October 19, 2013

Immigration and Politics According to Ruben Navarrette Jr.

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Written by: Nydia O
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Navarrette Jr. is a syndicated columnist for the Washington Post, and the columnist with the highest number of Latino readers in America. His column is featured in local newspapers across the country including the Rio Grande Valley. He is known to “ruffle some feathers” with his blunt comments to the dismay – or delight – of his readers.  To others, Navarrette is an arrogant, self-centered person who loves to brag about graduating from Harvard University “as if that somehow qualified him as an expert,” words written by Dr. Acuna in an article written on pocho.com.

It is his boldness that I enjoy, and I have found it very offensive a good number of times, but I can certainly analyze his point of view and reach my own conclusion. I have even written a story for La Vida Valle after reading one of his more inspiring articles.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out his mother was born in Edinburg, Texas, in 1942, so the valley’s Mexican history has influenced Navarrete’s life in many ways.  This is why I did not hesitate to travel to McAllen at 7:30 in the morning to listen to Navarrete during a presentation he made at the McAllen Chamber of Commerce this past Thursday, October 17, 2013. Here is a list of some random notes I wrote during his presentation.

On Politics and Politicians

“There’s not a lot of it up there,” he said pointing to his head, about our current politicians. He continued saying their elected positions and their government jobs was pretty much it for most of them making $175,000 for working 175 days per year,  hence their interest in raising campaign funds and keep winning. It is like with life, he said, you belong to a gang – in this case the red or blue gang – and you survive (get reelected).

“You guys live in the real world,” he told his valley audience because, he said, our elected officials are able to work together, and so is much of the southwest. He shared his challenges of telling our story to his Washington colleagues who cannot relate to our region, and our way of doing things. He also stated his belief of the valley having plenty of “Bush Democrats” who did not change parties, but voted for George W. Bush.

He talked about his friendship with Ted Cruz whom he said will come out of this (government shutdown) even stronger because he has shown his supporters that he “walks the talk.” He said Cruz is a very bright and full of himself attorney who in his 30s had already litigated nine cases before the Supreme Court.  He also mentioned his good friends the Castro brothers who he believes are more cautious, and less bold than Cruz. “They care about what people think of them,” said Navarrete “they live in a bubble and I wonder if they can rise to the challenge of leadership.” He also talked about a possible Senate race between Cruz and one of the Castro brothers.

“A cold fish,” is how Navarrette described President Obama adding that he is very cool tempered, and lacks passion.  Navarrette believes Republicans are shying away from Cruz because he demands for them to fulfill their campaign promises, and democrats fear a debate between Cruz and Hilary Clinton.

 About Immigration Reform

Navarrette’s explanation had to do with no party being able to fully support this reform due to campaign financial support. He humorously explained democrats had the vote and support of the Latino community, but not their money, so democrats rely on campaign contributions from unions who mostly oppose an immigration reform. Democrats cannot afford to have their constituents fighting so their approach to immigration is light. Republicans have the vote and support of the nativists who dislike immigrants, but who do not contribute to campaigns, so republicans rely on contributions from corporations and private businesses which may or may not support immigration. But republicans cannot make a clear “push” for immigration, for it would upset the majority of their anti-immigration supporters.  To the attendees at the McAllen presentation he said to stop hoping Hinojosa will do something about immigration reform.

About Latinos

Navarrette spoke about the 52 million immigrants living in the United States of which 70% are Mexican.

“If humility was an Olympic sport; we would win every competition,” said Navarrette noting that Latinos are a “humble people.” He believes we have a deep sense of insecurity, and that we are quieter than what we need to be. He continued saying we have low expectations that possibly derive from our history in the United States.  He talked about the days his mother attended High School in Edinburg and in California where Career Day field trips involved two buses; one for the white kids, and the other one for the Mexican kids.  The white bus would visit banks and local businesses, while the “brown” bus visited the cannery and the fields.

He referred to the current education system, where seniority has contributed to staffing teachers with an “old-school mentality”, as today’s version of the two buses. Teachers who he believes do not influence /inspire Latino students to pursue a higher education.

Navarrette talked about the Castro brother’s mother who was in her youth a member of the Raza Unida movement, which according to Navarrete was formed to protest against democrats who were not being responsive to Latinos.  In a more reflective mode, he said he used to be against such movements, but as he gets older has learned to understand their basis.

He cautioned Latinos to be more demanding about our issues, and to not vote blindingly for democrats.

“We are a cheap date,” he stated.

On the divide between Mexicans and Mexican- Americans

Navarrette’s wife is from Guadalajara, Mexico, so he joked he is in a “mixed marriage.” He candidly talked about a time he asked his children to describe him to what they responded that he was from California, and that he wrote for newspapers.  When asked to describe their mother, the kids did not hesitate and replied: “Mom is Mexican!”

His point led to talk about the Mexican- American disconnect from the United States, and from Mexico simultaneously. The history behind the reasons grandparents were “spitted” out of Mexico, has left unpleasant scars among our people he said.  Why should they care about Mexico when Mexico did not care about them? Is what most may think according to Navarrete.

He pointed out how he is treated as a Mexican in the United States, and as an American when he travels to Mexico. He has never denied his affiliation to the Republican party even though he said he believes journalists should not take sides.

As you can see, it was a very interesting morning with Ruben Navarrette Jr.

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About the Author

Nydia O
A bird does not sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.-Maya Angelou. La Vida Valle is where I write about "la vida" my life in the Rio Grande Valley. From this bi-cultural corner on the tip of Texas, I share my poems and my spiritual and travel experiences. I also blog about the arts, nature and my passion for historic preservation and architecture. But most importantly, let's talk about "la vida" - living our lives - in a vacation state of mind. Contributions and comments are always welcome .

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