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

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Family values are alive and well among immigrants

“Family values” has become a code phrase among U.S. conservatives who believe our culture is slipping into a moral morass. Ironically, many in the same right-wing camp are lashing out against another group that shares these family values: Latin American immigrants.

In reality, it’s family values that’s propelled most Latin American immigration to the United States. Many of these immigrants make the ultimate sacrifice for their loved ones: they leave behind spouses and children to find a better way to provide for them. Meanwhile, in right-wing circles this family-driven migration is often called “an invasion.”

Once here, many Latin American immigrants send money to the spouses and children they left behind. But instead of praising Latin American immigrants for their devotion to family, most conservatives see the money sent back to the newcomers’ countries of origin as symbols of the immigrants’ disloyalty to the United States.

Even when Latin Americans immigrants are single, they often form strong family bonds in this country—in many cases with U.S. citizens. As host of, a website that lets U.S. immigrants from all over the world tell their stories in their own words, I’ve witnessed many heart wrenching examples. American citizens, usually women, are devastated when the man who has been a good father and provider to their children is taken away by the immigration authorities. Even as conservatives bemoan the number of children being raised in households without a father, the immigration authorities are busy creating more fatherless homes each day.

Should the U.S. have open borders? Of course not. But we have millions of honest, hardworking people in this country whose only crime is trying their best to provide for their families. The problem of undocumented immigration will not be solved by demonizing those who simply want the same things most of us seek: a better life for our loved ones. The very first step in reaching a workable solution to this problem is to recognize our common humanity—and our shared family values.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez

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