Rising Frustrations, Call to the Streets

By Jerry Kammer and Jerry Kammer on April 14, 2011

On today's "Democracy Now!" program, co-host Juan Gonzalez interviewed Rep. Raul Grijalva. Both men expressed frustration with the lack of action on immigration reform by Congress and the Obama administration. Here are the principal exchanges, including a suggestion from Gonzalez that it is "time to shut down Phoenix" in protest. The interview took place the day after advocates of illegal immigrants in Los Angeles announced plans for a major demonstration there on May 1:

GONZALEZ: Across the country, various states like yours, Arizona, have adopted even more repressive immigration legislation and the Obama administration has escalated the number of people being deported from the United States. I'm sensing from talking with young people, especially those who backed the Dream Act unsuccessfully, that there is a growing frustration among millions of Latinos and other immigrants in this country that the political leadership in Washington is turning its back on this major problem. …

GRIJALVA: I share the disappointment….It's a fundamental, important economic and human issue that we're facing in this country. An issue that if not dealt with continues to divide and segregate this country of ours. That social fabric question scares the heck out of me because I think that the profound damage done there is going to take generations to correct. We're frustrated….Knowing full well that we will not get anything out of the Republican Congress – the House of Representatives – and the Senate is too timid to deal with this issue, and the White House would prefer to just have it go away until after election time – we are insisting…that the president use his extensive discretion and authority to deal with family unification issues, to deal with issues of the Dream Act in terms of providing people with a safe harbor and hardship protection. Those are administrative steps we can take in lieu of getting legislation done. The frustration is going to be translated into lack of participation in elections. Or it's going to be translated into more and more Latinos feeling as though their civil rights issue of this generation is not front and center in the political dialogue. …

GONZALEZ: Isn't it time, perhaps, for a lot of these young people to do what was done in the 60s with the Freedom Riders. And basically, your state is really the new Alabama and Sheriff Joe Arpaio is the new Bull Connor [the Birmingham, Ala., public official who in the 1960s became a symbol of racist defense of segregation]. Isn't it perhaps time to shut down Phoenix, to declare a Dream Summer in 2012 in Arizona and have tens of thousands of young Latinos converge on Arizona in the midst of a presidential election year and force the entire country to deal with this issue?

GRIJALVA: I think that the discussion you just brought up is ongoing. I think there has been activism and organizations and constituency movements across this country on this issue….It continues to build up. And your point is something that is not only part of the discussion, it's real action that's taking place not only in Arizona but across the country. Not just in protest but to build toward that 2012 election cycle so that front and center this issue will have to be dealt with.