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.
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.
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.
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.