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When Will the Sleeping Giant Awaken?

With last year’s census results revealing that the Latino community is the largest minority group in the United States, many suggest that the future lies in our hands. Latino organizations in defense for migratory reform have suggested that Latinos will have a considerable impact in the 2012 presidential elections. But at the moment, our growing numbers have not translated to significant political or economic reforms to improve our community. Instead, we have experienced an increase in hostile policies targeting Latino immigrants.

During the 2008 elections, President Barack Obama’s exuberant campaign sought Latino support, cleverly appealing to our sensibilities. In July 2008 Obama spoke to the Latino community of San Diego saying, “The system isn’t working when Hispanics are losing their jobs faster than almost anybody else… when communities are terrorized by ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] immigration rates … and we need to change it.” These promises for immigration reform remain unfulfilled.

Obama has stated that Republican support is necessary to make significant changes in immigration policies. While this is true, the president still has the executive power to push immigration reform more effectively. Representatives of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have stated that the president could actually use his power in office to halt deportations. They also stated that Obama can take “administrative action which can immediately address the most grievous shortcomings of our broken immigration system.”

But the “system” remains broken. Arizona criminalized undocumented individuals with the SB 1070 law, the Senate blocked the DREAM Act, and over one million immigrants have been deported, an unprecedented amount.
We continue to see political action motivated by both ends of the political spectrum. Recently, Obama appeared at El Paso, Texas to speak once more for immigration reform. His speech was followed by the reintroduction of the DREAM Act by Democrats. On the other hand, Republicans in Arizona are attempting to preserve the SB 1070 law after the Supreme Court blocked major portions of the bill. Chicano studies Professor Robert Chao Romero suggests that both political parties are making calculated moves and compromises. “This is a tricky situation…and hope remains to be seen,” said Romero.

Amidst all this, what role is the Latino community playing in this story? According to census estimates, Latino voter numbers increased, from roughly 7.5 million in 2004 elections to 9.7 million in 2008. Numbers alone are not enough. In the march for immigration reform on May 1, only a few thousand people showed up to support. A huge decline in comparison to the 60,000 supporters who came out just last year.  Are we losing hope, or are we just plain lazy?
“The problem with May 1 is that there was no unified voice or vision,” said Romero. “There is potential for political empowerment but it needs organization.”

Our growing Latino community has fallen short of making a significant contribution for change. Yes, we have faced aggressive legislative action but politics are not the only factor; we need to strengthen our voice. Otherwise, how hopeful can our community be for the future, whether for the 2012 elections or for a long term outlook?

When Will the Sleeping Giant Awaken?

With last year’s census results revealing that the Latino community is the largest minority group in the United States, many suggest that the future lies in our hands. Latino organizations in defense for migratory reform have suggested that Latinos will have a considerable impact in the 2012 presidential elections. But at the moment, our growing numbers have not translated to significant political or economic reforms to improve our community. Instead, we have experienced an increase in hostile policies targeting Latino immigrants.

During the 2008 elections, President Barack Obama’s exuberant campaign sought Latino support, cleverly appealing to our sensibilities. In July 2008 Obama spoke to the Latino community of San Diego saying, “The system isn’t working when Hispanics are losing their jobs faster than almost anybody else… when communities are terrorized by ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] immigration rates … and we need to change it.” These promises for immigration reform remain unfulfilled.

Obama has stated that Republican support is necessary to make significant changes in immigration policies. While this is true, the president still has the executive power to push immigration reform more effectively. Representatives of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have stated that the president could actually use his power in office to halt deportations. They also stated that Obama can take “administrative action which can immediately address the most grievous shortcomings of our broken immigration system.”

But the “system” remains broken. Arizona criminalized undocumented individuals with the SB 1070 law, the Senate blocked the DREAM Act, and over one million immigrants have been deported, an unprecedented amount.
We continue to see political action motivated by both ends of the political spectrum. Recently, Obama appeared at El Paso, Texas to speak once more for immigration reform. His speech was followed by the reintroduction of the DREAM Act by Democrats. On the other hand, Republicans in Arizona are attempting to preserve the SB 1070 law after the Supreme Court blocked major portions of the bill. Chicano studies Professor Robert Chao Romero suggests that both political parties are making calculated moves and compromises. “This is a tricky situation…and hope remains to be seen,” said Romero.

