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Maid In Texas: Who Will Clean Up This Immigration Mess?

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Text by Tony Diaz / Photo by Women and Children Welcoming Committee

          Infographic: How the US Sparked a Refugee Crisis on the Border

In the old days, a Klansman would order his slaves to iron his white hood and robe the night before a cross burning. Today’s racist orders his undocumented maids to iron his camouflage pants and shirt the night before picketing on an overpass.

It would take an entire semester of ethnic studies to explain all the ironies of this Texas minute in immigration. Maybe that’s why Mexican-American studies is under attack as well.

But don’t worry. We as border crossers have seen this all before and can tell you how to survive this oppression. When I say we, I mean the Librotraficantes. And when I say “crossed borders,” I mean the Texas state line, the New Mexico state line, and the Arizona state line.

Back in 2012, when Arizona fanatics prohibited Mexican-American studies, we organized the Librotraficante Caravan to smuggle the books banned in Arizona back into Tucson, all the way from Houston. Now, it looks as if we’ll need folks from other states to lend us a hand as Texas oppression season gets hotter, and hotter, and hotter.

And if you’re not certain of what’s going down, let me make it crystal clear. We are experiencing a Texas-sized version of the Arizona Plan.

In 2010, Republican Arizona governor Jan Brewer signed two laws that will haunt the Republican Party for generations. First, she signed what has come to be known as the “show me your papers law,” the harshest immigration law in the nation, Arizona’s SB1070. That same year, she also signed Arizona House Bill 2281, which was used to prohibit Mexican-American studies.

Arizona wasn’t always this rabidly racist. It only took a few sane people to sit out a few elections while far-right politicians tested political campaign platforms based on fear and hate. Their tactics worked, and crazy people won small office after small office, then more and more offices and posts, until one day all the sensible people were surrounded. That was the political climate that culminated in SB1070 and HB2281.

The cast of characters who rose to power during that tyrannical wave will come to be known as either the Republican dream team or the GOP Nightmare, with Jan Brewer at the helm, and, to her far right, fellows like Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Think it can’t happen in Texas? Think again. Texas Republicans want to adopt the Arizona template, so here is the Arizona recipe, step by step:

AZ Republican Tactics

  1. Blame Immigration for every single thing that is wrong with the state.
  2. Make Latinos the bad guys-without ever directly talking about them, just kinda hinting at them by say…talking about the border…or implying there’s an invasion…from someplace…nearby, to the south
  3. Get older Anglos to fear brown children. In Tucson, high school students were villainized. Texas has one-upped Arizona by fearing even younger kids.
  4. Fear books. In Arizona, they banned Mexican American Studies. Texas has used trickier means to sabotage ethnic studies.
  5. Always say that you are acting to save money or to curb illegal activity, even as you waste tax money and break the law.
  6. Quietly intimidate. So maybe walk around with a rifle when you can.
  7. Keep people scared. Keep people in a constant state of anger. Wear down people’s nerve and pocket books until you get your way.

And, as if to kick the Texas Freedom Summer into full throttle, Governor Rick Perry has handed me a perfect example of this as I type.Just a few days ago, Governor Rick Perry was pictured dressed from head to toe in camouflage. He’s not fat like Joe Arpaio, but the outfit was thrown off because it looked like he was wearing two or three bulletproof vests. I guess he was scared. He was also holding a rifle as he took selfies of him and an Army guy driving a boat around a lake. Refer to number six above, under intimidation tactics.

And then today, Perry announced he’s sending the National Guard to the Rio Grande Valley to deal with the children abandoned at the border. Refer to AZ move number three above, cultivating an unhealthy fear of brown children.

Of course, Perry cited AZ move number five to justify this, and claimed he would send troops to curb illegal activity. Perhaps, the National Guard can help identify the immigrants who are good candidates to fill the labor shortage for trades and big business in Texas.

The Perry Day Care Plan will cost the National Guard $12 million a month.  Reports claim Perry will bill the federal government for this. (Now that is a phone call to President Obama that I’d love to listen in on.) In the mean time, that’s $12 million of Texans’ tax money subsidizing Perry’s pre-presidential propaganda campaign.

The cost ties into AZ Move number four: fear of books and Ethnic Studies. The Republican-led Texas State Board of Education just sabotaged Proclamation 2016 which would have led to textbooks for Mexican American, African American, Asian American and Native American Studies. In order to thwart Ethnic Studies SBOE members cited, you guessed it, costs.

$12 million per month for textbooks could lead to a revolution in education. However, that’s not where Perry’s small-minded, short-term, mean and petty interest lies. Sabotaging ethnic studies and instilling a fear of books undermines people’s understanding of each other, so that cheap tricks like those listed above can keep working generation after generation after generation.

Until now.

Texans have a chance to correct this wave of hate sneaking in from Arizona. This Texas-sized version of the Arizona plan could lead to the America that Nixon dreamed of, or this could lead to a Texas-sized Freedom Summer such as MLK, Cesar Chavez, and Dolores Huerta imagined. It can happen because we’ve studied the Arizona playbook.

Texas is not a red state. Even during the last presidential election, Romney won only 57% of seven million voters. There were 15 million registered voters, but eight million voters stayed home. We have got to get them off their asses. Again, it takes only a few people to stay home on Election Day for crazy people to win elections, sometimes by as few as 25 votes.

There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic. There are way more cool and chill open minded people in Texas than haters. This was evident by the spontaneous outpouring of pro-immigrant demonstrations across the state.

I am honored to be part of a new collective of artists, writers, and activists who organized The Women and Children Welcoming Committee. We spent an all-nighter creating pro-immigrant banners and signs, and the following morning convened on a bridge over Interstate 10, in the heart of Houston, an hour before haters were scheduled to arrive.

And we blew people’s minds.

Reporters who covered our bridge blogging were shocked to hear the Anglo members of our rainbow coalition say that they welcome the refugees. Shocked! By humanity!

And our crew was not intimidated when a fellow showed up to protest against immigrants and promote open carry laws with a rifle slung over his shoulder, muzzle pointed down, and wearing a kilt (perhaps in an homage to previous waves of immigrants).

There were more of us, we made more news, and we opened more minds.

That’s what the Texas Freedom Summer has to keep doing.

We have to thrill the American Imagination, and we have to excite those eight million voters who stayed home during the last presidential election.

There are so many more positive signs. Every day, another Latino or Latina turns 18.  And every week, we see more and more of how a red state sees only red, even as it sends the budget into the red with money for troops but not for textbooks.

And we see more clearly how we must work together to thrill the American Imagination to counter the culture that would scare us back into the 1930s, back to white hoods and robes.

After all, it was here deep in the heart of Texas where the underground railroad rumbled through to Mexico, where slavery was long ago abolished, crossing borders to unite children and families who were torn apart because of unfair, cruel laws.

It was Texas where our merry band of Librotraficantes boarded a magic bus to traffic contraband prose across state lines. This Texas rainbow is going to update the American Dream for everyone.

So, Texas, are you ready to redefine the American Imagination?

“V” for victory “vat@s.”

Novelist Tony Diaz, El Librotraficante, is the author of The Aztec Love God, founder of Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say, and Director of Intercultural Initiatives at Lone Star College-North Harris. He co-hosts the Nuestra Palabra Radio Show on 90.1 FM KPFT. Read Amanda Hart’s FPH interview with Tony Diaz here.

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