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An Ignored Truth…

Another Wave of Immigrants:

The Hidden Truth about the Immigrant Other

Some people might call me Xicano (Chicano), or some might call me Mexican-American, or Latino or perhaps just simply American. But in the eyes of some right wing fundamentalists, I might be called an anchor baby. They say that because of my parents illegal status at the time of my birth that I shouldn’t be considered a United States citizen. Isn’t it fair to assume, though, that many of these same people, who use the derogatory term “anchor baby,” are also descended from immigrants?

I mean, if I’m an anchor baby because I was born from undocumented immigrants, then aren’t we all technically anchor babies ? I mean, aren’t we all a generation or generations descended from undocumented immigrants?

Unless, that is, you come from a Native American heritage, which last I checked the percentage in this country, was fairly low. In my estimation, the majority of us come from immigrant parents or grandparents or great grandparents or what not, who came with the same dreams and aspirations.

With recent policies and challenges to the 14th Amendment, however, it seems as though there is a looming wave of ignorance among the uninformed masses. They don’t see that we are all sons and daughters of immigrants and that we should be helping each other not hating each other.

Needless to say, let me remind them that the original 13 colonies were a group of dissidents from another country that  came here to improve their lives, while securing something for their future generations.

Also, because of them African slaves, as well as other groups, became a sort of “involuntary immigrant,” which became the primary reason for the creation of the 14th Amendment. It  allowed foreign-born slaves, or laborers, to produce US-born citizens into bondage.

After slavery was abolished and somewhat diminished, our country resorted to Chinese and European immigrants to deal with the shortage of free labor. The First Transcontinental Railroad was built on the backs of many different cultures.

Once they – Chinese Americans, Irish Americans, Italian Americans, Polish Americans etc. – began to assimilate and gain rights, these immigrants were persecuted very much like the immigrants of today. Interestingly enough,  the  Chinese Americans were subjected to a discriminatory policy i.e. the Chinese Exclusion Act that bares a close resemblance to recent immigration laws against Latino immigrants. It really is strange how the past really is never really past.

Current immigrants are met with the same ignorance that was shown to the Chinese, Irish, Italian and Black immigrants. Moreover, all of this is ignored while raking in the rewards from the huge services that documented and undocumented workers provide. The truth is that the undocumented worker of today is no different than any  another worker from the past; the slave, the servant, the laborer and the “other,” will it never end?

The views upon undocumented Mexican or Central American immigrants today may seem like a burdensome problem  to some, but the truth is many of the same people remain ignorant of the reality of immigration: they provide the cheap labor that has been the staple in any thriving US economy.

Let’s face it, these workers are doing the jobs no one else will do. The back bone of America today is Latino, and is being disregarded.

The following Telemundo report, about the agricultural immigrant labor in the Salinas valley, highlights the experiences of immigrants today and how they are filling the role of cheap labor.

The report analyzes the notion of stolen jobs by undocumented workers. The video is in Spanish, so put your Sombreros on 😀

I’m just saying, how many of us are willing to pick fruits and vegetables for a living? and shouldn’t we be more aware of the treatment of immigrant workers, so that perhaps they aren’t taken advantage of?

Legislation proposes separate birth certificates for children of citizens and non-citizens

A new piece of legislation is set to be written this year regarding the citizenship of babies being born to illegal immigrants within the US border. While the 14th amendment grants this right to persons being born in the US, opponents of this statue are poised to challenge and have the amendment changed as soon as possible. In Arizona, lawmakers are proposing to grant two different birth certificates: one for babies born to citizens and one for babies born to illegal immigrants. Although University of Arizona law professor Gabriel Chin says such practices are un-American, incoming secretary of state of Kansas Kris Kobach believes they can be held up in court, reports the New York Times.

ILLEGAL: How this anti-immigrant term contaminates public perception of undocumented immigrants

Illustration by Maria Esmeralda Renteria.

An invading horde of disease-carrying criminal aliens pours over an unprotected border, draining limited state resources.

This is the image of immigrants popularized by mass media.

There is no denying the influential power that words possess in shaping how people perceive the world around them. It is precisely this reason why the word illegal must be consciously removed from popular discourse regarding immigration.

“The word illegal sets the tone of how you treat someone,” said Nancy Meza, a UCLA alumna. “We need people to stop using the word illegal because it stops the conversation. When you call someone illegal you’re already demonizing them. This narrows the scope of understanding why immigration happens.”

Identifying herself as undocumented and unafraid, Meza stated that being unafraid means you are public about your status and what you go through as an undocumented person.

“We are not aliens, we are not criminals, we are not less than anyone else. We’re social refugees, economic refugees,” said Meza.

The use of the term illegal in mainstream media stigmatizes undocumented people by reducing them to criminals.  Subsequently, the veiled message the word conveys acts as a mechanism for racially-motivated attacks.

There is a direct link between the anti-immigrant message conveyed across popular media outlets and the atmosphere of violence and hate that manifests itself on the streets.

According to a 2009 report by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education, the increasing number of anti-immigration commentaries from high-profile national media personalities “correlates closely with the increase in hate crimes against Hispanics.”

The toxic manner in which the term illegal is irresponsibly spewed through the media is a catalyst for violence.

In July 2009 two men beat and stabbed 45-year-old janitor Maria Guadarrama in Orange County. After taking her wallet, they are reported to have said, “You’re worthless, you’re Mexican.”

On Oct. 14, 2010 two men in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, were convicted for the racially-motivated murder of Eduardo Ramirez Zavala. They are reported to have said, “Go back to Mexico,” and called him a “fucking wetback” as they beat the father of three to death.

News anchors, pundits and politicians on both sides of the debate use the term illegal. Its repetition has created a negative connotation that overgeneralizes and robs people of their humanity.  By calling undocumented people illegal, hardworking immigrants are unfairly cast as pedophiles, drug smugglers and murderers.

Linguist Otto Santa Ana, Associate Professor with the UCLA César E. Chávez Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies at UCLA, has actively researched the representation of Latinos in print media.

“Those who favor the term illegal claim that unauthorized immigrants are criminals who deliberately violate US law. The argument continues that once in the US they abuse its social services, so they merit only punishment,” said Santa Ana.

“It’s a really horrible term to call people,” said Penelope Guevara, an undocumented student and third-year philosophy major at UCLA.

Guevara has lived in the US since she was a child and considers herself an American.

“If you know the story about undocumented peoples, you see they are not all these things, we’re people,” said Guevara.