By Victor Landa, NewsTaco (4 minute read)
A Memorial Day scuffle on the floor of the Texas legislature reminded me of something Mexican Writer Carlos Fuentes is reported to have said. He was alluding to the stereotype that Mexicans (Latinos) are hot-blooded and violent by nature. But the reality, he said, was that Latino violence is honest.
A Latino will be angered and “take the fight outside.” A Latino will tell his opponent to wait while he goes to get a gun – then comes back with a gun just as he said. American violence on the other hand, according to Fuentes, is a violence by proxy. They send planes (drones) with no warning.
On the last day of the Texas biennial legislative session a state representative named Matt Rinaldi (R-Dallas) confronted a group of Latino representatives after a group of pro-immigrant protesters began chanting slogans from the house balcony. Rinaldi believed the Latino legislators were urging the chants.
Let’s make one thing clear, the protesters did in fact chant and they were asked to leave the balcony because that type of disturbance is not allowed – and I’m sure the protesters knew that. Some of the protesters carried signs that read “illegal and here to stay.”
That’s what triggered Rinaldi to approach the Latinos on the floor and tell them that he was going to call ICE on the protesters.
One of the Latino legislators, Pocho Nevárez (D-Eagle Pass), angered at what he believed to be hate and racism – not all of the protesters in the balcony were undocumented, as Rinaldi assumed – threatened Rinaldi saying he’d “get him” when he went for his car. Rinaldi answered by saying he’d shoot Nevarez if he tried anything (yes, this happened on the floor of the Texas legislature). Rinaldi, by the way, says he’s protected by state troopers.
Another Latino legislator, Ramon Romero (D-Fort Worth) is accused of assaulting Rinaldi. Romero claims he was trying to separate the aggressors not shove Rinaldi.
►This incident doesn’t surprise me for several reasons.
One is that I’ve spoken to several state legislators, lobbyists and observers in the past weeks and each has told me that the atmosphere this session has been volatile.
Another is that this kind of confrontation has become normalized by leaders at the highest level who call on aggression as a proper response to differing opinions or the questions from journalists.
But there’s another not-so-subtle indication that the forces of aggression are being made to seem normal.
Government Executive published a story last week about changes in funding in the Trump budget:
►Jeff Sessions’s Agenda for Justice’s Civil-Rights Division
Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is reducing staff in the Justice Department’s civil rights division and increasing the money for immigration persecutions.
“Funding for the division remains virtually flat, with an increase of only $168,000 to its $148 million dollar budget. The proposal projects the civil-rights division would see a loss of more than 121 staff positions, including 14 attorney positions.”
Just so that it isn’t lost in the telling, the Justice Department’s civil rights division prosecutes such things as voter suppression, hate crimes, police shootings of unarmed civilians. The type of thing that the protesters in the Texas Capitol were exercising.
And if you think the Rinaldi threat and the Sessions budget cuts don’t have consequences, there’s this:
►A U.S. citizen says her rights were violated after she was detained by immigration authorities in San Bernardino
The Los Angeles Times and several other news agencies carried the story of a 59 year-old hairdresser from San Bernardino, California, namedGuadalupe Plasencia. She had spent the night in jail because of a bench warrant and was released the next day.
“But as she tried to leave the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, Plascencia said she was met by immigration enforcement agents,handcuffed and placed in the back of a van. Plascencia would spend the rest of the day in ICE custody, fearful that she would be deported despite becoming an American citizen some 20 years ago, following an amnesty program initiated by President Ronald Reagan.”
Plasencia – an American citizen – was detained until she could prove her citizenship. Her daughter had to provide a passport.
“It’s unclear how many hours Plascencia was detained by federal authorities, but she insists she repeatedly asserted her citizenship to deputies and ICE agents. She also says she presented a valid California driver’s license when she was arrested.”
The Latino legislators in Texas reacted to same unleashed bigotry that gave immigration officials in California the permission to assume that a U.S. citizen should be detained and that the federal budget that funds the defense of citizen’s rights can be slashed.
These are not coincidences.
Those of us who have a voice and influence are compelled to use them.