More Better Badness

More better badness: Activist Carlos Quintanilla was recently arrested on a host of warrants, but that little stint in the Irving jail doesn't seem to have dented his role as human bullhorn for the brown and oppressed. Just this week, Quintanilla appeared on CNN's "Out in the Open" with Rick Sanchez, the anchor who earlier this fall put Irving on the national map when he broadcast live on the town's controversial use of the Criminal Alien Program, which allows for the deportation of illegal immigrants who have been arrested for violations as minor as rolling through a stop sign or driving without proper identification. "Welcome to Main Street U.S.A.," Sanchez said to open that program. "We're in Irving, Texas...where local officials are now taking immigration matters into their own hands."

The folks in Main Street U.S.A. were probably less than thrilled with "Out in the Open," which Quintanilla dominated because of a technical problem that prevented Irving Mayor Herbert Gears from saying a single thing. Quintanilla, agreeing with Sanchez about the country's need for reforms and pointing out that most of the 1,700 people deported from Irving in the last year were law-abiding workers, was unusually calm—perhaps because no one was arguing with him. A, shall we say, unusually self-confident leader who cut his organizing chops during Chicago's Chicano movement, Quintanilla is hardly an image of calm and peace. Last year around this time he was ostracized by fellow Latino leaders in Farmers Branch who deemed his tactics too confrontational. Last week, he was quoted in The Dallas Morning News comparing the Irving police chief to Satan. "We do a disservice when we invite the devil into our houses of God," he apparently said of a Latino pastor who invited the police chief to church to discuss the CAP program.

It's no surprise that Quintanilla has emerged as the most vocal leader in the Irving fracas. His legal woes aren't much of a shocker either, considering his decades-old run-in with the feds on racketeering charges. What they are is embarrassing. Seriously. When you're taking a public stand for people to be treated with dignity, respect and honor under the law, is it so difficult to follow the law yourself? And if you're going to flout the law outside the confines of a protest, you might as well do something juicy—you know, smoke crack with some prostitutes or something that's going to make the shame worth it. Quintanilla's list of warrants—including criminal trespass, expired registration, speeding and failure to maintain financial responsibility—could belong to any lazy, unmotivated soul anywhere. Come on, Carlos. You can do better than that.

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Megan Feldman
Contact: Megan Feldman

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