Fighting Hate through Humor: NCLR Affiliate Latin American Coalition

Bananas While the Latin America Coalition, an NCLR Affiliate in Charlotte, North Carolina, is no stranger to threats and extreme xenophobic opposition, its response to a nativist Neo-Nazi/KKK rally creatively fought hate with humor.

Supporters of the Latin American Coalition and other pro-immigration organizations dressed as clowns, wore giant banana suits, and honked horns at the racist rally, easily outnumbering the KKK protesters by five to one.

Their message?  Racism is ridiculous.

For a little pick-me-up, check out this wonderful blog post by the Coalition’s Executive Director, Jess George, on how her organization deals with hate mail and the negativity they receive on a daily basis.  Sometimes you’ve just got to “Laugh to Keep from Crying.”

Laugh to Keep From Crying

By Jess George, Executive Director, Latin American Coalition (Charlotte, North Carolina)

Last Friday was an exciting day. We got two hate mail letters. Continue reading

We Need Immigration Reform to Keep Families Together

Janet MurguiaBy Janet Murguía, President and CEO, NCLR

(This post is part of the Moms Rising blog carnival, “Protecting Family Unity, Strengthening Communities and Ensuring a Thriving Economy with the Contributions of Immigrants.” Be sure to visit the site and read the contributions of more than 30 Congressional, non-profit leaders, and advocates from around the country.)

Every morning in this country, mothers and fathers focus on getting their children ready for school and then get to work themselves. But imagine having to do all this knowing that at any moment your family could be separated thanks to outdated immigration policies. This is the reality for nearly one in ten American families, in which at least one parent is a non-citizen and one child is a citizen.

One example of this kind of family is Liz and Jose. Liz, a U.S. citizen, is married to Jose, an undocumented immigrant, and they have three children who are also U.S. citizens. In addition to providing for the family and sharing household responsibilities, Jose has been supportive of Liz as she advances in her career and pursues new opportunities as a medical support specialist. Liz and Jose have established deep roots in their community. They bought a home and they attend their local church every Sunday, going out for tacos after.

However, shortly following a camping trip, Jose was detained by the police and turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE initiated removal proceedings and Liz was told to purchase a one-way plane ticket for Jose to return to Mexico, a country he had not seen in years. Liz contacted an attorney and a local advocate to help keep her family together. She wrote, “I want the love of my life back home with his family, our children, and me so we can continue to live the life and the future that we had planned for our kids. My babies Zarrianna, Osvaldo, and Esteven want daddy back home.”

There are millions of children and spouses who have been separated from their loved ones in this way. They are now enduring tremendous pain and struggling to survive without their support. We hear their stories all too frequently. Families should be able to thrive together and provide the best that they can for their children. Instead of a process that tears families apart, our country deserves a common-sense immigration policy, one that includes a roadmap for people who are working hard and desperately want to be full members of our great country. We need Congress to pass immigration reform that reflects our strong American values of family, hard work, and opportunity.

CHC Lays Out Guiding Principles on Immigration We Should All Live By

By Janet Murguía, President and CEO, NCLR

This week, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) held a press conference to announce a set of principles to guide the upcoming push for comprehensive immigration reform.  The principles are thoughtful, fair, humane and pragmatic.  They also reflect the unity of the Latino community—regardless of subgroup, geography, or party affiliation—on the issues surrounding immigration.

Our community wants to see permanent relief for DREAMers, a path to legality and citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented workers, and the preservation of family unity at the core of our immigration policy.  We realize that these measures, together with smart and humane enforcement, are integral to restoring law and order to our country’s immigration system.  Without such steps, our country cannot successfully attract and integrate hardworking immigrants from all over the world to maintain an innovative and competitive economy.

While it is true that immigration is not the top issue that our community faces, it is also true that the positions candidates have on immigration were the key motivating factor in getting a record numbers of Hispanics to vote on Election Day.  Thus, we believe it would be a very wise move for everyone who is interested in moving forward on this issue with the Latino community to give as much attention as possible to what the CHC is saying.  We must swiftly work together to deliver the solutions our country has been waiting for.

Congressional Hispanic Caucus, “ONE NATION: Principles on Immigration Reform and Our Commitment to the American Dream”

Is it Time for the Media to Stop Using “Illegal?”

By Ricky Garza, Communications Department, NCLR

In the ongoing debate over immigration reform, the topic seems to finally have shifted to the people affected themselves—the over 12 million undocumented people living in the U.S. without papers, their children, and their family and friends.

When I first arrived at Georgetown University four years ago, I was struck by the nonchalant way some of my new peers in Washington referred to the “illegals” crossing the border and to our “immigration problem.”  It was jarring given where I had come from:  the majority Hispanic Rio Grande Valley in Texas.  For most of my life, a variety of immigration statuses among neighbors and friends was an accepted fact of life, and an unfortunate side-effect of a patchwork immigration policy applied in one of the most heavily Hispanic regions of the United States.

Some people were citizens, others legal residents, and others went without papers or even driver’s licenses, although those facts were hardly advertised.  To ask or assume whether someone was in the country legally—and skin color definitely isn’t a factor in McAllen, Texas which is 85% Latino—was impolite at best and downright discriminatory at worst.

