When a person is in a situation of domestic violence, the immediate reaction of many is that they should leave. But when the president announced he would deport another 70,000 people for the sake of elections, Latino and migrant communities are told to not even question our relationship with the party.
Are the two situations really that different?
Intuitively, most ask why one doesn’t just simply reject a relationship that continues to inflict pain upon them and their children. The truth is, that many domestic violence victims find themselves in a situation of dependence. They are often afraid of the repercussions of leaving, of not having any money, of not being able to support their children, or of encountering further abuse if they leave. Despite all of the consequences, it’s still a common held belief that the right thing for them to do is to break the cycle of violence and leave, despite the fact that they might face “a worse situation.”
We don’t ask domestic violence victims to stay and fight, nor do we say that they surrender if they leave; we say that they should affirm their own value and end the abuse in the relationship however possible. Period.
Yet when it comes to politics and our community, it’s a different story.
The subject of boycotting the 2014 vote is so taboo it elicits such an extreme reaction that some refuse to even entertain the concept. But when Democrats avoided reform when they had the majority of both chambers of Congress, proceeded to oversee the deportation of more than two million of our loved ones, and most recently delayed common sense administrative relief for the sake of elections, what is keeping us from saying that it’s time for Latinos and migrants to refuse to mobilize for the Democratic party?
In March, the president re-raised expectations when he called for a deportation review and pledged to reform his own policies that he himself named as “inhumane” (synonymous with the word “abusive”). And this month, he said that he would continue that abuse at least through November.
What are those of us whose families will become deportation statistics supposed to take from that decision? What does accountability look like in a situation of inhumane policies and abusive politicians?
Differing on strategy is a norm for anyone working to advance a cause. Change has never came about one single strategy, but it has been the result of a mix of braided strategies that at times even conflicted and created tension which evolved into social change.
If we are to learn from our history, we should learn to be open to ideas that may seem crazy. Just as civil disobedience by undocumented people was once viewed as crazy, unproductive, and too radical, now it is a regular occurrence.
Voting is one outlet for social change, but it is not and has never been the only one. And when the Democratic Party sees migrants and Latinos as a given, many are saying it might not be our best option this year. Politicians choose their rhetoric and their position based on the key audiences they perceive they have. Yet, despite our continued mobilization to support them, as if they were deserving of our allegiance, we have yet to become an audience they see as worth listening to.
To say that we should strategically boycott the vote, is not to say participants are against voting. It is to say that in the context of two million deportations at the federal level, continued collusion with ICE at the local level, and few local officials leading with proactive policies of inclusion, what sense does it make to vote for a party that says it loves us with symbolic gestures but does not include us in their agenda with concrete acts.
Our families remain the source of continuous racist attacks, not only by Republicans but by Democrats who are committed to winning the race on who’s harsher on immigration.
And so here we are. They continue to abuse the rights of our community and yet we still find reasons to stay. “If we leave we are giving in to the Republicans. If we leave, ‘our situation will be much worse.’” Perhaps. But perhaps with time we could gain dignity and respect and a sense of our own power. And perhaps when Democrats see that our historic voting power can’t be taken for granted, they might actually begin to give us a reason to get out the vote for them.
Maldonado, Ph.D, researches immigration, critical race theory, and community organizing with a focus on the immigrant rights movement in her home state of Arizona.