As a member of Cleveland’s Latino community and who is grateful
for everything he has received from this wonderful Nation, I
also recognize she has not always fully embraced my community
and other communities of color. The last four years of the
current federal Administration have been particularly shameful.
The assault on immigrants seeking refuge in America,
overwhelmingly from impoverished Central American countries, has
been despicable. Many thousands of children have been separated
from their families by the government. Many children separated
from their families at the border have been “lost” in a
labyrinthine and largely impenetrable system for long periods.
Too many have been cast adrift; some for years. Others, perhaps,
are destined never to be reunited with their families.
Though no grand jury has issued the deserved indictment, the
American people can nevertheless render their verdict this
November. We must remove this Administration.
Also let us not forget that the fate of 700,000 or so DACA
(Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) enrollees most
likely hangs in the balance in the near term, notwithstanding
the recent reprieve granted to them by the Supreme Court. It
would be the height of betrayal to remove these young
individuals, who are as “American” as any native-born child,
from this country. They came out of the shadows in good faith so
that our government would recognize them for what they are:
contributors deserving of a secure place in our society. We
cannot allow them to be dispatched to an uncertain fate in
countries in which they would instantly occupy the status of
“foreigners”. What a cruel irony that would be!
I myself was born in Utuado, Puerto Rico and brought to the
Mahoning Valley and its bubbling steel-making cauldrons as a
child of 5 years of age. I came as a citizen by virtue of my
birth place. I was forged into an “American” by virtue of my
emersion in and commitment to my new home. My parents believed
in an American ideal, and they never wavered in that belief,
even in the face of the slights and slurs sometimes directed at
them and their compatriots by insensitive people.
But my parents, both deceased for some time now, would have been
appalled by the lack of respect and disregard for Puerto Ricans
demonstrated by the current Administration. Puerto Ricans, hard
workers, have always been good for America. The children of
La Perla del Caribe (“the Caribbean’s pearl”)
have died in every war fought by the United States since
1917. My parents would have despaired, as have many of us, at
the callous disregard for Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the
devastation inflicted by hurricane Maria.
And they surely would have wept at the thought that the
President of the United States, successor to the legacies of
Lincoln, Truman, F.D.R., and Kennedy, would trivialize our
tethered journey of over 120 years by offering to sell us to the
highest bidder. We cannot withstand four more years of this
Latinos and people of color make up a large part of the
“essential workers” in America. Essential workers are not
just trained medical personnel or members of safety forces,
though Latinos also number among their ranks. But more often
they include those who pick our food out in the fields. It also
includes the men and women who take care of the mess after the
heroic work of doctors and nurses is done in our frenetic
medical facilities. They scrub and clean and wipe down and
disinfect in the aftermath, often without adequate personal
protection equipment (PPE). They keep supermarkets stocked,
clean and open. And they expose themselves to the ghastly
prospect that engaging in their livelihoods may kill them due to
Latinos and people of color do much of the work severing,
cleaning and packaging the meat that comes to stores where the
rest of America can go and purchase it standing a safe six feet
apart from other shoppers and protected by masks (at least those
who choose to wear them). Meat packing industry laborers are
often forced to report to work despite deadly working conditions
by employers who have been given immunity from legal liability
by the Administration.
Essential workers are not “expendable” workers. Since
they are largely powerless, those of us with voices must step up
to help protect them.
And Latinos feel the outrage when our African American brothers
and sisters die in the streets and are denied long overdue
racial justice. We can see how the disabled and LGBTQ
communities are increasingly marginalized. All the while white
supremacists eagerly “stand down and stand by” awaiting
further orders from a desperate autocrat wannabe.
Latinos of conscience also want to change the regrettable
trajectory in which our civil society and civil discourse appear
headed. First and foremost, there must be a restoration of a
dispassionate respect for the Rule of Law and its evenhanded
application. The criminal justice system cannot continue to
veer off course as it appears to be.
When the call for “law and order” simply becomes a bludgeon,
Latinos, communities of color and the poor are victimized. When
the rule of law is distorted into an “us versus them” calculus
and particular citizens are demonized, armed militias and
certain elements itching for a makeover of America feel
empowered to take matters into their own hands. It does not help
that the highest office seems to be encouraging them. This is
one of the many dangers presented by this Administration. If we
continue along this course, the precipice will not be far off.
That is why I and many other Latinos across the state of Ohio
have engaged with LatinOHs for Biden/Harris.
Though some may regard this a cliché we intend to do our part to
help “restore the soul of America”.
Truth telling must be restored. Facts must guide us. The
“pande-cide” (ignoring the science that dictates otherwise and
allowing the coronavirus to spread and kill) has to be stopped.
Our people are dying.
So, we phone bank; walk door to door; produce videos expressing
our concerns and share them widely; talk to our family members
and friends; ride around Cleveland streets blaring our happy
music and a positive message (in two languages) through loud
speakers encouraging the community to engage through voting.
America is ailing and she needs us. When our decency and
democracy are allowed to wither, make no mistake, among the
first casualties will be Latinos, communities of color and the
devalued. Latinos must draw the line and take a stand. NOW!
If you agree, then heed the words of the Honorable John Lewis.
It is time for each one of us to “do something-say
something”. LatinOHs for Biden/Harris
invites you to do what you can.
This part is easy: vote and get others to vote. Vote for hope.
Vote for Biden-Harris.
It is the only path forward.
José A. Villanueva,
Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, General Division
October 20, 2020