News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Friday, August 24, 2007

A poisonous atmosphere

The proliferation of local ordinances against illegal immigrants being spawned across the nation will undoubtedly be overturned by federal judges. The reason is simple. The enforcement of immigration law is under federal jurisdiction. Case closed. However, these mean-spirited laws will do more than waste taxpayer money. They are encouraging overt prejudice against all Hispanics.

“I am tired of seeing bilingual signs or instructions on everything that I buy,” a reader of the Washington Post angrily responded to an article on local immigration laws. This widely espoused sentiment betrays the real motive behind these laws: xenophobia.

In a McClatchy Newspapers article, John Trasvina, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund offered this perspective: "What these ordinances do is add tension to the communities. So a woman in the grocery is talking to her daughter in Spanish. It emboldens the person standing in line behind her to say, 'Hey, speak English.'"

Trasvina concluded that even when these laws are defeated in federal court "a poisonous atmosphere" remains.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez