Ohtli Award

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Long-time Hispanic activists Alfredo Gutierrez and Tommy Espinoza recently received the “Ohtli Award,” Mexico’s highest honor for people of Mexican descent who live outside of Mexico. Gutierrez will talk about the award and issues surrounding Mexico and the United States.

>>José Cárdenas:
Tonight on "Horizonte," two valley men receive the highest award given by the Mexican government to those of Mexican decent living outside the country. And a group concerned about deaths among those crossing the border is holding a 75-mile protest march. That's up next on "Horizonte."

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>>José Cárdenas:
Good evening, I'm José Cárdenas. Last week, long-time Hispanic activists Tommy Espinoza and Alfredo Gutierrez were honored with the OHTLI Award by the Mexican government. Both fought proposition 200, which was passed by voters last year and restricts voting and public benefits to those who have crossed the border illegally. Here now to talk about their award and issues surrounding it are Alfredo Gutierrez, a former lawmaker and gubernatorial candidate. Also joining me is Tommy Alfredo, congratulations on your award.

>> Alfredo Gutierrez:
Thank you.

>>José Cárdenas:
Tell us about the OHTLI Award. Tell us what that means.

>> Alfredo Gutierrez:
Well, it is a word which means opening or creating a path, and historically, it's been given 209 times, I understand, and historically for issues of trade and people who have offered services in the United States and benefits, but there's been a significant change, I think, as this issue of immigration begins to become so much more controversial that there was, I guess, a decision made to recognize people who are advocates for immigrant change.

>> José Cárdenas:
And you and Tommy Espinoza have both been very involved in the community, but you are both alumni of Chicanos por la Causa. Why were you chosen this year?

>> Alfredo Gutierrez:
I think with proposition 200, proposition 200, many Arizonans were unaware of it, got an extraordinary amount of international attention. The level of rhetoric in this state, the hate-filled rhetoric, I might add, has Dwana tension throughout the Spanish-speaking world. Arizona has begun to symbolize what Mississippi was to African Americans, to many, many Spanish-language people both in this country and outside of this country, so it was that struggle which was covered to a much greater degree in the Spanish language press than the English language press, that I think brought the attention of myself, leading the efforts against 200, and Tommy, it was less well known, was running around the country raising the funds necessary to be able to launch that battle.

>>José Cárdenas:
And Tommy is also very much involved in housing issues for La Raza development funding.

>> Alfredo Gutierrez:
Right, Tommy is the former president of Chicanos Por La Causa. He is often credited. It was a struggling small advocacy agency and creating the social service beam moth that exists today.

>>José Cárdenas:
An organization of which you were one of the founders.

>> Alfredo Gutierrez:
I was. I was. I was there at the genesis. I met Tommy, by the way.

Tommy was working for the parks department. He was working in the parks.

He was an impressive fella, and we enticed him to leave the security, if you will, of the City of Phoenix job, and come over to Chicanos por la Causa, not as a director but he quickly became that.

>> José Cárdenas:
You have both done very well, you are both prominent in the community and in your case, your selection by the Mexican government might strike some as a little odd because you've been critical of the Mexican government's responsibility for the immigration problems we have. Talk about that a little bit.

>> Alfredo Gutierrez:
Well, I've been very critical of it. I've been critical of the corruption in Mexico, I've been critical of the administration, and the efforts there to sort of consolidate wealth at the top and create, from my point of view, extreme poverty that has led and fueled the immigration crisis in both countries. I've been critical of the this administration, that I think is focused too much on what we in Spanish say remittance, that is the money we send to our families in Mexico. Usually monthly. It amounts to $17 billion.

>>José Cárdenas:
Are you suggesting it's in Mexico's best interest to encourage illegal immigration?

>>Alfredo Gutierrez:
I hate to have -- given the current economic circumstances, literally no choice, unless they can make the economy of Mexico change dramatically quickly, this kind of immigration is going to continue from that country to here. And as long as the magnet is here, as long as people are hiring, as long as people can sacrifice their lives, get here, and within a matter of months be working, for 10, 12 dollars an hour, people are going to take that risk.

>>José Cárdenas:
What would you have the Mexican government do, then?

>> Alfredo Gutierrez:
Well, I have criticized the Mexican government in terms of the set of choices that it has made. I think clearly the level of corruption has contributed to the unhealthy economy in that country, all of those things have to change. The control of Mexico of 75 years by a single party, kind of a -- imagine, that's long the Communists controlled the Soviet union, much longer, led to a certain inertia that has to change dramatically and rapidly in order for us to mobilize, to move that economy. But being critical of the Mexico is certainly something that, you know, in this country, one of the reasons we're here, is to be able to do that, but one can also be equally critical of this country, and the hypocritical policies of this country which happen as well.

