“The Birth of M.E.ChX.A 2014” 2014-04-24 by Itzel Calvo (reprinted from the March-April 2014 issue of The Organizer newspaper) [http://socialistorganizer.org/the-birth-of-m-e-chx-a-2014/]:
Photo showing the author speaking during a "Save CCSF" event, 2014
For decades, the Chicano Movement was among the most successful in organizing students and having demands met. After the Chicano Movement of the 1960s and early '70s, however, there have been very few Chican@ student-led movements. What we've seen in the past decade has been mass mobilization within the undocumented community for a humane immigration reform involving undocumented youth groups, religious organizations, and community organizations. It's about to be a decade since the wave of mass protest actions across the country for immigration reform back in the spring of 2006, but nothing has been done since that time on a national level for immigrants other than the passing of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which only benefits those who are considered an asset to the U.S economy.
The discontent in the Latino community with politicians who keep promising a just immigration reform is much like the discontent with the Democratic Party in relation to Chicanos who were appointed or elected to political office. The Chicano organizations began to realize that these politicians did not care for the average Chican@ or their living standards in los barrios, so they began to withdraw from the Democratic Party. With the wave of new migration from Latin America, the undocumented community grew and began a movement of its own. For the Chicano organizations, the issues concerning the undocumented community were last on the agenda.
The vision of creating a M.E.Ch.X.A chapter at City College of San Francisco (CCSF) became a reality on Tuesday, March 11. Students knew that creating a chapter was vital in the struggle to protect and defend CCSF's mission of remaining accessible to all students. The organizations already established on campus were not strong enough, or determined enough, to take on the whole accreditation crisis or the bad administrative policies that disproportionately affect students of color.
One of those policies was the new payment policy implemented to make sure that students paid their tuition up front. Undocumented students who do not qualify for AB540 -- a policy that would allow them to receive in-state tuition and the bog waiver, which pays their tuition, if eligible -- would have to pay a minimum of $800 per class at a community-college level. Tuition fees keep increasing and resources are scarce.
The development of a M.E.Ch.X.A chapter on campus has grown in the past month. It was part of the rally that happened two days after the chapter's formation; eight chapter members were part of the student occupation of the administration building, as ending the payment policy was one of the demands of the student action. We've had tremendous support from students and faculty members in the Latino Studies Department, which has proven the level of commitment of students and faculty towards the movement.
M.E.Ch.A is a national organization that promotes higher education, political involvement, cultura and historia. The undocumented community shares those same struggles, but with the additional burden of not having a legal status in the country to be able to achieve those goals.
The organization on the CCSF campus of undocumented students is an exception to the militancy and self-determination of other undocumented groups in San Francisco. A few campus groups offer a safe space where undocumented students can gather and talk about issues within the community; these groups offer resources to undocumented students. This is helpful, but it's very limited. When it comes to fighting back against the attacks on public education, these groups are less willing to struggle since the majority qualify for AB540.
Those affected by the school administration's attacks -- and those truly wanting to defend the rights of ALL undocumented students -- found they had no option but to organize themselves and be involved in political discussions about how best to defend public education and demand changes to the administration's policies.
As un undocumented student, it has been very conflicting for me to start a chapter of an organization that has not given recognition to undocumented students throughout the majority of its history. It seems that when it comes to the undocumented question, the only thing M.E.Ch.A has done nationally is stand in solidarity with the undocumented student struggle in the most recent years.
For the most part, Chicanos do not understand the undocumented struggle. And when you have a group of undocumented students who understand the struggle but don't wish to act on it, things gets complicated and you begin to question the reasoning of the organization's existence.
Having said this, not all M.E.Ch.A chapters have stood on the sidelines in relation to undocumented immigrants. The M.E.Ch.A chapter at UC Berkeley, for example, did an amazing job organizing demonstrations against new UC President Janet Napolitano, the former department head of Homeland Security who was responsible for hundreds of thousands of deportations under the Obama administration.
In hopes of creating a bridge between understanding the undocumented struggle and taking action on the issues that affect our community regardless of citizenship status, M.E.ChX.A de CCSF will be inclusive to all who identify with Chicanismo.
On April 4-6 Mechistas from our CCSF chapter attended the M.E.Ch.A. California statewide conference in order to be officially recognized as a chapter and introduce our ideas to revitalize the movement. We had a very welcoming experience and an understanding of how the organization works. There is no doubt that other M.E.Ch.A. chapters agreed with us when it comes to acknowledging that the founding documentos of the organization are outdated and need to be more inclusive to our undocumented brothers and sisters.
Along with getting recognized, our chapter was chosen to organize the next regional meeting for Alta Califas Norte and also one of our mechistas, Lalo Gonzalez, was elected National M.E.Ch.A. Co-Chair to represent our region at Nationals. Given this opportunity, we will push for our vision of taking back what it rightfully ours, access to education, immigration reform, and protecting Ethnic Studies. Power comes with numbers, and M.E.ChX.A de CCSF is growing rapidly. It's only a matter of time when it comes to bringing back el movimiento.