Amidst all this, what role is the Latino community playing in this story? According to census estimates, Latino voter numbers increased, from roughly 7.5 million in 2004 elections to 9.7 million in 2008. Numbers alone are not enough. In the march for immigration reform on May 1, only a few thousand people showed up to support. A huge decline in comparison to the 60,000 supporters who came out just last year.  Are we losing hope, or are we just plain lazy?
“The problem with May 1 is that there was no unified voice or vision,” said Romero. “There is potential for political empowerment but it needs organization.”

Our growing Latino community has fallen short of making a significant contribution for change. Yes, we have faced aggressive legislative action but politics are not the only factor; we need to strengthen our voice. Otherwise, how hopeful can our community be for the future, whether for the 2012 elections or for a long term outlook?

Census Shows Latinos Fuel Population Growth Sparks Discussion of Latino-Majority Districts

Within the last ten years, the Latino community has fueled almost all the population growth in the United States.

Beginning this week, the 2010 census results are being released on a state-by-state basis.

New Jersey, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Virginia were the first to receive the census redistricting data which will be used in the process of redrawing political districts based on population and racial makeup, states Fox News Latino.

Mark Braden, former chief counsel to the Republican National Committee, states, “There are going to be a lot of additional Hispanic officials elected when redistricting is done.”

Florida, Texas, Arizona, and Nevada are four of the eight states gaining House seats and owe half or more of their population gain over the last decade to Hispanics.

Minorities accounted for roughly 70 percent of U.S. growth, and Hispanics made up about 40 percent.

Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), says his group was expecting to see “a minimum of nine additional Latino-majority House seats,” if states comply with federal law.

This is because the 1965 Voting Rights Act levels out the chances for minority voters with those of majority voters to get their candidates into office.

The population changes will result in a shift of House seats taking effect in 2013.

Question 9

I was home for the weekend, eating dinner in the kitchen and talking to my mom about my week at school. It was last month, when the government made every effort to urge people to fill out the 2010 Census. So after seeing one of those TV census commercials, my mom told me she filled out every question of the famous survey. I felt very proud of her since I thought she would have difficulty understanding the questions—not that she can’t read or anything, but you know how complicated things can get with politics and the government. While thinking what a good job my mom had done, she then said, “but I still need to answer one more question.”  With a question mark in her face, my mom asked, “¿mija, que somos?”

I found it interesting, or better yet, annoying and irritating, to see that race and Hispanic origin are separated into different categories.  Not only do we have to decide if we are of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin, but we are asked again to classify our race.

Allow me to problematize these questions. First of all, Latino, although it sounds nice and even exotic, is a term used exclusively for people who come from Spanish speaking countries south of the border. But doesn’t Europe have Latinos too? After all, Italians, French, Romanians, etc. are also of Latin origin.  Secondly, one can come from a Spanish speaking country but not be of Hispanic/Latin heritage. Most countries have Indigenous communities that are secluded or excluded from the greater city life and have to learn Spanish as a second language.

The census also left me in awe whe I saw Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, listed as races next to white and black. So I ask: do they want to know our country of origin or our skin color?  Maybe the answer is both. Thus I find that the last option for question nine, “some other race”, is the most pertinent option. In my opinion, there should only be one racial/ethnic question next time, that way people can have the liberty to write in answers that they consider most appropriate to define themselves and are not limited to imposed options.

Time magazine reports that in the 2000 Census, more than 40% of Hispanics did not register as white or black but rather as “other.” Angelo Falcón, the National Institute for Latino Policy in New York City president and census community adviser told Time that “a lot of Hispanics find the black-white option offensive, and they’re asserting their own racial uniqueness.”  As for me, I consider myself, and most of my paisanos mestizos.

So after analyzing all these discrepancies and incongruities (which are not only applicable to Hispanics/Latinos), I laugh at myself for telling my mom we are white; I should have said what I really believe we are, mestizos.