Dear Board President Garcia:
I'll start this missive like every one I've ever sent you, although experience has shown you won't respond, and probably won't even read, since I am merely your constituent, my name isn't Marco, Steve, or Ben, and I don't run a lucrative CMO. Regardless...
My name is Robert D. Skeels, I am a long time resident of District 2, and my wife attends Evans Adult School.
I had the misfortune of attending your media event staged yesterday at 3303 Wilshire Boulevard. Before I go any further, I want to be clear on something since your propensity to paint privatization opponents with the same brush is well known. I whole-heartedly agree with you that the flyer suggesting deportation in relation to corporate CMO petition signing is deplorable! I would go further to say that the individual who conceived, created, and distributed that disgusting flyer deserves nothing but contempt and scorn from our communities. Now that's out of the way, let's get to my reason for writing you President Garcia.
Yesterday I discovered that everything I've learned in my many years as an immigrant rights activist is completely wrong. All the contacts, colleagues, and comrades I've met insignificant. All the struggles I've been a part of for the rights of the undocumented persons and immigrants in general have been misguided. That's right President Garcia, you, the Board Vice President, and the well compensated CEOs of the NGOs accompanying you yesterday turned the entire immigrant rights movement on its head with bold new revelations. Here's what we learned from you and your fellow press conference speakers.
Turns out that it isn't the racist Minutemen, Lou Dobbs, Fox News, James Sensenbrenner, or Janet Napolitano's draconian enforcement policies that are the greatest threat to the civil rights of undocumented peoples. According to your press conference, that dubious distinction belongs to the teachers of UTLA.
I'm sure the former workers from Overhill Farms, Farmer John, and American Apparel will be happy to learn that the single biggest violation of their civil rights wasn't being fired in response to no match letters, but instead occurs whenever community activists inform them that corporate CMOs have unelected boards.
How foolish of us to think groups like RISE, Hermandad, MEChA, Union del Barrio, and the Brown Berets comprised true grassroots immigrant rights activism, while all along astroturf organizations like Alliance for a Better Community, Families in Schools, and Green Dot's LAPU/Parent Revolution have been at the vanguard of civil rights organizing. Never mind that none of those organizations have existed for even a decade! Never mind that the later organizations are all funded by the likes of the Gates, Broad, Walton, and Annenberg foundations! We can all agree that those right wing "politically neutral" foundations are also very concerned about civil rights and immigrant rights.
We in the immigrant rights movement thought sponsoring "know your rights" clinics to educate undocumented peoples against the very real scare tactics employed by DHS/ICE agents was defending civil rights. Instead we should have been looking to the heroic efforts originating from 350 South Bixel and 350 South Figueroa to educate undocumented people about their right to choose which unaccountable corporate 501c3 will seize their local public school.
I'm sure the fact that we in the immigrant rights movement have never seen yourself, VP Yolie Flores-Aguilar, Veronica Melvin, Maria Casillas, Jarad Sanchez, Mary Najara, Reverend Tulloss, Gabriel Rose, or any of the other members of your press conference yesterday at an immigrant rights march, a rally against ICE raids, a day labor site defense, or any other related protest isn't because you aren't on the leading edge of the immigrant and civil rights movement.
I could go on, but even I understand sarcasm wears thin very quickly. That said, let's take a look at the horrific stunt you pulled off yesterday.
In addition to years in the immigrant rights movement, I am one of the founding members of the Southern California Immigration Coalition (SCIC), along with long time immigrant rights activists like Jesse Diaz, Daniel Montes, Laura Villegas, Alvaro Maldonado, Nathalie Contreras, Martin Terrones, Ron Gochez, and many others. I have had the humble privilege to serve under the leadership of real luminaries of the immigrant right movement including Gloria Salcedo, Nativo Lopez, and Carlos Montes. Let it suffice that I am no stranger to the immigrant rights movement, and I can vouch to UTLA's record on defending the rights of all immigrants!
I took the photo at the top of this letter at this year's SCIC hosted May Day immigrant rights march. I have seen UTLA representation at these type of events, coalition meetings, and other such organizing for over a decade. I've NEVER seen an Alliance for a Better Community, LAPU/Parent Revolution, or Families in Schools banner at any immigrant rights event. In fact, I've never seen any of the members of your press conference yesterday speak at an immigrant rights event. At the very least Mayor Villaraigosa shows up at the end of marches to give a short speech, making you and your group's absence even more glaring.
Which begs the question President Garcia.
Why is that you and these NGO executives are suddenly discussing civil and immigrant rights in the narrow context of the CMO/corporate charter/voucher establishment? Could it be that yesterday's press conference was really all about corporate rights? Was this a way of distracting the public from CMO charter discrimination and exclusivity exposed in the recent Modified Consent Decree Report which explicitly states children with disabilities are "significantly underrepresented" at CMO run charter schools?
Isn't a little too convenient that with little to no community support for corporate charters, and many charters making themselves look very bad by rejecting and fighting the resolution's requirements to educate special needs children and respect attendance boundaries, that you and all the other pro-charter/pro-voucher crowd hold a "press conference" publicity stunt at the entrance of the UTLA building with the full intention of smearing the teachers' union?
I've followed your career President Garcia, and there was a time when you were progressive, for the community, and would have stood against corporate interests. What happened to that person?!?
Yesterday, by every form of innuendo, insinuation, and lies of omission did Veronica Melvin and Maria Casillas attempt to assign guilt by association to the hard working women and men who teach in our communities. For you, as President of the Board, and your colleague, the Vice President of the Board to speak following those wild accusations without question or qualification is unconscionable!
Maria Casillas used the phrase "el pecado mortal," in reference to the disgusting lie on the flyer. Having been a bi-lingual catechist teacher for over 12 years, I'm very familiar with the phrase and am in total agreement with her on the grave nature of those that would lie in order to prey on the fears of undocumented peoples. I'll go further, since she seemingly forgot a key phrase from the Acto Penitencial: "obra y omisión." What went unsaid, and what was omitted at yesterday's press conference would also qualify as a mortal sin, and your group stands guilty of the most vile slander against the courageous individuals who educate the children in our communities.
Advocating Public Education
Robert D. Skeels
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