Immigrants take the blame

Martha I. Fernandez, Editor in Chief
Martha I. Fernandez, Editor in Chief

It is enraging enough to read and listen to GOP candidate Patrick Buchanan tear diversity and attack immigration. Yet, it is more upsetting when descendants of immigrants choose to forget their roots and bash the newcomers. And what infuriates me the most is how many of these individuals I know.

I am Mexican American. There is no way for me to separate the two identities and categorize myself as only part of one. Nor do I have any reason to do so.

I am the daughter of illegal aliens made legal immigrants. I am the grandchild of Mexican people who instilled the customs and traditions I still live under. I am the cousin of illegal aliens and have heard the stories of their struggles to make it across the border. I am a product of immigration.

I know and love the individuals who go to sleep at night with thoughts of finding their “American Dream.” I have listened to the horrid stories of cramming into the trunks of cars, walking for hours across the hills and crawling through sewage pipes.

Perhaps, it is because I know and understand their plights that I am so adamant against those who wage war on immigration.

The Column One story of Monday’s Los Angeles Times reports about an East Los Angeles neighborhood that is feeling tension due to immigration. The article focuses on Mexican Americans who believe that the influx of immigrants into their area has robbed them of jobs, devalued their properties and changed their neighborhoods.
These second- and third-generation descendants of immigrants complain of “wetbacks” coming to the United States and retaliate with promises of calling the Immigration and Natural Service (INS) at every conflict.

Mike Almaguer, a 74-year-old third-generation Mexican American bases his prejudice not on race, but on class. He claims that the immigrant lifestyles that plague his neighborhood have depressed the value of his home.

It is not ironic that a lifestyle with under-the-counter wages and 16-hour work days may not leave the lawn mowed and the hedges cut. These immigrants are not being negligent, they simply do not have the time.

Mike Contreras, a second-generation American, screams “Turn down that wetback music!” to his neighbors. I doubt he would feel confident to yell these snide remarks to anyone of another race. However, when the receiver of the insult is an immigrant, he has the power to ridicule and shun. He believes his citizenship gives him that right.

Third-generation American Vince Lopez fears his job will be lost due to immigration. “I think they should all leave. Proposition 187 was unfair, but right,” he said in the Times article.

Since when can “unfair” be equated with “right?” I wonder how these men would have felt if these prejudices would have overwhelmed their ancestors when they started their plight across the border.

Their names were changed from Miguel to Mike and Vincente to Vince, and with that the prejudice to mark a limit was ingrained. They forget the turmoil their ancestors dealt with to make it to the land of the free. To them, the American dream can only be reached with their personal passport—an American birth certificate.

Unfortunately, this attitude has spread. According to the Times article, a 1992 poll found that 75 percent of Mexican Americans feel immigration is a problem. Also, nearly a third of California’s Latinos supported Proposition 187.

Unemployment, devaluation of property, crime, whatever the conflict may be, immigration is always at the root. In reality, the root of immigration is survival. Many of those who risk their lives to step foot in the United States are searching for the same thing—hope.

Regardless of where the seal on the birth certificate comes from, success is best reached with hard work. Placing the blame on the next person needs to be recognized for what it is—a scapegoat.

Martha I. Fernandez, Features Editor
Martha I. Fernandez
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