Friday, May 16, 2008

Flor in her own words

By: Raul Gomez. Emille Scheppers contributed to this story.

Flor Crisostomo, is the new person at Adalberto Methodist Chuch in the West Town and Humboldt Park communities of Chicago, where Elvira Arellano was in sanctuary until arrested in Los Angeles last summer.

Mrs. Crisostomo is from the Zapotec Native American group in Mexico's Southern State of Oaxaca. She was one of the thousand or more employees of IFCO Pallet Company arrested in April 2006, and has exhausted all legal appeals to stay in United States, and received the famous letter ordering her to report for deportation. Her children are back in Mexico, so her situation does not hinge on the issue of US citizen children, but they do depend on her remittances to survive.

She is trying to draw attention to the role of US trade and economic policies, like NAFTA in impoverishing the Mexican countryside and thereby contributing to the undocumented immigration situation, as well as to the problems with US immigration law and the raids. They quote her as wanting to end the system of undocumented labor without mentioning that she means by legalization of the undocumented and changes in US and Mexican trade policy.

What follows are statements that Mrs. Crisostomo shared with me, Raul Gomez, a high school student at El Cuarto Año, a school in Humboldt Park, a community in Chicago:

How can it be that in this stage of the struggle people don't understand that the person with fewer benefits is me? I don’t have kids that are US citizens or a husband who is a citizen. And I would never have married in order to get legal status.

In this part of the struggle, I practically had to take a definite step to bring attention to what’s going on within our community.

The support is really strong within this community above all because of the Puerto Ricans. But more than anything this campaign is to raise political consciousness. Political education is what our people need.

For many people it’s easy to ask: Why did she take refuge in the church? What she wants to do is legalize her status.

I am a refugee and I will be one until they respect the community. What I’m doing is not for me. It’s for my family that’s here undocumented and my people that are undocumented. This is why I’m doing this act, if you want to call it, of rebellion. The only thing left for me is arrest and deportation and I don’t want the same things to keep on happening.

The School to Jail Pipeline

By Mike Zapata
As a 12th grade English teacher and education advocate living in Chicago, I have learned that in order to convince people that institutions are intertwined — my job affects your job, my lack of resources affects your right to resources — I have to argue the dollar. It has been inferred that teachers teach, especially those in impoverished neighborhoods, from the ‘bottom of their good heart’ or to ‘help society.’ This is a naive and unworkable view of the education system. So, instead, when speaking to small-business leaders, entrepreneurs, corporations, and political figures in Chicago, I rely on the two following figures:

1) According to Alternative Schools Network, ASN, the state of Illinois saves $125,000 for every student that finishes high school.
2) According to the 2007 IL state budget, it costs an average of $7,000 a year to send a high school student to school, while it costs nearly $60,000 to keep an adult imprisoned during the same fiscal year.

My students at El Cuarto Año High School at Association House, a re-enrollment, alternative high school in Humboldt Park, understand the consequences of an overvalued prison system and an undervalued education system very well.

My dad always told me to brush my teeth daily, to get an oil change every three thousand miles, to store enough food in the pantry to last through a nasty mid-February Chicago blizzard. The mark of sustained survival, for an individual as well as for a civilized society, is to be preventative. Increasingly, in our nation, we are not. And with our most important civilized asset – the education of our youth – we are fundamentally not. We are devastatingly short-sighted. To borrow a term from Chicago political writer Ramsin Canon, we are "nearly civilized', possibly barely surviving, and, if I may, we are letting our wisdom teeth rot.

We have a simultaneous crisis of education and imprisonment. This crisis is not only devastating to the institutions of our society, but to the very best elements and values of our society, which was founded on the principles of the Enlightenment. ..The light of the Enlightenment, which laid the foundation to our educational and legal institutions, was based on the inevitable equality of people, the will of the individual, collective bargaining, and eventual self-rule; all of which made it possible to limit the power of Caesars and increase the education of the working class.

However, it is becoming clear that a current lack of educational resources is leading to the bloating of our prison system (and, arguably, to the increase of the power of our Caesars. High school students have an extremely apt name for this: The School to Prison Pipeline,

In Humboldt Park I work closely with many students, predominately Latino and Black, who are working to escape the School to Prison Pipeline. The media often portrays these “urban” students as either prison fodder or as recipients of being saved. The reality – and back to our original dollar argument – is that millions of students are stuck in a section of the American Market that unforgivably offers a low-grade, cheap education and, a few years later, unforgivably puts them in a high-grade, expensive prison system when they are unable to adjust to a Market that demands higher levels of education. It is also important to note that the cost of one year of imprisonment for an adult male matches, or exceeds, the average salary of an educator as well as the earning potential of the prisoner himself. Our American students are being flushed of their most ideal and humanely available asset: an education, which is necessary to the ‘pursuit of happiness,’ the ability to collectively
bargain, and the skills to participate in the Market and the Republic.

