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How can Latinos expect GOP to take immigration reform seriously when Latinos remain divided

LatinaLista — Martin Luther King Jr. Day is always an occasion to not just reflect on Dr. King’s legacy but to use the day as a ruler measuring how far we’ve come in the quest for social justice for those who have no voice.


Reviewing old footage of Dr. King leading marches, I’m struck by how united the black community was in standing with Dr. King. Of course, when a people are being discriminated against en masse and being made the scapegoats of local and state politics, it’s easy for a persecuted group to come together and demand change.

In that regard, Dr. King had an easier time of rallying unified support than the Latino community has had in unifying the community when it comes to the issues of immigration reform or undocumented immigrants.

The lack of unity among Latinos over the issue of immigration reform was in full display at last week’s Hispanic Leadership Network conference sponsored by the Republican Party.

During an afternoon panel on media and messaging, two prominent Latino commentators exemplified the division that exists within the Latino community when it comes to how Republicans treat the issue.

In an exchange between syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette and GOP strategist and media consultant Alex Castellanos, the issue of how the Republicans talk about immigration policy came to verbal blows.

Navarrette bluntly told the audience and his fellow panelists that the GOP’s problem with immigration isn’t the tone of the message but the message itself. According to Navarrette, “it is offensive, racist.”

However, Castellanos disagreed with Navarrette and stated that the majority of Latinos agree with the Republican Party on immigration policy.

More than just a difference of opinion, the two men represent the biggest challenge that Dr. Martin Luther King never had to face — both men are Latino but come from different communities that have two very different experiences with immigration policy.

Castellanos is Cuban-American, and aside from the much publicized forced deportation of Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban community, on the whole, has not had to deal with an immigration policy that doesn’t allow sanctuary once foot is on shore.

Navarrette, Mexican-American, is surrounded by the stories of how dark-skinned Latinos are targeted for hate crimes, the subjects of racial profiling and are deported upon capture — in the process, separating children from parents.

When both men appear on CNN as political commentators, they represent the Latino perspective — but two distinct communities.

This difference of opinion isn’t restricted to only the Republican strategy for dealing with immigration but also extends to a very basic descriptor.

There is a difference of opinion among Latino journalists as to even using the term “illegal immigrant” versus “undocumented immigrant.” Navarrette sees nothing wrong with using the first term while the National Association of Hispanic Journalists has made it clear that it is opposed to it.

Until the Latino community comes together as a whole to address the immigration issue, in all its elements, then there will remain fragmentation among the larger community.

Just as a political party must be unified in its message on an issue, the Latino community needs to come together, and stop merely representing individual perspectives of each sub-community of Latinos, to present an unified stand on the issue.

If that doesn’t happen there can be little expectation for progress to be made on the issue or any hope that American Dreams will be fulfilled.

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