Tag Archives: center for community change

Cocktails and Criticism – Deepak Bhargava Reacts to the Washington state Raid

Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director of the Center for Community Change, FIRM’s parent organization, has taken to the Center’s blog today, to discuss the ICE raid in Bellingham, Washington.

Last week, I had the honor of representing CCC at a cocktail party for progressive leaders at the White House with the President and First Lady. Honestly, I was pretty excited. I even bought a new tie. I had a chance to talk to the President about immigration reform, and got very encouraging responses about changing the way immigration enforcement happens and about prospects for immigration reform this year.

I was then taken aback when I learned this week about an immigration raid in Bellingham, WA that resulted in 25 immigrants being shackled and detained. The call from Marissa Graciosa, who leads our immigration work at CCC, came in close to 10 pm, just as the President was wrapping up his brilliant address to the Congress and the country. Working with our allies at One America in Washington state who are fiercely leading the response on the ground, grassroots groups around the country that are part of the FIRM network, the National Immigration Forum, America’s Voice, the National Council of La Raza and many others we sprung into action.

We called everyone we know at the White House and asked what the hell was going on and pressed specifically for a public response within 24 hours clarifying that the Administration does in fact intend to shift its approach on enforcement. We reached out to the press and the Hill which also began to ask hard questions. Hundreds of calls went into the White House. We criticized the Administration publicly, for the first time, literally a week after the cocktail party!

The result? DHS announced an investigation of the Bellingham raid within 24 hours –and Secretary Napolitano told Congress she didn’t know the raid was happening and that the Administration was looking to take enforcement in a different direction –away from workplace raids to focusing on unscrupulous employers. Now, that is change we can believe in.

What lessons might we draw from this whole experience? First, we are not agents of the Obama Administration – or any other politician. Our highest commitment as progressives is to the most vulnerable people in our society, and being progressive means nothing at all if it doesn’t mean standing up for and with them. Second, we shouldn’t expect to get change that we don’t help to make happen. To paraphrase Frederick Douglas, there is not progress without agitation. Third, if we take the view that the Administration is potentially an ally – rather than reflexively assuming bad intent — and we are clear and specific about what we want to see happen, we can in fact make real progress by working together. I am heartened by what this Administration has gotten done for low-income people in an incredibly short period of time through the recovery bill and SCHIP legislation – and the speed of their response to our concerns about this tragic raid further confirms their sincere commitment to change.

I am also heartened that the President is leading a national conversation on shared responsibility and shared sacrifice – two critical elements of the community values that are at the center of all the work to which we community organizers are passionately committed.

So, maybe cocktails and criticism – in the context of a respectful and real relationship that grows and develops over time — can go together and deliver results.

Deepak Bhargava is Executive Director of the Center for Community Change

Community Organizers, Bringing Change Straight to Washington

FIRM’s parent organization, the Center for Community Change is bringing the people’s agenda straight to the folks on Capitol Hill. Every week during Obama’s first 100 Days in office, we are bringing community organizers and leaders from across the country to make lobby visits and discuss important policies with lawmakers.


Today, the Washington Post featured an article on these visits and on the sea change that Community Organizers are not only witnessing, but CREATING in our country.

Organizers have borne their messages to Washington before, of course, but never quite like this. The effort started more than a year ago with a “community values” forum in Iowa attended by presidential candidates. Then came a meeting of 2,500 in Washington in December that drew incoming Obama administration officials: “I am here representing somebody who began his career as one of you,” senior adviser Valerie Jarrett told the group.

Now comes the 100-day strategy, in which during each of the first 14 weeks of the administration, 10 organizers from 10 groups from across the country make calls on the Hill. They craft their advocacy to fit with the news of the week.

This is truly a groundbreaking move for Community Organizers, who are seeing a place at the table under “Organizer in Chief” Obama.

“I don’t think anyone realizes how hard and fast this pendulum has swung back,” said Gabe Gonzalez, director of the center’s Campaign for Community Values. “President Obama, from our perspective, is a symptom, not a cause. There’s a fundamental shift in America.”

And it is this fundamental shift that is opening the door for policies that include people of color, poor people, women and immigrants. Community Organizers are working to ensure that those historically in the margins are a central part of the new America.

Community Organizers Welcome One of their Own to the White House

cccThe following is a statement from Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change (FIRM’s homebase).

The Center for Community Change is an organization that has been developing community organizers and community organizing for 40 years, in partnership with hundreds of local organizations nationwide.

“Community organizers across the country congratulate the historic victory of one of our own and herald the role community organizing played in revitalizing participation in our democratic process.

“Community organizing helped mobilize voters like never before with grassroots organizations engaging in electoral politics. Sen. Obama’s own campaign was modeled on the tools of organizing, building the national groundswell that got him to this moment.

“Election Day is just the beginning. Community organizing will continue to play an important role in keeping an expectant and motivated electorate working together with the new Administration to find solutions for our shared problems. Together we will strive to realize the dream we voted for – an America that works for all of us.”

On December 4, thousands of grassroots leaders will host Realizing the Promise: A forum on Community, Faith and Democracy to lay out a strategy to work with President-elect Obama and the new Congress on the people’s agenda for change.

Election Day, Grassroots Style

So, there is this little thing happening tomorrow called the ELECTION – don’t know if you’ve heard about it or not….

I will be helping to staff the “Community Values Vote” Election Day blog. You (and everyone you know) should check it out for updates and grassroots news from the ground on E-day.

 Too often, elections are reported by gray-haired pundits behind television news desks. This election is different. Over the last year, we’ve seen unprecedented people power behind this election — the culmination of years of grassroots organizing combined with new energy and new voters. So this November 4th, we’ll be reporting on the election from their perspective, from the grassroots up.

We will have stories, pictures, videos and first-hand reports from all across the country! These will be the stories of real people and real voters during this historical election. www.communitychange.org/vote