Catherine Tactaquin Speaking at the 2013 DSA National Convention
“I think the question of immigration is actually a great window to look through in terms of the task that the Left and I think all progressives have. . . . Comprehensive immigration reform basically is a package deal of compromises that was cobbled together, a lot by the leadership of the Democratic Party, based on focus groups on what the bottom line is that the public will support and endorse, and frankly has a lot of bad stuff in it. Unfortunately that’s what’s on the table now. …
“So this has been the problem — you know — legislation cannot build a movement. And when your strategy is so tied to the election, it’s not an environment which is very useful for us in terms of immigration. We have a long way to go to do the kind of transformative work that’s needed to affect real changes that are even minimally possible through Congress, not just on immigration, but on any other issue…It’s a real limitation to, not just thinking out of the box, but it’s a constriction on the kind of work that needs to be done to build a movement that in fact can be transformative, that can have our own boots on the ground, while at the same time have the capacity of the institutional sophistication and political know-how to move on a scope and scale that we need….For those of us who grew up and became active before there was foundation support, where you had to depend on stipends and good old grassroots organizing and fundraising for survival, that’s a mystery to a lot of young activists. They’re used to being a paid activist; they’re used to being part of a non-profit organization, and it’s a real limitation. So there are some things that I think we need to break out of.”
Catherine Tactaquin is executive director and cofounder of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. The daughter of an immigrant farmworker from the Philippines, she was involved for many years in grassroots organizing and advocacy in the Filipino community on issues of discrimination and foreign policy. In 1994 she helped to found Migrant Rights International (MRI), a global alliance of migrant associations and other nongovernmental organizations. She represents NNIRR and the Global Coalition on Migration on the Steering Committee of MRI, and is on the board of the Poverty, Race and Research Action Council in Washington DC.