By Jose Barreiro
From the oh-so-patriotic “Minutemen,” with their potential overlap to vigilante violence, to the actual rise in incidents of race crime against dark-skinned Mexican and other Hispanics, the evidence is that a climate of disdain and potential race and/or ethnic hatred is being generated in North America. This is very evident in the type of language and self-definition put up by not-so-unconsciously race-based pundits and politicians.
The issues generated by the inevitable trend to northern migration among people from Mesoamerica and South America are complicated. As usual, the North American mass media is loath to dig too deeply into its roots. Images of Mexican Indians jumping fences and crouch-running across open desert fields permeate the senses while the public is bombarded with way too many ill-informed and ill-conceived reports of major “threats,” all designed to keep viewers and readers titillated. Ignorant ire seems to dominate as a result. In this age of super-vigilance, the issue of Mexican Indians coming north in waves of humanity whose bottom line or social safety net has been ripped out is ripe for alarmist warnings by pundits and politicians alike, too many of whom like to charge Mexican and other Latin American migrants with causing all kinds of malignancy to America’s economy, culture and social character.
Legitimate debate points include the inherent right of countries to secure their borders; reading the actual impacts of a million new Latin American immigrants per year for the next 20 years on various job sectors, on costs of additional social services, on crime rates and criminal justice systems, very specifically on border communities; and considering what would constitute a humane, fair and sound long-term solution to the situation of the many undocumented migrants already in-country. When these types of questions are thought about rationally and fairly, progress can be made toward resolutions.
Tragically, this is not the trend of the national discourse. Instead, the knives are flying. In the national discourse, the migration north is equated with the threat of terrorist violence, with crime, with all manner of potential diseases and, worst of all, with the threatened disintegration of the national culture. Thus, the proponents of the English-only movement, who perceive the English language to be under assault by, primarily, Spanish, but by extension, all other languages--Native and non-Native--spoken by families in neighborhoods across the United States. In an era when most of the world has already accepted English as the lingua franca of business and science, and at a time when all immigrants to the United States clearly understand the importance of speaking English even though it is difficult for many adults, the rising wave of anti-Spanish language hysteria is indeed troubling.
Below: The cartoon shows a stereotypical Plains chief not found in Arizona, but the point is a good one.