, and future was more important than her own.
I grew up in Los Angeles, CA and was teacher's pet by the first week of kindergarten. By third grade, I had mastered English. My new world consisted of chess tournaments, rollerblading, and homework. My mother successfully fostered an environment where I felt loved, nurtured, and intellectually stimulated. In fact, I was not absent or late to school even once, not even by a minute. That year was 1994, and while my mother and I were busy working on my latest school project, California Governor Pete Wilson was busy with a project of his own.
Pete Wilson rode the waves of anti-immigrant sentiment during his re-election bid for a second gubernatorial term by putting his weight behind Proposition 187, a ballot initiative which threatened to cut social services for undocumented immigrants in the state, including kicking students like me out of the K-12 system. I remember attending a massive march in Downtown Los Angeles, and the word Pete Wilson escaping people's breath with anger, disappointment, and even dismay. At the end of the day, I understood that Pete Wilson did not like me and apparently, people who looked like me or shared my experience. It was my first exposure to politics, and in my own simplistic terms, I understood that I had spent the afternoon re-affirming my existence.
Proposition 187 passed in California, but it was later declared unconstitutional. The letter my elementary school sent home reassuring us that no child would be reported to immigration was relieving for my parents. In retrospect, I remember how much my parents rewarded me for being an exemplary student. My room was always filled with stuffed animals, art sets, and books -- all rewards for my accomplishments. They wanted me to believe I had a future and that no law was ever going to take away the knowledge I gained.
Proposition 187 also moved thousands of Permanent Residents to rise to the occasion and become Naturalized U.S. Citizens, my father included, and became a political force of their own. Latino civic engagement rose, and with it, our power increased.
Now, I am part of a mixed-status family. I can't vote, but the members of my family who can, vote wisely. They weren't fooled after the 1994 debacle, and they won't be fooled in 2012. The GOP's Presidential candidate front-runner, Mitt Romney, has recently welcomed the endorsement of Pete Wilson. He is now the honorary chairman of Romney's campaign in California. Who do they think they're fooling?
In 2010, California's Latinos rejected gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, whom also received an endorsement from Wilson. We had the power to stop Whitman in our state, and we will put a halt to Romney. Recently, Arizona also stopped Russell Pearce, who worked closely with Kris Kobach, architect of Arizona's SB 1070. Romney has also received support from Kobach.
Politicians like Wilson and Romney should fear people like me. They already started running. I carry with me the memory of their wrongdoings. This also goes for the other side of the political spectrum. The Obama administration has pending issues with the Latino community that they need to answer to. And I won't stop at just remembering. I will commit myself to ensuring my community remembers and acts. This is a call to action; do not forget what we worked so hard to gain, but do not forget that we have a long way to go.
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