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

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Florida policy subverts the 14th Amendment and adds to troubled future

The 14th Amendment to the U.S. constitution states that anyone born on U.S. soil is a citizen, a right which many nativists have sought to overturn for the children of undocumented immigrants. While most of these challenges have come through congress, the state of Florida enacted a policy in 2009 that subverts a law that has stood for over 140 years. Put most simply, Florida denies U.S. citizens born to undocumented parents their legal right to pay in-state tuition rates -- even when these young people have met residency requirements including graduating from state high schools.

Now, five students born in the U.S. to undocumented parents are suing the state. In a USA Today article Michael Hethmon, director of the Immigration Reform Law Institute states: "As the question of illegal immigration remains unresolved, it becomes an obvious flashpoint and you'll see issues like this coming up repeatedly in the coming years."

Those “coming years” will forge a generation of young Latinos for whom prejudice will seem as commonplace as smart phones. In less than 15 years, one in four young people entering their volatile late teens will be Latinos. If we see a continuation of the implicit discrimination of nativist excesses like this Florida policy and the harsh laws already in place in Arizona, Alabama, Georgia and other states, we can expect a troubled future.

As my previous essay makes clear, history shows we are approaching the conditions to create a generation of political activists – or even cadres of revolutionaries.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez