Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Immigrant Bashing: Latinos Besieged by Public Policy Bias

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Immigrant Bashing: Latinos Besieged by Public Policy Bias

Article excerpt

Immigrant Bashing: Latinos Besieged by Public Policy Bias.

by Roberto Rodríguez

EL PASO, TX - Academicians throughout the country have joined with human rights organizations to denounce the rising tide of immigrant bashing, anti-immigrant legislation and the militarization of the U.S.-Mexican border.

Participants in recent academic, political and human rights conferences in Riverside, CA, Phoenix, AZ and El Paso, TX, say that anti-immigrant hysteria is racial in nature, and while it is directed primarily at undocumented Mexican and Central American immigrants, it affects the entire Latino community.

Lupe Castillo, history professor at Pima County Community College District in Tucson, AZ, says the anti-immigrant mood of the country is at "an all-time high. It's at a fever pitch and it's intense. It's not just rightists or skinhead groups. It's the government."

This mood, she adds, "gives permission to schools, government agencies and hospitals to discriminate. Everyone is becoming a border patrol agent."

This same mood Castillo continued, is responsible for the acquittal earlier this month of a former border patrol agent who killed an unarmed Mexican with two shots. Trial records show that the agent, Michael Elmer, shot Dario Miranda Valenzuela in the back on June 12, 1992, then dragged his body 50 feet and hid it.

Records also show that Elmer conspired with another agent to cover up the shooting and did not report the incident. He was tried and acquitted last year on criminal charges; whereas this year, he was acquitted of violating Valenzuela's civil rights.

"The fact that he [Elmer] was found not guilty twice is indicative of the sentiment of the country," says Castillo. "The message the verdict sends out is that every Mexican is a danger to the United States and therefore should be shot."

Silvestre Reyes, El Paso Border Patrol Chief, who instituted "Operation Blockade" last year, says that "it is foolish to not view ourselves as part of the global community," but that in practical terms, immigration laws have to be enforced.

Operation Blockade, now known as "Operation Hold the Line," has been described as a human wall of approximately 400 border patrol agents who line the El Paso/Juarez border, preventing immigrants from entering the United States.

The measure is necessary to seal the border, says Reyes. It would be better if Mexico had a better economy, argues. But until that happens, the Border Patrol will continue to do its job. "It is no longer acceptable to balance politics on the backs of border patrol agents," he says.

The El Paso sector of the Border Patrol recently settled a discrimination lawsuit that charged agents routinely stopped "Hispanic-looking" people -- regardless of their legal status -- near Bowie High School in El Paso. The Border Patrol agreed to end the practice of stopping people on the basis of their looks.

Pervasive Bias

The current anti-immigrant attitude of the country is predicated on the belief that immigrants -- both documented or undocumented -- are a drain on society, says Harry Pachon, president of the Tomas Rivera Center, a think tank housed at the Claremont Graduate School in Claremont, CA.

The truth is, immigrants contribute much more to the economy than they take from it, he says.

A recent study by the Tomas Rivera Center (TRC) found that immigrant research -- which is used by government and politicians to bash immigrants, says Pachon -- is fundamentally flawed. The chief flaw is the bias of those who pay for the studies, he says.

The TRC study found that immigrant research vastly understates the revenue produced by undocumented immigrants and overstates the costs generated by immigrants, says Pachon, adding that, "Government officials and politicians are using this flawed research to justify their anti-immigrant legislative proposals."

The hysteria against undocumented immigrants has peaked in California, Texas and along the U. …

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