LatinaLista — The U.S. Latino struggle for equality, inclusion and acceptance has always had two faces â€” the face of Latino citizens, which includes second, third, etc. U.S.-born generations, and the face of the undocumented Hispanic immigrants.
The immediate needs of both groups are as different as night and day. In a nutshell, for U.S.-born Latinos, unless they are personally impacted, immigration reform is not a priority issue. For undocumented Hispanic immigrants, of course, it is.
Over the course of time, the struggles of both groups have been combined so that to those outside the culture we all “look the same.” In all honesty, that is not the case.
The combining of the Hispanic immigrant struggle with U.S.-born Latinos’ struggle has created a touchy situation with our African American peers. When we marched in solidarity with our undocumented hermanos and hermanas and equated those marches with the civil rights marches of the African Americans, we drew the ire of African Americans who said it wasn’t the same.
And to a point, they were right.
African Americans were never fighting for citizenship â€” just the full rights of already being a citizen. In that respect, the African American struggle and the Latino struggle â€” U.S.-born Latino struggle â€” are the same.
So where does that leave the Hispanic immigrant struggle?
If we are to believe the critics of Hispanic undocumented immigrants, there has never been a situation in our nation’s history like today. As one commenter on Latina Lista said:
â€¦No, increasing our legal immigration numbers will not stop more illegals from coming because there is an endless number of potential immigrants that want to come here, more than we can realistically absorb without committing national suicide.
We need to continue to only absorb as many legal immigrants that can be beneficial to us rather than harmful. Our immigration policies and quotas are in place to benefit our country and its citizens, not the potential immigrant’s needs and rigthly so.
But who is to say, and how is anyone to know, which immigrants are beneficial or harmful? And would we be committing national suicide?
As it stands now, there are more people of Mexican descent living in the United States (29.2 million) than Mexicans who live in Mexico City. Should we be outraged?
Hardly, when you consider that there are 35 million Americans of Irish descent compared to only 4 million Irish in Ireland.
A segment from the TODAY show, where two of the hosts are in Ireland to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, chronicled the Irish “deluge” into the United States at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries. It doesn’t matter their legal status because they came in such numbers that it drew out the same ugly rhetoric that today’s Hispanic immigrants face.
Calls for them to be deported and the rise of political entities to force them out emerged then as is happening now. As one curriculum guide to teach students about the Irish immigrant experience explains:
There was very deep prejudice against Irish-Americans during the 19th century, especially as more immigrants came into the United States. Many Americans considered the Irish as dirty, stupid and lazy. Newspaper cartoonists often contributed to this image by drawing Irishmen as looking like apes with a jutting jaw and sloping forehead. Newspapers also wrote about Irish people using the derogatory term of “Paddy.”
Americans also blamed the Irish immigrants for causing economic problems. They felt that the great numbers of Irish workers would put Americans out of work or lower wages. Americans felt that the increased number of people would mean taxes would rise due to additional needs for police, fire, health, sanitation, schools and poorhouses.
Consequently, it became acceptable to discriminate against the Irish. Many job posters and newspaper ads ended with “No Irish Need Apply.” Hotels and restaurants may have had signs stating “No Irish Permitted in this Establishment.” In 1851-1852, railroad contractors in New York advertised for workers and promised good pay. When mostly Irish applied, the pay was lowered to fifty-five cents a day. When the workers protested, the militia was called in to force the men to accept. (M., p. 322)
They say history does repeat itself and when looking at the TODAY segment, it’s easy to see that this country is greater for having those Irish pioneers choose to live in the U.S. â€” given the same chance, our newest Latino immigrants will prove themselves just as worthy.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day â€” a todos!