Editor’s note: We now bring you “Deport This!” an expanded weekly immigration column in partnership with Orange County Immigrant Youth United and Chispa, two local activist groups fighting to abolish ICE–and much more. Every week, they’ll bring us their intersectional perspectives on immigration issues both local and national—enjoy!
By francisco aviles pino (Chispa)
Harald Martin, a retired cop and ex-trustee, wanting a seat back on the Anaheim Union High School District school board again, comes as a shock but isn’t surprising. With a simple dig into past headlines, Martin’s anti-immigrant legacy of wanting to bill Mexico $50 million for the cost of educating undocumented students and inviting la migra into schools to kept tabs easily surfaces. This comeback isn’t just about him, though. Martin represents the legacy of echo-chamber conservatism in Anaheim that’s far behind the actual reality facing the families who now live in the city.
His candidacy is a slap in the face to the countless hours of activism and engagement students have put into reclaiming their school district. It’s the legacy of whiteness at its finest.
There has been a long history of mediocre white men running for office, all the way to someone’s current president. But there’s been another legacy of resistance rising up to meet it. Washington Post columnist Christine Emba defined white privilege as being “a set of unearned assets that a white person in America can count on cashing in each day but to which they remain largely oblivious.” In 2007, Martin resigned from AUHSD’s board under a hail of controversy over his past rather than face a recall election. He had finished second to last in the previous election, but gained an appointment when a seat became vacated anyway.
That should’ve been the last Anaheim heard of Martin, but now he’s running again. This is privilege; the act of purposefully ignoring what is happening and choosing to move forward despite the struggles of those around them.
Being an undocumented student, I know those struggles well. By the time I attended community college, I learned about the efforts to establish AB 540 and the California DREAM Act. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program also came right at the time I started looking for jobs. I began working at the Orange County Congregation Community Organization (OCCCO). It was here where I met the brilliant Cynthia Sanchez and the courageous Minerva Gomez.
When the 2016 election came, I had been a part of the larger efforts to uplift and empower high school students in Anaheim. I was part of a team of people pushing for district elections in 2014 and organizing youth empowerment conferences in the years that followed. On election night, I left a party early to check in with my parents realizing who had won the presidency. Then came time to check in with my community.
In the spirit of what Sanchez and Gomez taught me, I learned what young people in our city desired. We held meetings at the OCCCO office to strategize together and, over time, community members, teachers and the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California lent support for what students wanted–a sanctuary AUHSD. Trustees Al Jabbar and Annemarie Randle-Trejo let us know they’d support a resolution announcing the protection of undocumented students in the school district.
Months later, students met at the school district with posters and talking points in hand. We had prepared for this. Alexandra Retana, who is now a freshman at George Washington University, was a high school junior selflessly leading a press conference for the future of students in the district.
I recall the stories of young people being afraid, of their parents not being able to drop them off at school out of the fear of getting detained. After public comments, trustees Randle-Trejo and Jabbar moved to pass the sanctuary district resolution, a rebuff of Martin’s legacy if there ever was one.
Both Randle-Trejo and Jabbar only had one question to the students after the vote, “What are your dreams?”
francisco aviles pino jr. is an undocumented queer poet, researcher and journalist from Acapulco, Guerrero and lives in what is currently Los Angeles but historically Tongva territory. They work as a researcher with UCLA’s Center for the Transformation of Public Schools & the Million Dollar Hoods initiative where they study the impacts of mass incarceration in our communities and schools. francisco is a alumni of Sandra Cisneros’ Macondo Writers Workshop and a fellow with the Poetry Foundation’s and Crescendo Literary’s Emerging Writers Incubator. francisco holds degrees and research training from UCLA, CSUF and UC Irvine. francisco’s career goals are to work in the larger efforts of prison abolition through organizing, education and the weaving of herstories/histories through journalism and poetry. francisco is the co-editor of Chispa with Hairo Cortes