Latino groups need guidance from a leader


Police can detain you based on your appearance and schools must verify your family’s immigration status. If you show up to work and your skin is slightly brown, you risk being deported. This is not Nazi Germany or Orwell’s 1984 dystopia, this is present-day Alabama.

Throughout history, racism has been a part of this southern state and lawmakers added to that infamous history on Sept. 28 when they passed one of the toughest immigration laws in decades. Since Arizona Senate Bill 1070 was passed on April 23, 2010, a series of copycat laws that encourage racial profiling and mock civil rights have surged across the United States.

Proponents of these laws have been able to get away with it because the federal government has failed at pushing immigration reform. A lightly politicized and leaderless Latino community has stared in awe at the sight of these injustices. In a time they need it the most, Latinos and illegal immigrants have no Martin Luther King Jr.s or Harvey Milks to turn to.

Latinos constitute 12 percent of the USC undergraduate student body, comprising a large portion of a school that prides itself on diversity and having the most international students in the nation. Why haven’t we seen student demonstrations against these new immigration laws? They might not affect the Latino community directly yet, but they are taking a toll on Latino identity and heritage in this country.  Apathy and lack of collective, organized action is something that haunts Latinos nationwide and locally.

While USC’s Latino students enjoy the sun and fun of Southern California, Latinos in Alabama protest, fearing deportation and the possibility that college will cease to be an option. There must be a group within the Latino community that believes in the possibility of change. Hope is still alive. Just take a look at what California has achieved with the DREAM Act. How can the laws of the same nation differ so greatly from state to state? While some laws grant in-state tuition, others simply terminate the possibility of higher education for illegal immigrants.

This is how the system is designed: Let illegal immigrants in when America needs them and send them home when America no longer requires them. President Barack Obama promised to fix this through comprehensive immigration reform. And yet, a record number of deportations have occurred during his presidency.

America needs to remember its roots. The United States is a nation built by immigrants. In 1942, Mexicans jumped in to fill the labor force gap when the United States entered World War II and since then, Mexicans and Central Americans have become the backbone of the agricultural and low-income industries. America owes its greatness to these people, and it can start paying back through the creation of just laws and comprehensive immigration reform.

Latinos should be aware that achieving immigration reform will come at a price. Blacks fought the Jim Crow laws through tenacity, leadership, persistence and persuasion. Latinos need to know no one is going to give equality to them; they have to rise up and take it. USC and other universities can forge a new generation of Latino leaders that are able to fight for this cause. USC Latino student organizations can start by taking their school’s motto to heart: “Let whoever earns the palm bear it.” Latinos, Hispanics and illegal immigrants need to stop being the largest silent majority among minorities. Sometimes working hard and taking jobs that pay below minimum wage is not enough — sometimes you just have to fight the power.

 

Rafael Fernandez De Castro Samano is a sophomore majoring in communication. 

11 replies
  1. Pat_Hathaway
    Pat_Hathaway says:

    Your article flirts with the “by any means necessary” school of thought, which I guarantee you will NOT result in any gains for Latinos in the United States. I will have the opposite effect, it will SPEED UP legislation and outright vigilantism against Latinos, especially in border states. By the way, I’ve traveled extensively throughout Central and South America, the racism that Latinos experience here is nowhere near the extent of racism that indigenous and Central Americans face in Mexico. Or the racism that Souh Americans face in Spain. The fact that we allow so many of these folks to do here what they cannot in their own countries (make a living for themselves, support their families, and educate their children) I would say that America has been more than hospitable. However, guests cannot stay indefinitely and basically turn America into the very places they escaped from. That’s why the nation state must protect it’s borders – to protect it’s identity.

  2. nacho libre
    nacho libre says:

    the hispanic/illegal/undocumented/latino/etcetcetc debate is an overemphasis on semantics and hurts the quest for unity that is necessary to move a people forward. but anywho, I like that you bring up the topic of the lack of mobilization behind the issue (as a senior and a person of an increased melanin count at this university, i have witnessed and been frustrated at that difficiency and apathy of people who would care about this issue more broadly). However, i do caution against a top down approach to making anything happen, MLK and others, as great as they were, were nothing without the grassroots movements they represented. It is not on some once in a generation leader to make things happen (the present state of political discourse makes it nearly impossible for the MLK and Malcolm X types to come exist, thank the 30 sec sound bite). Its on individuals and the grassroots, always has been always will be. My advice is to look into groups like IDEAS and MEChA and do your part.

