by Matt Cloyd
Last Sunday, the Free School University’s Immigrant Forum brought proponents of immigrants’ rights to Occupy Boston.
Diana Salas, an Ecuadorean immigrant working with Neighbors United for a Better East Boston, denounced the removal of the immigrant population from the “discourse around the economy”, explaining that the immigrant community had been under attack for the last 30 years, with an increase in criminalization occurring after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Salas expressed appreciation that the movement of the 99% included immigrants, who she characterized as the bottom 50% of the 99%.
Tania Brugiera, an artist-activist with Immigrant International Movement, spoke to the crowd about her first experience with the American electoral process. In 2000, Ms. Brugiera was fascinated with the U.S. electoral college system while her American-born friends were more interested in watching football. When the popular vote was announced as Gore’s victory, she described her roommate as “surprised and kind of glad,” yet she quickly returned to her homework.
“In a little bit, I came back to inform her,” she said, “that the Florida vote was going to Bush. My friend was completely enraged — because I was interfering with her work.”
Brugiera described Bush’s victory as “the birth of a capitalist dictatorship.” She bolstered her bold claim by saying it was something she could identify because she had seen it in her home country, Cuba.
“As an immigrant,” she lamented, “my first encounter with democracy was witnessing a broken system.”
One attendee of the forum asked Brugiera, who had been involved in the initial planning of Occupy Wall Street, whether she thought the movement should make demands.
Brugiera replied that at first she wanted to see specific demands. “Then I understood that it was about the process. It was not about having demands, it was not about being restricted to one specific issue. It was about the process, because what you are building here is a new way of dealing with democracy, and that is more important than any specific demand you have.”
Salas, when asked about her vision for the Occupy movement, replied, “The vision would be to literally – and this sounds corny – that we really just put humans first, that at the end of the day people matter, they matter more than money. Because as everyone has always said, you can’t eat your money.”
She paused and smiled. “But you do eat your vegetables that immigrants grow.”