I remember when I was in Seattle in the late seventies working on community radio which eventually led to the creation of the Radio Cadena National News service and KDNA-FM, I used to make my rounds in the community collecting news and information material for our programs by visiting social service agencies, the university district, community meetings and even bars
One of my regular stops was at El Centro de la Raza on the Beacon Hill neighborhood. El Centro was housed in an old high school building that would have been condemn if not for the activism of a group of Chicanos and Native Americans who thought the building could be better used as a community center.
The place was always vibrant with energy and a sense of freshness typical of the times when we felt ready to bring about social and political change. Adding to the ambiance, the walls were plastered with murals on Chicano, Native American and Latin American icons and history imagery, along with colorful fliers and posters announcing meetings, programs and activities.
People seemed busy coming in and out of meetings; all offices were occupied with service agencies staff. One of my regular stops was in the Northwest Rural Opportunities office, our sister organization that provided supportive and referral services for migrant families that lived in Seattle.
I remember the person tending the NRO office was a young man in his 20’s, who at least to me, seemed detached from “the moviminto”. All in all, I remember him as a nice guy, kind of aloof, slim, with an easy smile and neatly dressed; wearing a modest Afro or what some people may call a “Natural”.
Ricardo Martinez was a college student whose family, if I remember correctly was friends with Ricardo Garcia, the agency’s state director. I remember looking up to Garcia as a leader figure with unique characteristics or style. He was soft-spoken, easy going, suave and always ready to listen.
I remember wondering why Garcia would hire someone like Martinez to run the Seattle NRO office and immediately going back to a conversation we have had when he said that many of the migrant workers we served and even our workers are untapped talent due to the lack of opportunities. They are like diamonds on the rough, he said, and it’s up to us to look for those diamonds so they can shine.
Well, Garcia was right… This week Ricardo Martinez now a Federal Judge in Seattle challenged the federal government immigration policies in a way that could “open the door for thousands of immigrants to apply for asylum, finding that the Department of Homeland Security has routinely failed to notify them of a deadline for filing their applications”.
U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez issued the ruling in a class-action lawsuit brought by immigrant rights groups on behalf of those who fear persecution if returned to their home country.