By Alfredo R. Santos, publisher
La Voz de Austin
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
The famous statement above is often attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group.
Fast forward to today
It seems as though every few weeks a new report or study is released by the Census Bureau, the Pew Hispanic Center and other groups which show that the United States is changing demographically. The latest news is that the Latino population has now surpassed the 50 million mark.
Increasingly we see Latino community activists calling press conferences, standing up on chairs and making predictions about the coming Latino voting power, the growing presence of Latinos in the public schools and celebrating how we are quickly becoming the majority/minority in this or that arena.
Watching from not too far away are another group of activists and they do not see any reason to celebrate. In fact, they read the same reports and are appalled that the Hispanic population in North Carolina has doubled in size from 2000 to 2010.
They are aghast that Hispanic population in Arkansas went from 17,904 in 1980 to 86,866 in 2000. And many are shocked that the number one first name for babies born in Texas in 2009 was Jose.
“Browning of America.”
The truth of the matter is that yes, Latinos are moving into places all over the United States and bringing with them a culture and language that is making a growing number of Anglos worried, mad and fearful.
These sentiments are manifested by the number of people who participate anonymously in radio call-in shows with derogatory remarks about Latinos. It is seen in the letters to the editor in many mainstream newspapers. And in a growing number of legislatures around the country, the resentment of immigrants is seen in the new laws that are being
introduced and passed that make it harder and harder for people to participate
in the economy.
So what does this have to do with Mexican Americans? What does the immigration problems of Mexicans have to do with Mexican Americans who have ostensibly made it in America?
The answer rests in the quote above. Today it is the dark skinned immigrant who lives in fear of being picked up by the INS. It is the immigrant who works in the shadows of America to try and feed his family who must always look over his shoulder.
But as the anger, hate and resentment of brown-skinned immigrants grows, there will be no differentiation between those who are here legally and those who have just arrived. And it is at this point when the Mexican American will realize that they too are moving targets just like the guy who just arrived yesterday from San Luis Potosi.
The immigration issues in the United States need to be dealt with in a serious manner. The problems of one group of people, if not addressed, will in time, become the problems of another group of people.
It is a grave error for Mexican Americans to think that the problem of immigration does not and will affect them because they are 5th generation Tejanos or because they hold
a college degree from the University of Texas at Austin.
History has shown that when economic times become tough, people will look for someone to blame. In the 1930s, right here in the United States of America, over one million Mexican were forced to leave the country without due process.
Many were put on trains and shipped to the border. That will probably not happen again but it can happen in other ways. The show me your papers movement is just the start of a series of events that come under slogans such as “Secure Borders.” The “show-me-two-forms” of identification is another example of how things are beginning to change in civic life.
The question of who will speak out as the United States under goes dramatic changes in the 21st century will be the 64,000 dollar question.