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“Apartheid in Arizona”? Obama Administration Officials to Share Stage with Radical Immigration Activists

Morgen on March 16, 2011 at 6:00 am

Later this month, several Obama Administration officials are scheduled to participate in the 2nd annual Latino Education & Advocacy Days (LEAD) Summit hosted at the California State University campus in San Bernardino. Notably, the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is scheduled to give the morning keynote address, followed by a video appearance by the Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. The summit is scheduled to conclude with a presentation by several other Administration officials entitled “From Capitol to Campus / Obama Officials’ Call to Action”. In total, nine – yes, nine – high level Administration officials are on the agenda for this one-day event.

The Administration’s significant presence at this event is apparently related to a White House initiative on Hispanic education enacted by the President as an Executive Order late last year. While the more cynical among us might also suspect it has something to do with the importance of Hispanics as a constituency for Democrats, this initiative actually traces it roots back to the first Bush Administration, and the overall theme of this conference seems to be typical of many such events the Department of Education has participated in the past. (The even more cynical among us would not put it past the GOP to pander for Hispanic votes as well.)

But what is not typical of past events, the program for the LEAD Summit features a session which should seriously call into question the Administration’s participation. Because sandwiched right in between Arne Duncan’s morning keynote and the appearance by Hilda Solis is this little presentation:

The inflammatory title alone should clue anyone in to just how partisan this presentation is likely to be, but even more concerning are the two individuals scheduled to speak at this session.

Salvador Reza is a Phoenix-based “migrant” rights activist affiliated with Puente Arizona and the Tonatierra Community Development Institute. In a 2007 interview Reza made clear just how extreme his views on immigration and the border are:

For example, there is many people struggling to obtain an immigration reform without seeing that in reality —just like as we are now flying in the airplane and you look below— there are no markings on the mother Earth; there are markings like the rivers, the seas, but no markings drawn by men. Therefore, we have to understand that in reality we are struggling for the freedom to travel throughout our mother The Earth without having barriers, because in the same way birds like the swallows migrate from North to South and South to North, we’ve done the same for thousands of years, and due to the fact that some sick minds invented nationalism, we are told that a nation begins here and another ends.

Reza seems to be a believer in “Atzlan”, the mythical home of an ancient Mesoamerican population which some academics and activists claim was located in the Southwestern U.S. The belief is that the people of Atzlan later migrated further south, to what is now Mexico, with the implication being that the native people of Mexico were among the original inhabitants of the U.S. Which in their view means that modern-day immigrants from Mexico are entitled to sovereign rights as an indigenous nation within the borders of U.S.

Not surprisingly, a belief in Atzlan is a central tenet of the Tonatierra organization which Reza represented for many years:

The concept of title in relation to land is a mythological construct, in which the world view of cultural identity is embedded and perpetuated across generations.

The simple reason is of course that the land is eminence itself, preexisting and outlasting any human society. The relationship with the land, with the material world which emerges from the land, is then defined and evidenced by the traditional systems of inheritance and identity which perpetuate these teachings to the generations of the future. This is universal for all societies, but it is the traditional Indigenous Peoples from around the globe that create identity by ecological relationships to the constellations of families, mountains, rivers, deserts, nations, oceans and stars that define our homelands in the universe.

The societies of the European-American settlers do not.

The present systems of the United States and other governments states of the hemisphere which derive their justifications for jurisdiction over the land on the Divine Right of Kings to Dominion over the Earth and its Peoples, is pure myth. Or better said, it is false myth — a dead story with no teaching to teach but only a power grab to justify.

The other presenter, Roberto “Dr. Cintli” Rodriguez, not only appears to share these views, but has been even more radical in expressing them. Here’s an excerpt from a column he published in January 2007:

Yet, de-Indigenization has never been an accidental by-product of colonialism: On top of land theft, it is the historic project by Euro-Americans to destroy thousands of years of aboriginal thought, culture, history, memory, language and spirituality on this continent. Part of this has included treating Indigenous peoples as less than human, and wherever possible, defining, Hispanicizing, Anglocizing or Westernizing them out of existence…

For Neanderthal bigots, Mexicans are either subhuman Indians or mongrels. For them, the mere presence of [brown] Mexicans is a reminder of a failed and unfinished Indigenous extermination project. For others, Mexicans reclaiming their indigeneity is a reminder of another unfinished project: Manifest Destiny; the irreversible civilization, modernization and Christianization of the Americas. (That’s why for many, the only modern solution is deportation).

More from a 2006 column:

We know full well we’re not on foreign soil, but on Indian lands (Were we supposed to forget that too?) So there’s no going back. If anything, we are back. The whole continent, the whole earth – which our ancestors have traversed for thousands of years — is our mother. Meanwhile, we watch Congress and the president do a dance about not pardoning or not granting amnesty to those who’ve been remanded to live in shadows. Sinverguenzas! Just who precisely needs to be pardoned? Those who are exploited and who’ve been here forever? or those who’ve been complicit in our dehumanization?

More recently, Rodriguez has referred to the legislation in Arizona as “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide”.

Perhaps most troubling given the focus of this event, both Reza and Rodriguez have been actively involved in the formulation and promotion of a public, K-12 educational curriculum focused on the theory of Atzlan and what they believe the implications are for “migrant rights”. (Restricting this type of curriculum is the focus of HB 2281 in Arizona, but it has also been propagated in some school districts within California and elsewhere.)

The President has made it clear that his Administration opposes the immigration legislation enacted in Arizona, yet I cannot imagine they would wish to confer legitimacy on the types of extreme views held by Salvador Reza and Roberto Rodriguez on these issues. But this is exactly what the Administration will be doing in sending such a large contingent of officials, including the Secretary of Education, to share the stage with these radicals, and by providing additional financial sponsorship for this event through the USDA.

It is also troubling that officials from Cal-State San Bernardino, who are hosting and organizing this event, would provide a public forum at tax payer expense to proponents of such radical views.

I will be contacting the Department of Education, the White House Press Office, and the CSU Office of the Chancellor for comment on this story and will post any responses I receive.

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