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Latinos and Immigration Law

In this week’s reading in the Color of Wealth, one of the chapters focused on disparities and discriminations towards Latinos. Immigration law and policy is one of the main challenges that this community faces, and one that hits very close to home for me. In just the past 6 months the United States Government has deported/denied citizenship to two friends of mine, one of whom is very close to me.

The first was deported based on a false criminal claim. A woman accused him of striking her, and he was promptly arrested, thrown in jail, within days transferred to Arizona to ‘deportation camps’ (wonder about the conditions there?), and within a week back across the border and to Honduras. The woman’s claims were entirely false, and the evidence available makes this terribly clear. But he never received any kind of attempt at due process. The only way he had access to a Spanish-speaking lawyer was through a network of friends that pooled money to cover the costs, which he couldn’t afford. It did very little. Best part? He was here legally. Now his son is here and he will likely never be able to return; on his record it indicates he was deported on a criminal charge. Just because someone pointed a finger and told a lie.

The second was the first’s father. He has lived in the United States for 12 years. He has been paying taxes for 12 years. He is learning English. He was under the impression he was a legal citizen. Earlier this year he found out his father in Honduras is dying of cancer. He went to make arrangements to make a visit, and ensure his ability to return across the border. At a meeting with lawyers he was informed that, in fact, his papers had been temporary, and so they had not been renewed properly. Furthermore, they were not going to allow him to renew them now. He had totally misunderstood his legal status in this country, why? Because no one provided him with Spanish translations for the legal proceedings. Worse, no one had informed him when they had expired and offered a renewal process, instead they simply kept accepting his tax payments, knowing full well that if he were ever in trouble he would not receive the benefits and rights of citizenship he was providing to others with his tax money. The lawyers told him that if he were leaving, they would not tell the authorities (since they would deport him), instead letting him leave in his own time. A meager kindness in the scheme of things. He will leave this month to see his father, and will not be allowed to re-enter the states for 10 years. He has built his home here: his girlfriend is here, his career is here, his friends are here, and we will miss him terribly.

These are glaring examples of both the ethnic profiling that has increased since 9/11 and the discriminatory policies brought up in the Color of Wealth. These situations exhibit how these Latinos are being attacked from many angles: profiled as criminals and wrong-doers, families torn apart, wealth and career bases they have worked hard to achieve yanked out from under them, the ‘American Dream’ of opportunity closed off to them (regardless that much of the geography on which we ourselves pursue this dream was originally violently taken from minorities including Latinos), and being downright backhandedly mislead. The second man I discussed reminds me strongly of the Asian man (I believe he was Chinese? I may be remembering wrong) in “Race: The Power of Illusion? who, in petitioning to the courts for citizenship, claimed to be a better American citizen than some traitors who are allowed to call this country their own. History and our current legal system don’t just make things (such as wealth and stability) difficult for Latino immigrants to reach, they seem, to me, to put them entirely out of reach. How preposterous would it be considered if one American citizen pointed at another and accused him of wrongdoing, and the accused was immediately taken away without the slightest chance to defend himself/herself? This type of fear doctrine and domination is unacceptable, and violates basic rights of HUMANITY, not of citizenship. These people must live with accusations and the possibility of immediate and total destabilization hanging over their heads everyday, an inhibiting fear that many of us will probably never understand.

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