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New NCLR report illustrates harmful impact of SB 1070 on nation’s Latino youth

LatinaLista — With all the rules, guidelines and fines that exist in this country to protect the well-being of children, it is a sad commentary that no politician or activist thinks twice before publicly condemning undocumented immigrants and their families in their rants over illegal immigration.

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In those families are children, who are least likely to be immigrants themselves, and who are absorbing this national debate. Whether it’s talk of Arizona’s SB 1070 or politicians’ calls to illegitamize the birthright of these children, Latino children hear the arguments and are being emotionally and mentally impacted in ways that the public, the media and Washington have not realized — until now.

Today, the National Council of La Raza released a report on how Latino youth, ages 14-25, feel about Arizona’s SB1070 law; what its impact has been on the country; how it personally makes them feel and how it is shaping their view of the only country they have called home.

The report A Wake-Up Call: Latino Youth Speak Out About Arizona SB 1070 reflects the answers NCLR researchers received when they held a forum with 150 young people from 20 states attending a national leadership development program, the Líderes Summit, at the 2010 NCLR Annual Conference in July in San Antonio, Texas.

The responses were not surprising but disturbing in how these young people are learning how to view the political system, law enforcement and politicians.

Some of the report’s highlights include:

The main theme expressed by youth during the dialogue and in the written comments was anxiety that SB 1070 will lead to increased racial profiling and discrimination of the Hispanic community across the country.

” ‘Reasonable suspicion’ could mean that you have weeds in your street and they can ask for your papers.”

“Now people are uncomfortable and are scared to go out. I’ve been upset because things have been changing and my people are getting arrested.”

Some youth stated that they are not worried about how the law would impact them but are concerned about how their family and friends would be affected. Many Latinos live in mixed-status families, meaning that individuals in the household have different immigration statuses.

“Our feelings have changed since the law in the way that we thought just because we were born in the United States, this law will not affect us, but then we think about our families and friends and we know they are the ones that will be affected.”

The youth expressed their disappointment in the passage of SB 1070, stating that it is a violation of justice, a value they associate with the United States.

It [the law] stops the respect. I hate the law, I feel it is inhumane, especially in a country where freedom is sought. It instills a common fear in immigrants no matter where they are because they are what police are looking for. There are many other immigrants that overstay their visas and don’t get caught because they are lighter.”

“It makes people lose hope for justice being served in the U.S.A.”

“I understand that people who come here and do harm to the country should go out, but people who want to come and have an education and a better life should have the opportunity to have their citizenship and stay here.”

Some youth expressed their resolve to overcome challenges presented by SB 1070, such as through political activism. Others voiced a need for youth to organize among themselves. They felt that the law could bring the Latino community together and used the phrase “wake-up call” to refer to SB 1070 as a galvanizing event.

“It has been a wake-up call. Now, the Latino community has become stronger and closer to one another. The Latino community has to take action to move forward and overcome this barrier. Now we know that we need to stand up for ourselves and show others that we are the future leaders.”

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