Latinos: It’s Way Overdue

LA Daily News

I am the first one to criticize Chicano/Latino politicos when they don’t defend the interests of the community. However, during the present crisis, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and most Latino elected officials in Los Angeles have acted in a principled manner, forcefully speaking out against the racist nativism that is gripping the country. The same can be said of the Catholic Church and its refusal to go along with the hysteria.

If the actions of right-wing radio hosts, virulent anti-immigrant groups, and opportunistic politicos were an aberration, there would be hope that people would come to their senses. However, this form of nativism has infected the United States since the birth of the Republic.

It led to the persecution of Irish immigrants; the burning of a convent in Charleston, Mass., in 1828; the burning of Catholic churches in Philadelphia in 1842; and fueled the illegal invasion of Mexico and the theft of 50 percent of its land. This was topped off with the creation of the Native American party of the 1850s, which became known as the Know Nothing Party, and later the Republican Party.

Every time that the nation had an economic depression or recession, the Greek Chorus pointed at the immigrant. Thus the Chinese were excluded in 1882, and in the 1920s immigration acts made national origins the basis of admission. The expressed intent of these laws was to keep America white by giving preferences to northern Europeans, who, the politicos said, were blonder, taller and had bigger brains.

In 1965, the nation went through an examination of conscience and passed an amendment to the immigration act based on family preferences. The result was that too many Asians came in and Latin Americans continued to migrate to this country.

Shortly after the passage of the 1965 amendments, politicians such as Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyoming, and ex-California Gov. Pete Wilson built careers on baiting Mexican immigrants. They criminalized them, calling them illegal and dehumanized them, calling them aliens.

With the advent of the right-wing think tanks and the Internet, immigrant-bashing became an industry. Playing on the fears of white Americans who have historically been narcissistic and consumed by angst, these groups have made millions by creating a living hell for people who just want what others want a place to live in peace and educate their children.

For too long the Mexican/Latino community has been silent. This has encouraged bullies and wannabe brownshirts to come out of the woodwork and prance around like Minutemen. Most of these patriots like the president and vice president of this country have never served in the military. Immigrants were welcome as long as they did the fighting for them.

Samuel Johnson in 1775 said that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. History will bear out his wisdom.

Aside from the mendaciousness of the nativist, their stupidity is mind-blowing. The United States has been criminally negligent when it comes to Latin America. Its drug market has converted many Latin Americans into suppliers of American demand for drugs. As a result, the governments of these countries have morally decayed. The U.S.’ green revolutions have destroyed agricultural subsistence, and the North American Free Trade Agreement has destroyed nascent manufacturing industries.

Today, the only thing that is sustaining Mexico and Central America is the remittances sent back annually by hard-working compatriots. If it were not for these remittances, those economies would crash and there would be many more immigrant workers coming into territory that was illegally taken from their ancestors. They are illegal because the border was moved.

The demonstrators had no choice but to protest. I have no other choice but to urge my students and community to resist immoral laws.

As a historian, I remember the words of Martin Niem ller, a Protestant pastor and social activist:

When the Nazis arrested the Communists,

I said nothing; after all, I was not a Communist.

When they locked up the Social Democrats,

I said nothing; after all, I was not a Social Democrat.

When they arrested the trade unionists,

I said nothing; after all, I was not a trade unionist.

When they arrested the Jews, I said nothing; after all, I was not a Jew.

When they arrested me, there was no longer anyone who could protest.

Rodolfo F. Acñu a is professor of Chicana/o Studies at California State University, Northridge.

4 Responses to “Latinos: It’s Way Overdue”

  1. ben Says:

    So instead of being crybabies and blaming Americans for the woes of Latin Americans, why can’t you and your crybabie immigrant compatriots stay home and work to make your home country a better place to live and work.

    Please leave your outdated socialist ideas in Latin America too. We don’t do that here. hmmm, Maybe that has something to do with why the US is such a better place to live.

  2. jim wilson Says:

    I agree, stay home, your birthplace. Make something of it. WE did.

  3. Garry Kelly Says:

    Rodolfo F. Acñu, a professor of Chicana/o Studies at California State University, Northridge seems to have a very low opinion of the US and Americans.

    That’s a shame assuming he considers himself to be an American citizen,

  4. MisterX Says:


    That’s hilarious! The Pilgrims came from England… why didn’t they stay home, in their “birthplace” and “make something of it?” Because they were being persecuted and couldn’t practice their form of religion… Thus, they split to find a new home, and in so doing, began the almost total destruction and devastation of Native American communities in North America from coast to coast.

    Now, immigrants come here for a plethora of reasons — financial, religious, etc. Their reasons are just as valid as any of our ancestors in coming to this country…

    The good thing is that these new immigrants don’t resort to killing off the native population (like our American ancestors did) in order to steal their homeland. They also are not here to create an economy built on the enslavement of African-Americans…

    Nope, they are just here to do the jobs that Americans don’t want to do like picking fruit, busing tables, and cleaning hotel rooms.

    America has always been a land of immigrants… What pisses me off is that when it comes to extending the welcome mat, racists and nativists will forget that at one point, somebody in their family has been an immigrants…. This is sheer hypocrisy!

    Then, they’ll come out and say, “Oh, but my ancestors came here legally!” Well, that misses the point… The point of the matter is that these immigrants are here, and they are getting jobs, and paying taxes, and contributing to the U.S. way of life in all aspects — culture, religion, language, etc. Plus, the biggest draw to being in the U.S. is because they have family members here already….

    Now, let’s be serious here… if the U.S. truly wanted to protect its borders, it would… No immigrant could cross over illegally if the U.S. truly desired this… But it doesn’t… Big business, corporations, farming conglomorates, fast-food restaurants, hotel chains, etc. do not want this…

    Big business has lobbied presidents, senators, representatives to make sure that border agencies are perpetually under-staffed and under-financed so that illegal immigration can continue…


    Let’s face it… one of the reasons the U.S. is the most powerful country on earth is because of its CAPITALIST ECONOMY. In order for capitalism to function at a high level, it needs cheap labor, the cheaper the better… First, the U.S. had “free” labor — the cheapest available– which were African slaves. Then, immigrant labor from Europe (Italians, Irish, Polish, German, etc.), legal and illegal. Now, the cheap labor comes from Latin America and Asia… both legal and illegal.

    But what has changed? Americans have become richer and have forgotten their roots… they have climbed up so high on the economic ladder that they don’t want to look down and acknowledge on whose backs this country was built. The have become elitist, racist, and arrogant. For all their blubber and wealth, they are also not acting in a very Christian manner, choosing not to extend their hand to help a brother in need, like they, too, were once helped.

    In order for America to continue to be the light of the world, it must acknowledge the important role that immigrants have played in its foundation and development, and it must accept and encourage the immigrants of today so that its economy and society continue to grow and flourish…

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