Raza Sí, Migra No: Chicano Movement Struggles for Immigrant Rights in San Diego

Raza Sí, Migra No: Chicano Movement Struggles for Immigrant Rights in San Diego

Raza Sí, Migra No: Chicano Movement Struggles for Immigrant Rights in San Diego

Raza Sí, Migra No: Chicano Movement Struggles for Immigrant Rights in San Diego


As immigration from Mexico to the United States grew through the 1970s and 1980s, the Border Patrol, police, and other state agents exerted increasing violence against ethnic Mexicans in San Diego's volatile border region. In response, many San Diego activists rallied around the leadership of the small-scale print shop owner Herman Baca in the Chicano movement to empower Mexican Americans through Chicano self-determination. The combination of increasing repression and Chicano activism gradually produced a new conception of ethnic and racial community that included both established Mexican Americans and new Mexican immigrants. Here, Jimmy Patino narrates the rise of this Chicano/Mexicano consciousness and the dawning awareness that Mexican Americans and Mexicans would have to work together to fight border enforcement policies that subjected Latinos of all statuses to legal violence.

By placing the Chicano and Latino civil rights struggle on explicitly transnational terrain, Patino fundamentally reorients the understanding of the Chicano movement. Ultimately, Patino tells the story of how Chicano/Mexicano politics articulated an "abolitionist" position on immigration--going beyond the agreed upon assumptions shared by liberals and conservatives alike that deportations are inherent to any solutions to the still burgeoning immigration debate.


Let us examine the character of the Mexicano family, of the family of La Raza
[our people]. in every family, there are those who were born here, those
from the other side [of the border] with documents, and those here without
documents…. What are we going to do—deport all our grandparents and
their friends who don’t have documents? This was our territory!

—Bert Corona, Bert Corona Speaks on La Raza Unida Party and the
“Illegal Alien” Scare

All U.S. workers are suffering deeply from the persistent economic crisis that
is shaking the U.S.A. But, as always, under the capitalist economic order
those least able to exist and defend themselves are those that are the hardest
hit. in this instance, it is the immigrant workers, with or without visas,
nonwhite workers, workers that are not unionized, and of course women

— Soledad “Chole” Alatorre, “Plight of Immigrant Workers in U.S.”

The Chicano movement took it (immigration) up as a number-one type of
priority. This was an issue affecting our people across the board whether
we were citizens, whether we were documented or undocumented—this
was something that was aimed at our efforts to enfranchise our community.

—Herman Baca, Interview with author

One evening in the early 1970s San Diego area, Chicano movement activist Herman Baca received an unannounced visit from his political mentors, veteran Mexican American labor activists Bert Corona and Soledad “Chole” Alatorre. While conversing with a group of friends for a few moments in Baca’s print shop, which doubled as headquarters for the local chapter of the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA), Corona requested that Baca meet him in another room for a private conversation. “What’s going on?” asked Baca in the next room. Corona urgently replied, “We gotta get on this immigration issue.” Baca recalled thinking to himself, “You on . . .

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