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María Rodriguez

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Putting People Before Politicians

Posted: 06/11/2012 5:08 pm

We are often told that Republicans don't care about immigrants or working people. They only care about the 1 percent. Democrats, on the other hand, truly want what is best for both. If that is the case, then these are strange times in South Florida.

On Thursday, I attended a protest in front of Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's offices in Aventura. Rep. Wasserman Schultz is the chair of the Democratic National Committee and one of the most powerful Democrats in D.C. Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), on the other hand, is the powerful private prison company trying to build the largest for-profit immigrant detention center in a sleepy town in Rep. Wasserman Schultz's district known as Southwest Ranches. Opposition to the facility is so overwhelming that only a few people have voiced support for it in any poll, town hall meeting or public hearing on the issue. It is not just immigrant rights activists opposing either, but people from all walks of life like the environmentalist Sierra Club, the ball-playing resident Udonis Haslem, the DREAM ACT-defying former Senator George Lemieux, the ACLU and thousands of others.

You would think that the democratic thing for Rep. Wasserman Schultz to do, in the face of such overwhelming opposition, would be to take a stand against the center. Instead, she has spent the last year doubling down for CCA, while refusing to meet with constituents.

A day before the Aventura rally, high school valedictorian Daniela Pelaez attended a press conference hosted by Republican Rep. David Rivera. Earlier this year, Daniela's name brought national attention and thousands of people into the streets to stop her from being deported. This time, however, she wasn't at the press conference to protest, but to stand, albeit lonely-looking, with the controversial congressman as he unveiled his DREAM ACT alternative. Rivera's STARS ACT would allow some College-going undocumented youth a chance to stay in the country, but with so many restrictions that only a few could actually benefit.

The STARS ACT is not without controversy. Some immigrant communities think it reeks of opportunism, while others see it as the best opportunity for a better future. But considering that Rivera has caught more headlines for being under investigation by the FBI, IRS and other acronym-ed agencies, a DREAM Act alternative is probably the least controversial thing attached to his name.

Two days, two different events; one in which immigrants are joined by Not-In-My-Back-Yard residents to protest a nominally popular Democratic rep's support for an unquestionably unpopular detention center; and another, where a respected undocumented student stands by a Republican rep. as he unveils a piece of immigration legislation that some immigrant students sort of like.

What is happening in South Florida?

Well, we have a Democratic president who seems sympathetic to our issues until he deports a record number of our loved ones. He is not helped when he has a DNC chair who talks a good game about supporting working families but then stands with one of the worst 1 percent corporations (CCA) against the working families in her district.

Immigrants, Latinos and working people have seen how far our loyalty has taken us, and we are not impressed. We are so not impressed that some of us will stand with anyone who is putting out a proposal, alleged ethics violations or not, while others won't hesitate to voice our opposition to a proposed facility no matter how popular the Congresswoman that supports it is. For those of us who have lived the issues we fight for every day, what politicians do is more important than what they say.

No matter what, we will never put politicians before the best interest of our communities. The tears and fears we feel daily give us the courage and clarity to hold all accountable, even those who claim to be our friends, from both parties.

 
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