Chicana/o communities have struggled for constitutional rights and democracy for over 150 years; sometimes to no avail but always with resiliency and tenacity. They have battled against repressive forces that often ban together to further marginalize groups. When the powers of the local, state and federal governments work together, it reeks of totalitarianism. This is the political backdrop our brothers and sisters from the south are experiencing as they live in perpetual fear and alienation.
Chicana/o and Hispana/o legislators have experienced repulsive forms of institutionalized discrimination in the legislature since Colorado Territorial times, even when there were scant numbers of Chicana/o legislators attempting to represent the interests of their communities. Faced with cultural insensitivity and outright racism, Chicana/o legislators fought tooth and nail for la Raza’s constitutional rights to be honored. There were many improprieties that occurred during the Chicano’s social and cultural development in Colorado as nuestros legisladores battled legislative forces to hire interpreters and translators at a time when the English language was used as a weapon against them by the state legislature. Language deprivation was the norm as legislative sessions were conducted in English Only; therefore, prohibiting Chicanas/os from participating in democracy. Today’s struggles have changed character but the essence remains the same. We should give thanks to activists and social revolutionaries that were willing to stand up to oppression from the onset. Today, we have different weapons to fight with, one of those is the power of language.
As a staunch Republican intent on preserving the interests of the rich, President Trump abhors too much government; but cannily uses the government to do his dirty work. A good example is hiring a myriad of ICE border patrol agents to conduct raids and witch hunts. Colorado Representative Joe Salazar has openly challenged President’s Trump’s national orchestrated vicious attack on immigrants. HB17-1230 will soon be vetted in the Colorado State Legislature; Entitled, the Ralph Carr Freedom Defense Act, it is patterned after one of Colorado’s heroes whose “selfless devotion to the principles of equality and freedom,” was contested during the internment of Japanese Americans. He stood up in defense while Japanese Americans were being scorned and sent to internment camps in Colorado. As he steps into his footprints, Representative Joe Salazar has vowed to fight against repressive legislation stating, “We are not going to allow Colorado communities to be terrorized by federal overreach.”
Today, we have different weapons to fight with, one of those is the power of language.
One of the central provisions in the law prohibits a state or political subdivision, “from providing the race, ethnicity, national origin, immigration status, or religious affiliation of a Colorado resident to the federal government for any illegal or unconstitutional purpose.” While protecting a vulnerable population, Salazar’s proposed legislation is attempting to prohibit state government from becoming complicit during this witch hunt. At the core of this hunt is racial profiling, which is not a new phenomenon. It has been used as a tool by the machine to seek out and oppress individuals whose physical characteristics fit into a certain ilk. There are stories galore where the Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) has harassed immigrants based on engrained prejudices. Using historical stereotypes authorities have indiscriminately stopped Mexicans, searched them and arrested them. This law is aimed at those bigots that would have to think twice before acting on a racist impulse.
With easy access to data bases compiled nationally the proposed legislation prohibits a state or political subdivision, “from aiding and assisting in creating, maintaining, or updating a registry of Colorado residents based on his or her race, ethnicity, national origin, immigration status or religious affiliation.” It is bad enough to have to carry a placa without adding new ones that send us back into a time machine when racist attitudes were openly displayed. And as silly as it may sound, the new law will “prohibit a state or political subdivision from placing a physical or electronic identifiers on a person based on his or her race, ethnicity, national origin, immigration status, or religious affiliation.” Branding may work as a method of selling products in the marketplace but placing placas on the foreheads of people is totally inhumane.
Updated internment camps salvaged from the Japanese experience should never have to be gentrified. The last provision prohibits, “a state or political subdivision from aiding or assisting, including using state or local resources, the federal government in interning a person based on his or her race, ethnicity, national origin, immigration status or religious affiliation.” And although, Chicanos have been placed into internal colonies, we have also struggled to knock down those barriers that prohibit our freedom.
I say that the federal government should not practice low intensity conflict which translates into asking state and local police forces to do their jobs.
Dr. Ramón Del Castillo is an Independent Journalist. © 3-15-2017 Ramón Del Castillo.