Latinos come to a political and social crossroads in 2010

LatinaLista — While 2009 will historically be seen as the year when Latinos garnered some long-sought respect: Obama named more Latinos to top administration posts than any other president; Sonia Sotomayor cleared Congressional review to earn a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court; George Lopez got his own late-night talk show; Organized protests, under the leadership of a Latino-run organization, led to the resignation of Lou Dobbs and the Latino presence was recognized with its own highly touted “in-depth” CNN series, the fact remains that 2010 will prove to be a crossroads for Latinos when it comes to proving unity versus clout.

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Most people, who know the diversity that exists in the Latino community, would scoff at the notion that U.S. Latinos can be unified. But when it comes to establishing influence — political or social — it is only through an unified attitude will Latinos make a difference.

There are some areas of the country where local Latinos understand this — For First Time, Minority Vote Was a Majority:

The New York Times: “Legal immigrants are exploding in population and are increasingly registering” once they become citizens “and are now voting,” said Bruce N. Gyory, a political consultant. “All the room for growth in the electorate is amongst Hispanic, Asian, biracial and black New Yorkers.”

However, in Texas it’s a different story where Texas Latino voters trail all other state ethnic groups:

This disparity among Latino voters doesn’t bode well for what is anticipated to happen in 2010 when the Latino community must be in unison to deflect the negativity that will emanate from the immigration reform debate.

It is expected President Obama will fulfill his word and address immigration reform in 2010.

How can he not?

With Rep. Luis Guiterrez having already introduced his version of immigration reform on the House floor and immigration reform advocates getting increasingly and noisily impatient and fed up with ongoing immigration enforcement measures that contradict the promises Obama made during his presidential campaign, 2010 has been promised to be the year when debate begins on immigration reform.

And though the immigration debate has become synonymous as a “Latino issue,” the fact remains that Latinos are not unified in their feelings towards immigration reform.

Of the 47 million U.S. Latinos, twelve million are classified as undocumented.

That means there are many Latinos for whom immigration is simply a “Washington issue.” Yet, once the debate begins it will truly convert into a Latino issue.

Why?

Because while the opponents are quick to say that they are only “against” undocumented immigrants, the truth is these “Tea party” protesters will take their anger out on Latino-looking people.

There is no way for anyone to tell who is “legal” and who is illegally” here in the United States, and so Latinos who fit the stereotypical perception of what these protesters think an undocumented man, woman or child look like will suffer the verbal and physical assaults that so far have characterized this immigration debate.

The indifference/ignorance displayed by some Latinos to the immigration issue will only fuel this anticipated treatment — unless Latinos, in an unified manner, stand up and speak out against it — through voting in local elections, making public statements and staging public protests.

Whether it’s liked or not, ALL Latinos will be pulled into this immigration debate — which is a good thing.

Because once the bill is passed, there will be a provision to recognize the undocumented who are here. Undocumented immigrants are not only hiding in the shadows of U.S. society but they have also hovered in the shadows of Latino communities.

Contrary to the popular perception that all Latinos are recently arrived immigrants, Latino communities across the country were built by Latinas and Latinos who have a history within those communities, going back many years, if not generations.

But Latino communities have always had a transient element to them – people moving for better jobs or going back to help out elderly family members — and so it’s never been uncommon to see new faces.

What has been common in Latino communities is employing our own “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rules. The farthest we’ll go is to ask: De donde es Ud.? (Where are you from?) because despite how long someone has been in a particular city, there is still pride in the hometown (wherever that may be) of where families originate.

An immigration reform bill will legally erase any differences among Latinos which means that recently arrived immigrants (being here less than 15 years) and longstanding, generational Latinos can finally work to unite, what has been up till that time, two distinct communities — one that has been fighting to be politically and socially recognized and the other that has been fighting to be acknowledged.

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8 Comments

  1. Ivan said:

    Latinos must vote out racist republicans and participate in the census. Strength in numbers! Si se puede! Yes on a much needed immigration reform in 2010.

  2. Julie B said:

    There is no way that this will ever be anything but lip service t appease the illegals.
    This is an election year and the democrats know that they have lost a lot of support over health care.
    Power is top priority and they do not want to get themselves into a deeper hold.
    If anyone thinks this would be anything more than lip service they are incredibly gullible.

  3. Roland said:

    I don’t understand. You say that Latinos should not be treated as a group, but that they should act as a group. What about U.S. Latinos who are themselves negatively affected by illegal immigration? What about the interests of the country as a whole?

  4. Bryan J. said:

    In unity, there is always more of a chance at power and influence.
    Unfortunately, I do not believe Latinos will fully unite to support immigration reform.
    This “indifference” that you reference to seems to be a deeply entrenched American cultural epidemic(regardless of one being Latino or not)–care about only what is immediate and relevant to oneself and/or medicate oneself on mindless T.V. programs.
    I think we should start with banning valueless programs such as “Jersey Shore”.

  5. maryelizabeth said:

    I agree that Obama will most likely go forward with his promise in 2010. I think that we are going to see a Immigration Reform bill that I am hopeful will pass with a straight vote. It is true that the anti-forces will offend all Hispanics in their attempt to go against the “undocumented”. Some Senators will vote against the bill to please their “constituents” in their districts. However, they may not be as strongly against the bill as their constituents think. They are only voting against it to hold their seat for re-election. It makes sense to me that the senate will not hold down CIR on the floor with a “filibuster” and we should be able to get enough to votes “Yes” to pull it through. If a bill was to be blocked in the senate I would have expected that we would have seen it with HCR and we did not so I expect that now is the time to push CIR through. We have better numbers now. It is possible that it would pass.

  6. Bryan J. said:

    Julie:
    you wrote: “If anyone thinks this would be anything more than lip service they are incredibly gullible.”
    I think “hopeful” is a more accurate word than “gullible”.
    And, considering that even folks like Sarah Palin are in favor of some sort of path to citizenship for current undocumenteds, that hope has something behind it other than thin air.

  7. Texan123 said:

    Please explain how giving legal status to the undocumented will help stop illegal immigration?
    Just like the Amnesty Act of 1986 promised border security and workplace enforcement, reform will promise an end to illegal immigration. Just like 1986, it will only encourage more to come and compete for jobs with the newly documented.
    Maybe when 50 million illegal aliens are pushing the current 12 million undocumented out of jobs the Latinos will have a change of heart about Amnesty?

  8. Horace said:

    Yes, it’s true that Latinos aren’t united. Take Ruben Navarrette on the topic of illegal immigrants, for example. He finally owned up to the stupidity of the argument that “illegal immigrant” is a misnomer. ^ Thanks, Ruben. You exhibit a rare moment of lucidity.
    Opinion: The semantic debate over ‘illegal’ immigrants is a waste of time http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/ci_14099377?nclick_check=1
    “Sotomayor’s choice of words got plenty of tongues wagging. The right-wing group Judicial Watch griped that Sotomayor was “keeping with her race-conscious and activist judicial philosophy” by describing illegal immigrants “in a more friendly and politically correct way.” But left-wing Latino blogs applauded Sotomayor for making a positive contribution to the court by adding “humanitarian language” to its proceedings.
    There are conservatives who, during her confirmation process, accused Sotomayor of promoting an “ethnic chauvinism.” And there are liberals who had hoped that she’d provide a fresh viewpoint and champion the oppressed. Now both sides are insisting that they were right all along.
    I supported Sotomayor’s nomination because she is eminently qualified for the position she now holds. But on the issue of terminology, we part company. For me, the preferred term is “illegal immigrant.” And, frankly, I think the whole debate amounts to a silly waste of time and energy. ”

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