I am not making an argument completely against the Market. The Market can work for the majority, but only if the masses have access to fair labor, fair health systems, and fair education. There are those with reasonable arguments who say an uneducated mass is the point, but let me be clear about how this crises affects you; whether in taxes, crime rates, state services, community assets (cultural and financial), or even an Enlightened sense of freedom and equality (visceral or abstract), there is a very real cost here. Your wallet and your community is worse off (i.e. nearly civilized) because millions of teenagers reside between the school and the jail.

My father, an Ecuadorian immigrant, and my mother, a Russian-Jew by descent, value the American Dream and, most of all, value public education. For them it is the greatest American experiment and asset – a good and fair education allows social mobility and access to our nation’s finest resources. I have often had faith in the American Dream, as many first generation Americans do, because I have witnessed how access to an education can work. I have also witnessed how lack of access can very easily lead a person to jail. I work daily with students who exist in the School to Jail Pipeline, but I also get paid to do so. I consider myself fortunate in that my job aligns with my core beliefs, but it is still my job, as it is the job of thousands of people in Chicago and a few hundred thousand in our nation to try and make sure the School to Jail Pipeline does not work. But often, this is not enough. This does not a true Republic make. Ask any community organizer or educator, and
they will tell you that one of the biggest impacts is the continued help of those who do not get paid to do this work: parents and community members whose fundamental, fully-civilized beliefs and actions can shift the balance away from an abusive Market or Caesar.

*Abridged version of article that appeared in with title "The Aventine Redux" Published with permission of author.

Monday, May 5, 2008


A Poem dedicated to George W. Bush and Cronies of whatever political party

by Martha Pedroza

Words and words
And nothing but words:

Words on paper
Words in the air
Words on screens swirled around
Diarrhea of campaign words.

Mountains of meaningless words
Empires covered by words

The iron fist hidden by words
Tanks and weapons and death covered by words

We eat salads of words
And stews and soups of words
And leave satisfied
with the meal of words we've just had

Meetings of words bandied about
Meaningless, worthless words

Words to placate
and put you to sleep with
Words to tie us up with and mollify us
to cover theft
to cover torture
to cover greed

Blankets and blankets of words
eat the word democracy with bullets

Pass the dressing of words
to cover the salad of words
to calm our hunger for justice

Justice? That's another word
rhymes with poultice and mortise

We are glutted obscenely with words
I don't want any more words!!
Oh, shut up, sit down and finish all your words.

Friday, January 18, 2008


By Sijisfredo Avilés

The 2008 elections are here and the most conservative elements (the right wing) of the Republican Party are geared to place all the shortcomings of the country on immigrants, particularly those of Mexico and the rest of Latin America to win this election. The presidential candidates, as well as the chorus of right wing television, talk radio and newspapers personalities, are bombarding the public with all kind of lies and accusations against immigrants, in particular the undocumented workers

Why do they blame the immigrants?

The major reason is that the Republican Bush government has failed the American people.

Using the tragedy of 911, this government has started a global war against people and countries that question the policies and directions that has left this country devastated socially and economically and isolated from the world. At the same time, the administration attacks the democratic and constitutional rights of its own citizens, intercepting their mail, e-mails and phone calls using the excuse of national security, defense of the fatherland and the so called war against terrorism.

Despite being the richest country in the history of the world, yet its medical health care system is in shambles and is failing to provide care and medicines to its most vulnerable citizens, the poor, the seniors and children.

This Country has failed miserably when it comes to building housing for low and moderate income families. The mortgage crisis is affecting even the so called middle class with the loss of their homes and very little is offered to the ones who need the most help. At the same time, the homeless rate continues to grow.

Another failure is the “No Child Left Behind” program of the Bush administration. Many of the schools in urban areas are overcrowded, under financed and under staffed. The policy of the government is to blame the children and their families for the shortcomings. Instead of correcting the situation many schools are closed and the students are sent to other schools with similar conditions, then the closed schools are rehabilitated, or newly constructed, to serve other children leaving the former students in worst conditions and facing the fear of continually being moved from school to school. Rural and other communities are finding more difficulty to provide adequate resources because educational financing is tilted in favor of wealthier communities.

But what is the truth?

It is easy for Bush and his cohorts to blame the immigrants for the social and economic condition of the country for their errors.

The truth is that Immigrants are "not getting a free ride". They work hard to create profits for corporations. They pay income taxes on their earnings, sales taxes on purchases, and property taxes as homeowners. Like other workers, immigrants pay the same federal, state and local taxes which finance schools, health clinics and other services. Undocumented immigrants pay billion of dollars into social security but they cannot collect any benefits.

The undocumented were not involved in the 911 destruction of the towers as Homeland Security is insinuating and promoting with its raids on the undocumented immigrant communities. The fact is that every one of the terrorists came into the country on legal visas issued by the United States.

What must we do to stop the attack against US citizens and immigrants?

In this 2008 election, we have to sweep from office all of these conservative, right wing rascals and liars from all levels of governments. We need to petition, demonstrate, vote and continue to struggle for justice, equality, peace and a true government of the people, by the people and for the people. We need to focus on defeating our enemies. We need to stop arguing among ourselves because we differ on ways to defeat them. Let us respect each other and look at ourselves as comrades. Let us organize to defeat them.

The people united will never be defeated!