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

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Illegal or not—immigrants are real Americans

Article by Raul Ramos y Sanchez first released on Que Viva Indiana
December 2012 Issue

The November presidential election was a wakeup call for the Republican party. For years, a number of GOP demagogues pandered to the xenophobes in their party by whacking the Latino community like a piñata under the guise of resisting illegal immigration. But after the overwhelming support for Barrack Obama among Latino voters, Republican leaders now realize the Latino bashing party is over. Not surprisingly, two senior GOP senators have proposed an act of contrition. They call it the Achieve Act, which many see as a watered-down version of the DREAM Act.

This is all good news. But the struggle to achieve immigration reform is far from over. Nativist organizations like ALIPAC, FAIR and others promise to fight like never before against what they call “amnesty.” Inevitably, in resisting efforts to bring the undocumented out of the shadows, these chauvinistic organizations denigrate into attacks on all Latinos. Speaking about conditions in California schools, comedian and FOX News commentator Adam Corrolla recently said: “schools are ruined — not because they’re out of money, but because we’re flooded with Mexicans, and they’re not into studying.” We can expect a surge of toxic rhetoric like this as immigration reform comes closer to reality.

Although news headlines depict this apparent culture clash, the upheaval we are seeing today is part of a larger pattern. For centuries people have come to this land with dreams of a better life. Their arrival has invariably been met with resistance. Eventually, their foreignness becomes familiar and they are welcomed into the fold, usually to be replaced by the next wave of newcomers who endure a similar fate.

"The first illegal immigrants in Texas came from Tennessee. Most of these Anglo squatters settled in the Mexican province of Tejas without any legal rights." 

Many say today’s wave of immigrants is different. They arrived here illegally. In truth, the world is not so simple. The first illegal immigrants in Texas came from Tennessee. Most of these Anglo squatters settled in the Mexican province of Tejas without any legal rights. Today, Texas is one of the most prosperous regions in the world and their legal indiscretions are long forgotten.

At its core, the current migration from south to north on our continent is easy to understand. The U.S. has the jobs. Mexico and Latin America have the labor. The economic gravity at work in this dynamic is as powerful as the tides—and just as irresistible.

Above all else, being American is an attitude. It is an affirmation of hope, the dream that sweat and energy can create a better life. No ethnic group can lay claim to that ideal. Nor is it limited to a single language. It’s time to recognize all of today’s immigrants for what they really are: the latest wave of Americans.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez