I’m often approached by organizations hoping I might use one of my soapboxes to highlight the work they’re doing. Most of the time it involves a campaign for or against something that, though commendable, few people care much about, including me. In an effort to be polite, my usual response is no response at all.
And so it was about three years ago that I was contacted by Daniel Garza from the LIBRE Initiative, a neoliberal group shoveling the idea that the road to salvation for the Latino community is paved by trickle-down economics. At the time I was working on the editorial board of a Latino website based in New York, and Garza sent me a YouTube video LIBRE had published using his personal climb from nothing to something in order to show the American Dream was still possible for Latinos.
I saw the pitch for what it was and wrote an editorial (which I’m too mortified to quote now) unraveling the deception coiled within LIBRE’s message.
For all his rhapsodies, Garza is a Republican — one of these Latinos who, while voting in their own interests, votes against the interests of the overwhelming majority of their brothers and sisters. (In 2014 Garza admitted LIBRE’s agenda “aligns more with Republicans because it’s conservative and libertarian.”) Unfortunately, due to my line of work, I’m accosted by such individuals on an almost daily basis. Like modern-day colonial missionaries, they either try to get me to see the light or tell me I’m damned for going astray and taking a few readers with me.
LIBRE has made public stands against Obamacare and raising the minimum wage, even though the Pew Research Center has shown Latinos to be the most uninsured of any racial or ethnic group. For its part the AFL-CIO, the country’s largest coalition of trade unions, estimated that raising the minimum wage to a mere $10.10 per hour would benefit at least 6.7 million Latinos.
I’m not the only person to uncover LIBRE’s pretenses. Adrian Carrasquillo over at BuzzFeed reports this morning on the reluctance of some Latino groups to work with Garza and the LIBRE Initiative on passing immigration reform:
[National Council of La Raza] president Janet Murguia told BuzzFeed News her organization is not opposed to working with groups who are engaging the community — she noted NCLR has worked with the Heritage Foundation before. But she said LIBRE, like any other group, will face scrutiny on the quality and substance of their ideas and policy stances.
LIBRE, Murguia said, has reached out, and is ‘trying to find a place in the debate on immigration,’ but she said the hang up is that while the group supports Obama’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program it is against the 2014 executive actions known as DAPA, that would shield millions of parents from deportation, a stance she called ‘inconsistent.’
LIBRE’s stance on immigration is far from inconsistent with its program, which is only interested in advancing those schemes that support Wall Street and the Republican Party while hurting most Latinos and workers of all stripes. Libre of course means “free,” but in the sense Garza and his crew uses it, libre means freeing the private sector to make huge sums of money and accumulate wealth all at the expense of the working-class majority.
The word liberal is used the same way throughout Latin America, as in the former Liberal parties of Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Cuba, which gifted their countries the porfiriato, Ubico, the Somozas and Batista, respectively. The Liberal Party of Honduras supported the ouster of the democratically president from its own party in 2009. Among his perceived offenses was raising the minimum wage.
Still, it’s difficult to know how to feel about Latino groups working with the likes of LIBRE to accomplish shared goals. My first instinct is to say hell no, but ultimately it’s best if La Raza and other groups hold their noses for the sake of a greater good. Collaborating with LIBRE on immigration reform doesn’t mean groups should bite their tongues on LIBRE’s other positions, just as reestablishing trade with Cuba doesn’t mean Washington should ignore the restrictions that the Cuban government places on its people. But in today’s hyperpartisan environment, we should avoid slipping into the Bush II style of thinking that someone is “either with us or against us.”
The reality is, given the current political climate, Latino groups must do what they can, for who they can, when they can. The millions of undocumented cannot afford to hold out for better conditions. The struggle for immigrant rights, as it has been for LGBT rights, will be won in inches. If the cost of progress is working with unscrupulous, belly-sliding characters like Daniel Garza and the self-satisfied, self-deluded sycophants over at the LIBRE Initiative, then so be it.
Free ain’t free.
[Photo: Gisela Giardino / Wikimedia Commons]