The Rise of the Problematic Latina Redux

The 45th President of the United States still hasn’t conceded and yet the president elect is acting like that little dog drinking coffee (or wine – fess up day zoom meeting drinkers) in a room aflame around him. This is fine.

But looking at some of the people team Biden is putting on his transition team, looking at the conversations about who will replace vacancies in California, looking at the way the mainstream media hasn’t learned from the 2016 and 2008 elections and is still talking about the Latino vote like it’s one thing and the abject co option of identity and representative politics, it’s clear to me that we are seeing (cue maracas) the rise of problematic Latina part deux.

It’s happening both on the national and on local stages as people salivate over the prospect of a Democrat head of state and where and how different party climbers can position themselves back to relevancy.

I’m not talking about Alexandria Ocasio and her place in the squad, not because she’s a red lipstick, hoop wearing NYRican like me, but because she still is an outlier and I predict will continue to be so (or maybe I just hope) among some of the usual Latino women identified suspects, who have felt sidelined during 45’s reign. I’m talking about Latinas who solidified their place as experts and examples of upward political power mobility during the Obama administration while at the same time acting as apologists for some of the worse atrocities against their own kind (One of your own kind-Stick to your own kind).

In some strange way I (and other Latino bloggers/writers/independent journalists and media makers) tried to create a counter narrative to the national and local non-profit and governmental leaders and the Democrat party to the bill of goods that was being sold to the rest of Latinidad (as a political group – not a singular ethnic or racial group because spoiler alert – it’s more complicated than that).

I personally caught a lot of flack for calling out the cover that specific Latina “leaders” gave the Obama administration on policy and practices that destroyed Latin American migrant families in the United States like the failure to pass the DREAM Act and other immigration issues like family separation and detentions and deportations.

I expect to catch some flack for this post.

But as we approach the end of 2020, I’m ringing an alarm and calling on people to pay attention and I’m not alone. I’m seeing a lot of my indy media colleagues with whom I built deep relationship with during the Obama years, returning to their video cameras, 280 characters and dormant blogs.

One of the loudest rings of the alarm bell is the naming of Cecilia Munoz to the Biden transition team ). Cecilia Munoz used to be the top immigration advisor under the Obama administration. In that role Munoz became infamous for defending Obama’s record breaking deportation record and for helping to deal the Executive Order that allowed for deferred enforcement against DREAMers (DACA) instead of the actual DREAM Act , halting deportations or any kind of immigration reform really. There are a number of petitions asking for the Biden/Harris camp to reconsider this. We shall see if that pans out to anything.

Munoz, along with other high level Latinas, were paraded in front of the media and at events as aspirational, especially for many leaders in the non-profit world and sadly too many people ate it up. Instead of asking hard questions when invited to White House events ( I know, I was there and asked the hard questions) they basked in their proximity to electoral definitions of power and sat way too comfortably in their seats at the table at briefings ( I was also there) . After all Munoz used to be the Vice- President of the National Council of La Raza, now UnidosUS.

Julia Chavez Rodriguez has been named as  director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, the position held by Cecilia Munoz under the Obama Administration. So that could be some small relief but I do remember Chavez Rodriguez being paraded around during the Obama administration and I already have heard a lot of accolades being given to her without doing anything yet in her new role.

In the wake of the Obama presidency, many Latina leaders moved back into their home districts working for local governments like Hilda Solis, the head of the Obama era Department of Labor where they sat in wait of their next national moment. Immigration rights “leaders” focused narrowly on local immigrant defense policies (aka the mostly meaningless sanctuary cities movement”, foundations poured money into citizenship drives and immigrant integration with little impact on the ground to migrant communities.

Right now many of those Latino leaders, in the halls of local government offices and in non-profit offices are gathering. There are whispers about who will be pulled into the eventual Biden administration and “Latino agendas” and the first 100 day wishlists are being created.

Taking a deep dive into the Biden transition team there are few key organizations and individuals that may (or should) ring some bells from the Obama era. Especially interesting is looking at who is heading the Department of Homeland Security Team, Ur Jaddou, an attorney who worked with USCIS but also with the organization America’s Voice, an organisation that spent a lot of time and energy (and money) on developing the Obama narrative around immigration. In the Housing and Urban Development team is someone from UnidosUS and someone from the California Community Foundation, both big players in the citizenship and immigration integration world. In the Department of Labor team we see a lot of Union people and there is heavy presence from individuals and organizations in California like the National Employment Law Project and Doug Parker, who used to head up WorkSafe, a Cali Worker health and safety advocacy org who now heads Cal-OSHA. There are also familiar organizations like the Center for American Progress and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. The Veteran’s Affair team is interesting especially with the inclusion of someone from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Agency at a time when the homeless vetern count in LA has dropped but is still is in the thousnds. And not surprisingly there is representation from some business entities known for doing harm to workers and immigrants including Amazon and Airbnb.

Allegedly the incoming Biden/Harris administration want to create a cabinet and administration that “looks like America”. The problem is that what something looks like and how it acts are not also congruent. Keep your eyes, ears and hearts open.

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