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3:00pm April 23, 2012

Letter to Mr. Obama: On Latinos, You’re Not Trying Hard Enough

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Mr. President: a couple of decisions explain much of the 64% to 24% advantage you hold over Mr. Romney with Latino voters.  You’ve used the power of the Attorney General to stop states like Arizona, Alabama, and South Carolina from enforcing measures advanced by anti-immigrant legislatures and executives, and you’ve made an effort to ease the acquisition of legal status for some, and ameliorate the threat of deportation for others.

While 86% of us are in favor of providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, we understand that this is in sharp contrast with the American electorate, writ large. One in which only 44% of voters support such a path, and 61% believe Arizona’s SB 1070 should be found Constitutional by the Supreme Court.

Nevertheless, I am morally obligated to chastise your administration for deporting 46,000 parents whose children are citizens of the United States. I say morally obligated, because when I was 6-years-old, my parents were deported. My birth on US soil conferred me with citizenship. But there’s no such thing as an “anchor baby.” Had I not been allowed to travel to Mexico, to remain with my mother and father, I would have gone into the foster care system, just like the 5,100 kids currently trapped in it, because their parents have been detained or deported.

photo of you sitting alone on a bus recently made headlines, Mr. President. You were caught deep in thought, sitting in a passenger seat, staring out of one of the side windows on the bus where on December 1, 1955 Rosa Parks knowingly chose to disobey an immoral and unjust law.

Mr. President, today’s immigration laws are such laws.

The law that separated parents like Felipe Montes and Blanca Cardenas from their children is immoral. The one that threatens to deport America’s undocumented youth, born abroad and brought here as children by parents desperate for a better life is unjust.

287g and “Secure Communities”, as well as NCLB’s requirement that high schools give military recruiters the names and contact information of students, along with the enticement of George W. Bush’s Executive Order to expedite conferring legal status to undocumented immigrants serving in active duty for eight years – especially during a time when Latinos in active duty have been 20% more likely to die – are immoral.

The laws that led to the deportation of the Correa family are unjust. Visa laws preventing Latinos and Asians from participating in the “Green Card lottery,” and mandating that some immigrants (read: European) should wait no more than 3 years before being able to secure legal status for their spouses and/or children, while others (read: Asians and Latin Americans) must wait up to 23 years before being able to do the same, are carbon copies of the de jure discrimination policies citizens of color faced before the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Today’s immigration laws are so immoral and unjust, they are responsible for the deaths of Anastasio HernandezNelson Avila and thousands of other human beings deserving of dignity and opportunity.  Instead, their lives are cut short by avoidable tragedies.

Rosa Parks’ arrest in Montgomery, Alabama, led to the riders’ boycott that launched Martin Luther King Jr.’s career. On April 16, 1963, in “Letter from Birmingham Jail” he wrote as follows:

“I am in Birmingham because injustice is here… Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny… We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny.”

Latino population growth accounted for more than half of total US population growth between 2000 and 2010 (15.2 of 27.3 million); growing at a rate of 43% (four times the nation’s 9.7% growth rate). 92% of Latino children are US-citizens.

Every month, between now and Election Day, 50,000 Latinos will turn 18. 9.2 million naturalized citizens across the nation are already registered voters. By November, there will be over 2 million more Latino voters than there were in the last Presidential election. Half will be under 40 years of age. 62% have a friend, neighbor, coworker, or relative who is undocumented; 25% know someone who has faced deportation. 81% believe all Latinos, not just immigrants, face significant discrimination, a belief corroborated by a National Institute of JusticeSouthern Poverty Law Center, and FBI data, demonstrating disproportionate growth in anti-Latino hate crimes and hate groups.

Juan Varela was shot in his front yard, in front of his mother and brother, by a man yelling: “Go back to Mexico or die!” The Varelas have been citizens of the United States for five generations.

Shawna Forde and two suspected accomplices woke up Brisenia Flores’ family and told them they were law enforcement officers. When her father questioned the intruders, they stormed into the house and shot him. They shot her mother. And then they shot her, twice, at point-blank range. Brisenia was murdered by Minuteman border vigilantes, despite the fact that she was a US-citizen, despite the fact that she was 9-years-old.

Mr. President, Mr. Romney: abused and scorned through we may be, Latinos are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny with America. Our patriotic contributions seen in every aspect of American history and quotidian life, we have always embraced not only the American dream, but also the burden of rebuilding it whenever, and wherever, it is denied. The next time you pledge allegiance to the flag that stands for liberty and justice for all, remember this letter.

Our well-being is even more important than our vote. And because the goal of America is freedom, I ask you to stand for ours.



About the Author

Unai Montes-Irueste
Unai Montes-Irueste
Unai Montes-Irueste has worked as a management consultant, nonprofit executive, community organizer, and classroom teacher, seeking to elevate the capacity of individuals, organizations, and communities to make change. As a social-political-racial-economic justice champion, he advocates on behalf of high quality, Pre-K through college, publicly funded, equitable education for all.




 
 

 
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3 Comments


  1. rsergant

    Superior articles, both your letter to Pres. Obama and your letter to Mr. Romney….

    Hope that you will distribute both articles widely…. I posted them on my facebook page;
    but you deserve a far wider audience…. how about the NY or LA Times?


  2. [...] to combat Alabama HB 56, this Administration’s record on immigration was defined by the unprecedented number of deportations, record number of ICE raids, whole scale embrace of predatory e…. And don’t even get me started on the lack of effort expended to prevent violations of [...]


  3. [...] resources to combat Alabama HB 56, this Administration’s record on immigration was defined by the unprecedented number of deportations, record number of ICE raids, wholesale embrace of predatory enforcement policies, such as Secure [...]



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