>> José Cárdenas:
I want to talk about some of the administration proposals or legislative proposals on immigration, but Prop 200, we start this had interview by making reference to it. Six months have past. The legal scrim imagines are over. What's been its impact?

>> Alfredo Gutierrez:
Well, its impact on the Hispanic community has been to a great degree fear. People are very aware of where it's at. They understand the attorney general's ruling. They understand the federal court's restriction. They understand the attempt by the pro-200 committee to have its definition expanded to include approximately everything in the world, apparently, but that appeal -- those things are highly controversial in the community, and so there's been fear. The other impact and effect has been the great mobilization of the Hispanic community. In a sense, we've got to thank Russell Pearce, Randy Pullen and I believe people who are racially motivated because they've taken probably a developmental period that was going to take a decade before our folks were going to come into the fold and begin to participate civicly in this state, and probably collapsed that process into a year or two. People want to get involved. They want to -- they want to stop this.

>>José Cárdenas:
How is that manifesting itself? What do you see people doing now that they weren't doing before?

>> Alfredo Gutierrez:
Let me remind you of the (speaks Spanish) work stoppage. It was called by a group of folks -- it wasn't particularly well organized. It was an expression of frustration. They were shocked. The organizers were shocked by the response.

Thousands of people simply walked away from the work, from their jobs. We know that one consequence of not being prepared was that -- that we were aware of, over 500 people lost their jobs in that process, but if you asked them, they think it was worth it. They think it was worth it, though there was no immediate impact, it was such a level of frustration in the Spanish language community, that something had to be done.

>>José Cárdenas:
Do you see more work stoppages coming up?

>> Alfredo Gutierrez:
I think there was a lot of lessons learned and simply calling for work stoppage. I see a boycott of the State of Arizona on an international level. It's very controversial.

>>José Cárdenas:
Is it something you support?

>> Alfredo Gutierrez:
It's something I won't criticize. I'm not as of yet directly involved in it, but something I won't criticize. I understand exactly the motivations, the anger that is manifesting itself. And something that I believe I will support in time as the details are worked out. But the idea simply is that this is -- this is certainly a national issue, but it's an international issue, and rather than take an action wherein our people are going to lose their job, perhaps we can be more focused in a way to force policy changes in this state.

>>José Cárdenas:
Alfredo, you talked about the fear of the Prop 200. Has that diminished over the last -

>>José Cárdenas:
-it has diminished. There is a lot of discussion in the community.

People are much more aware of what it is. I think that fear where the federal court or the state court, either one, to take the side of the propnents of 200, and widen it to include library cards and parks and potable water and every other conceivable public benefit, is will begin again almost instantly.

>>José Cárdenas:
Does that possibility exist right now? You talked about the mobilization of the Hispanic community. What about the mobilization of the anti-immigrant forces? You had the legislation proposals. You've got the minutemen gathering on the borders. Is there also that kind of mobilization going on and what does it mean?

>>Alfredo Gutierrez:
It's a very tough thing to talk about what it means. I don't know. I mean, from time to time, I'm -- I'm made optimistic by realizing that the worst expressions of state law in the south against African Americans happened as segregation was crumbling, happened as the civil rights movement was beginning to win those battles. For example, the use of the confederate flag is not -- it doesn't go back to 1860, it goes to back to 1960 when southern legislatures realized they were on the losing side. I think much of that is what's happening today. This is sort of the last gasp, the last screeching and yelling of a dying cockroach. I think what we've got to focus on is reasonable immigration policies that work for both employers for this country, and for the undocumented crossing those borders. That's what we've got to focus on. But look, there is no denying that it's everywhere. I expect that they'll have two or three initiatives this coming year. They've already talking about two more English only is already on the ballot.

>> José Cárdenas:
How much of that is a prelude to the gubernatorial elections this year?

>> Alfredo Gutierrez:
For some people, I think there are some Republicans that view this as a wedge issue, and view this as assisting the Governor in getting out the vote, but I think the -

>> José Cárdenas:
or just the opposite. It's -

>> Alfredo Gutierrez:
-exactly. But there is some folks who view it -- they are quite sincere about this, who view our presence in this country as a cultural threat, one of the proponents of Prop 200, referred to us as a threat to quote, the purity of American culture, whatever that is.

>>José Cárdenas:
Professor Huntington at Harvard would say it's the Anglo Saxon protestant culture.

>> Alfredo Gutierrez:
It would exclude Italian Americans and Jewish Americans, and exclude all kinds of people, it would be an America that probably never existed, but be that as it may, that's where they want to go. This latest report from the immigration caucus in congress was signed by 71 members of congress and ends with the following statement. It says we need to take 36,000 troops, soldiers, to the border, mill terrize the border and we need to do that, it says, in order to defend our borders, our security, our lives and our culture. This is as much about culture. That is to say about language, and about food, and about values, as it is about -- and about race. I -- it has to be, and it is about race as well, but it's more complex than simply black and white. It has to do with a wide variety of outer manifestations but we are all unified by culture. It has to do with race as well.

>>José Cárdenas:
Alfredo, while we currently have all of this focus and attention on these issues that you've just been discussing, at the same time there has been a lot of discussion about the victory of the new mayor of Los Angeles. News week runs a piece that says Hispanics are the new Irish. What does all of that mean to you?

>> Alfredo Gutierrez:
Well, I think it's -- look, it will happen only if we maintain this tremendous amount of vigor in our community, continue to organize, continue to encourage our people to participate in the civic life of this country. You know, I'm reminded of 1970 Coors, the beer company after the census came out, declared the '70s as the decade of the Hispanic. Okayiously the decade of the Hispanic drinking beer, Coors beer, perhaps. It didn't happen. Nothing happened. This evolution of the Hispanic community just proceeded, but I think we're at the tipping point.

I think you are going to see --

>>José Cárdenas:
Do you see any significance in the fact or at least the suggestion that he won this time because he downplayed to a certain extent his Hispanic background and was appealing to a broader more diverse electorate?

>> Alfredo Guiterrez:
Well, I think there is certainly that. Henry Cisneros won in stone Yao, but Frederico Peña in Denver, 17% Hispanic, there is something to be said for that, but the other reality is this, Anthony goes is a pulled no punches. He spoke passionately about the border. He spoke passionately about being Mexican American, about being born here, the son of immigrants. His wife is an immigrant. He spoke passionately about these issues. He spoke in English and in Spanish. He traveled the barrio. There was no presence TENS here that he was anything other than he was, a proud -- he broadened his appeal, and he also made peace in the Hispanic community, the Chicano community had opposed him bitterly the first time, because he represented this larger other community, this immigrant community, and that ended this time around.

>>José Cárdenas:
We've got less than a minute left. What about Phoenix and the greater Phoenix area in terms of Hispanic mayors. We have some counsel people in some of the other cities but not in Phoenix. What do you think is going to happen there?

>> Alfredo Gutierrez:
Well, I think we are approaching a tipping point where we're going to see this tremendous amount of civic participation, a whole new leadership to where we're just beginning to see young people that are new and very exciting. They look at me as an old man. I don't, but they do, and that young new leadership is, I think, preparing to catapult into a real positions of authority and influence and I think we're going see this over the course of the next four years.

>>José Cárdenas:
Congratulations on your oatly award and thank you for visiting us on "Horizonte."

>> Alfredo Gutierrez:
Thank you.

>>José Cárdenas:
Over 60 immigrants have died crossing the desert in the Tucson sector since October. That's when the year starts for Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Last year, the border patrol reported 172 deaths in the Tucson sector. However, that number is in dispute. Medical examiners reported 49 more deaths than the border patrol. Whatever the correct number is, the number of people dying has many concerned, including the group "no more deaths." The group is currently conducting a 75-mile walk from Sasabe to Tucson to protest the deaths and the policy that leads to it. "The migrant trial, we walk for life" march started Monday and will end Sunday. Here now to tell us more about the event is Liana Rowe of the group "no more deaths." Thank you for joining us on "Horizonte." How did the march start on Monday? Give us a thumbnail overview of the start of the event, the weather that greeted it and how it's going now?

>> Liana Rowe:
Location of the beginning was in SASABE on the Mexican side of the border and SASABE is a point at which many migrants are beginning their journey through the deserts. So we considered that to be a meaningful location. There were speakers from each of the sponsoring organizations, a blessing by a Native American and then our crossing through the gate onto the U.S. side of the border and the march began.

>>José Cárdenas:
How many people?

>> Liana Rowe:
The first day over 100 people walked, many members of the wider community were invited to participate on the first and the last days, so there were many more on the first day. Currently there are 48 walkers that are -- planning to continue through the end of the week.

>>José Cárdenas:
And this is the core group. As I understand that's an increase over the numbers that you had last year?

>> Liana Rowe:
Last year, were fewer numbers, and, yes, we're more widespread this year.

And as the issue around the migrants dying in the desert becomes more heated, more well known, then people express more interest in speaking out on behalf of those who are dying out there.

>>José Cárdenas:
Tell us about the group "no more deaths" it's actually a coalition of groups and people who are interested in this particular issue. Can you identify some of the major participants?

>> Liana Rowe:
It is a coalition of groups that have historically done good work on the border.

Border links in Tucson, border action network, humane borders.

>>José Cárdenas:
That's the group that you are involved in, right?

>> Liana Rowe:
I'm also involved in humane borders, yes. South side Presbyterian church, St. Mark's Presbyterian church, several others.

>>José Cárdenas:
And the Presbyterian church, the first one you mentioned, they were involved in the -- bringing Salvadorian refugees into the country a number of years ago?

>> Liana Rowe:
That's true, southside woods, the original sanctuary church.

>>José Cárdenas:
What's the purpose of this particular march? What do you hope to accomplish?

>> Liana Rowe:
This march is part of some of the events that we've had over Memorial Day weekend for the last two summers as, say, a kickoff to the summer season in which the numbers of those dying in the desert increases. We're in a part of the season where we consider the average to be one a day, and the march itself is meant to be an expression of solidarity of or with our brothers and sisters that are out there with no food, no water, under very dire conditions.

>>José Cárdenas:
Is there a concern that this is not receiving the kind of media attention that it should?

>> Liana Rowe:
I've not heard that concern expressed. Perhaps in the more -- in the regions that are more remote from that particular immediate location we didn't get a lot of participation from the media in the Phoenix area, but there was quite a bit of Tucson media. It would be nice to see media participation from across the country.

>>José Cárdenas:
Now, we talked a moment ago about numbers. And the fact is that the border patrol numbers of deaths in the desert are lower than those reported by examiners. Why is that?

>> Liana Rowe:
My understanding of that issue is that the border patrol will report the numbers based on deaths in which they have direct participation. The Mexican consulate and examiners will report numbers based on all of the deaths that they've been made aware of.

>>José Cárdenas:
Now, your web site talks about a failed militarization policy. First of all, in what way, has the border been militarized if you think it has been, and if so, how has that failed?

>> Liana Rowe:
The principle that you are talking about has to do with the faith based principles for immigration reform, and the way we laid those principles out had to -- we set them up so that they addressed not only the most imminent threat to life, which is people crossing the border through the desert, but also to basically work through all of the issues to the wider issue of global trade and economic inequities. So the principle that you are referring to, the militarized border policy being a failed policy, has to do with in the history of the United States, placing weapons and military personnel, which the border patrol is more of a law enforcement group, but the weapons and the technology, and the millions of dollars that have been poured into technology and vehicles and agents, can be considered to be a militarization. That approach, that policy has never historically been successful in stemming immigration.

>>José Cárdenas:
Why?

>> Liana Rowe:
The core reason for the migration lies away from the border. It is not on the border. And trying to seal the border off is a fallacy. A, you can't do it, and B, it doesn't fix the problem.

>>José Cárdenas :
Could you do it with a 36 or 37,000 troops that Alfredo Gutierrez, that we just finished interviewing, noted that the immigration caucus in congress is calling for?

>> Liana Rowe:
I would contend that it's not going to work. It's been claimed that placing interference in the path of migrants will stop the migration, but it's proven over and over again that if you place interference with their crossing in one place, then the flow merely moves. Even the border patrol will say that the numbers have not decreased. They've simply moved.

>> José Cárdenas:
You talked a moment ago about trade policies. How do they impact immigration and the concerns that your group has about that?

>> Liana Rowe:
When trade policies are negotiated in a way that puts trade partner at a disadvantage to the point where persons can no longer make a living, a sustainable living, in an agriculture or anything else, many of the migrants dying in the desert now are even white color workers. The economic conditions in the communities are so poor that people cannot survive there any longer by the hundreds of thousands if not millions through southern Mexico and Central America.

>>José Cárdenas:
Are you suggesting that treaties such as NAFTA have caused that?

>> Liana Rowe:
I am suggesting that we have implemented trade policies in our recent history that have been directly contributory.

>> José Cárdenas:
We've got a minute left. I want to talk about the pending proposals in congress for legislative reform. First of all, does your group favor amnesty?

>> Liana Rowe:
I think the principle that you are referring to really talks about there needs to be something done about the estimated 10-15 million undocumented persons that live in this country right now, and whatever it takes to document those persons that are leaving here, I don't know if it's amnesty or not, but we need to be able to document the persons that are already here.

>> José Cárdenas:
We've just got a few seconds left. Do you think either of the proposals there will slow down the deaths in the desert?

>> Liana Rowe:
The policy of no more deaths is not to stand by any one particular piece of legislation. We like to point to the faith-based principles for immigration reform and invite people to hold those up next to any particular piece of legislation so that they can see for themselves whether the legislation lines up.

>> José Cárdenas:
Thank you for joining us on "Horizonte." To see transcripts or information on upcoming shows, visit our web site www.azpbs.org and click on "Horizonte." Thank you for joining us tonight. I'm José Cárdenas. Have a good evening.

Alfredo Gutierrez: Ohtli Award honoree;

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