  3. Mike Varela
    Mike Varela says:

    Hmm….strangely enough I don’t remember the pilgrims applying for visas to come over here…

    The colonies and then the country were built upon slave labor….illegally transported immigrants from Africa…

    The transcontinental was built by the labor of Chinese immigrants that would be considered “illegal”…

    Many businesses, especially food service and agricultural, rely on immigrant labor…just look at the disaster in Alabama…

    Many of the greatest contributors to American culture and prosperity are immigrants…

  4. Mike
    Mike says:

    Wow, this article is all over the place. I especially like how you have somehow removed any difference in meaning between the words latinos, hispanics and illegals. You frequently interchange the words for one another. I wasn’t aware that everyone of hispanic descent was illegal. How can you write an entire article about immigration but make no mention of citzen vs. noncitizen? While there is much scapegoating and mistreatment of illegal immigrants in this country, most of whom are extremely hardworking and simply seeking a better life for them and their families – to portray the entire hispanic ethnicity in America as under attack is simply wrong. Legal Americans of hispanic descent are the most courted voting block in the country. That will only grow as will their political power. We have an entire month in this country dedicated to recognizing the contributions of hispanics, called Hispanic Heritage Month, since the 1980s when President Reagan signed it into law. Hispanics hold elected offices at the highest levels of local, state and national government, are successful businessmen/women, public safety officers, university professors, anything they set their mind to and wish to become. If you seek to offer citizenship in this country to anyone that comes into it, thats your right to pursue it. But don’t pursue it under the guise that America hates everyone with the last name of Garcia, Lopez or anyone of hispanic descent. Its simply not true.

    • Mike Varela
      Mike Varela says:

      Hmm….strangely enough I don’t remember the pilgrims applying for visas to come over here…

      The colonies and then the country were built upon slave labor….illegally transported immigrants from Africa…

      The transcontinental was built by the labor of Chinese immigrants that would be considered “illegal”…

      Many businesses, especially food service and agricultural, rely on immigrant labor…just look at the disaster in Alabama…

      Many of the greatest contributors to American culture and prosperity are immigrants…

  5. Lily
    Lily says:

    Higher education is a privilege not a right. Human security is a right not a privilege. Let’s get our priorities straight.

  6. Lily
    Lily says:

    I hate how every time people talk about Latino interests, they talk about supporting the Dream Act. I’m all for immigration reform, but the Dream Act is not where its at. As a Mexican-American, I don’t support the Dream Act and its just ridiculous that if you are Latino you suddenly have to hop on the bandwagon. Focus on taking care of the people who really do need help, like the illegal workers who are suffering out in the fields and being exploited everyday. Those are the people you should advocate for if you’re talking about injustices towards illegal immigrants, not helping some illegal student who feels some sense of entitlement to receiving a higher education.

    • Mike Varela
      Mike Varela says:

      Where to start?

      First of all, for someone who supports the rights of immigrant farmworkers you sure use “illegal” to a nauseating degree.

      Secondly, there is no sense of entitlement with any of the DREAMers that I have met or any that I have read about or seen on video. These students aren’t sitting back, waiting for a handout. They have worked as hard, if not harder, than many of us who are documented. They bust their humps to excel in their studies, they work at least one job in order to make up for the lack of economic security that their “illegal” parents, as you would put it, must deal with in the pursuit of a better life, and they are amongst some of the most active students (participating in student organizations, community groups, etc.).

      Lastly, American politics have rarely ever addressed the most pivotal issues for all of America’s inhabitants (I mean, the U.S. Constitution didn’t even address the issue of slavery!!). This is especially the case today where we see Republicans’ outright obstructionism at play and Democrats’ lack of leadership and courage. By some stroke of luck or as the effect of ten years’ pressure, the needs of the undocumented student population have gotten enough attention and support, have been successfully addressed through legislation.

      Even if undocumented student rights are not your passion, you can at the very least appreciate that this political victory can lead to addressing other issues that affect the Latino/Hispanic/”illegal” populations.

      What we are experiencing here is an opportunity for the Latino vote to exercise its power and shape the political conversation.

      Sí se puede! Fight On!

  7. Michelle S.
    Michelle S. says:

    Rafael, you bring up great points! Thank you for informing us and making the call to action. I definitely believe that not enough attention is being paid to the atrocities happening in Alabama. It is as if after Arizona and the important victories for immigrants’ rights, people thought that everything was finally well. The fact of the matter is that Arizona was only the beginning, and Alabama should be getting more attention because the violations of civil and human rights are in many cases worse than with SB 1070!
    I would also like to comment on your use of the word “illegal” when referring to undocumented immigrants–it is a word that we are trying to get rid of because, as may well know, no human being is illegal. This is something that the immigrant rights movement constantly tries to emphasize. I encourage you to take a look at this page, and help stop the use of the word “illegal” when referring to undocumented workers: http://colorlines.com/archives/2011/04/take_action_no_human_being_is_illegal.html

  8. Mike Varela
    Mike Varela says:

    There is leadership developing here on campus.

    IDEAS Movement at USC is a new student organization that is focused on the needs and interests of undocumented students (and that includes immigration and undocumented Americans in general)!

    We co-sponsored two great events this November to raise awareness and are currently developing a Spring Series that will touch on all areas of immigration and the undocumented. We aim to educate the entire USC population with the goal of creating a more welcoming and understanding campus, as well as positive results in the upcoming election cycle and in future policies and laws.

    You can contact us by
    Email: ideas.usc@gmail.com
    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/284671061546280/

    Sí se puede! Fight On!

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