Our identities were not defined by a “legal” or “illegal” status worn on our sleeves.  My friends in high school worried about grades, joined clubs, and applied to colleges for the most part not concerned about who was or wasn’t undocumented, or if that friend who spoke Spanish more than English was really “American enough.”  My whole life was lived not imagining this could be the most important aspect about someone.  But traveling outside of my hometown and listening to the national news, I found a very different story—widespread talk of “illegal immigrants” overrunning our country and taking our jobs.  In that climate, one might never have guessed that the daily life I experienced in McAllen could be possible.

News outlets like the New York Times and the Associated Press often use the term “illegal immigrant” as a concise way of signifying a person who entered the country without permission.  But how can a person be illegal?  Adding the “illegal” adjective to a noun representing a person makes the person himself, rather than any act he committed, illegitimate.

Those who support using “illegal” often say, “They committed a crime, so they are illegal,” but this is a highly dubious and inaccurate assertion.  Entering the United States without authorization is a civil offense, not a criminal one.  Does committing another civil offense like getting a speeding ticket once, perhaps even decades ago, make you an “illegal driver” for life?  No—but our continued use of this term to characterize those who committed the civil offense of entering the country without documentation betrays a deep prejudice and skepticism about the legitimacy of America’s largest minority group.

The use of the term “illegal” is more than an issue of semantics; it is about offense and dehumanization.  Describing undocumented Americans this way shifts the focus to the circumstances of their national entry and rejects the totality of their varied identities and personhood.  Parents, students, and college graduates are suddenly reduced to an act that they may not even remember committing.

Ending the use of these words in the media won’t by itself create immigration reform or quickly improve the lives of those affected, but it can provide for a much-needed change in the conversation where empathy for the real people concerned is felt by Georgetown students and Texas border residents alike.  Acknowledging this and the offense the phrase “illegal immigrant” creates in the Hispanic community, the San Antonio Express-News, Huffington Post, ABC, and NBC have all agreed to end their use of the term.

For the sake of accuracy and respect for the 50 million Hispanic Americans in the United States today, it’s time for the rest of the media to follow suit.

Ricky Garza is an intern with the NCLR Communications Department.  He is currently a senior at Georgetown University majoring in International Relations.

More Jobs, New Laws, and a Debate: This Week in Social Media

  1. This week in social media saw lots of legal and policy activity as Governor Brown of the nation’s largest state weighed in on several important immigration laws. He vetoed the TRUST Act we urged him to sign, but signed a bill authorizing Deferred-Action immigrant youth to apply for driver’s licenses.
  2. He also signed another bill giving private sector workers access to a retirement savings plan, which will assist thousands of Latino California families
  3. NCLR worked to provide banking and financial services to un-banked Latino Americans who would naturalize, if only they could afford the fees
  4. NCLR
    Too many Latinos can’t naturalize simply because they can’t afford the fees! We’re working to change that. #LATISM http://bit.ly/O0xIlh
    Mon, Oct 01 2012 09:31:41
  5. A study was released again confirming the economic impact of Latinos: If given legal status, undocumented people would add $329 Billion to the US economy!
  6. One of the nation’s strictest proposed Voter ID laws requiring photo-ID in Pennsylvania was struck down, allowing attempts at voter suppression to be defeated!
  7. On Wednesday, we held our 3rd annual Workforce Development Forum in LA, convening local government, business, and policy leaders to learn strategies to engage the Latino workforce
  8. NCLR
    RT @calgobears: Amazing speaker lineup @poderforum
    @NCLR http://pic.twitter.com/foK54PkS
    Wed, Oct 03 2012 09:59:26
  9. Latino support for Obama hit a high on Wednesday…
  10. NCLR
    Latino support for Obama hits 70% nationally, but swing state polls show a closer race. Your vote makes a difference! http://ow.ly/ebVlD
    Wed, Oct 03 2012 10:01:02
  11. And Mitt Romney signals a slight shift in immigration policy. His staff clarified that he wouldn’t revoke Deferred Action for those already granted provisions, and would make comprehensive immigration reform a priority for his administration.
  12. NCLR
    On eve of 1st debate, Romney says he wouldn’t revoke #DeferredAction for DREAMers. We expect details at debate tonight http://lat.ms/Rzb03A
    Wed, Oct 03 2012 09:00:14
  13. We livetweeted the first debate with @OurTiempo, and neither candidates had anything to say about immigration…
  14. NCLR
    Debate was cautious, a good start but we expect more. Not a word on immigration or foreclosure and education was an afterthought #BeLatino
    Wed, Oct 03 2012 19:31:53
  15. The NFL rolled out its set of Hispanic Heritage Month features, which would honor Latino contributions to the sport with special events hosted by all NFL teams
  16. For the first time, the Obama Administration announced the creation of a National Monument to honor Mexican-Ameriacn civil rights leader Cesar Chavez. A great step forward!
  17. Homophobia has no place in the Latino community and we supported efforts for tolerance!
  18. NCLR
    We’re working hard to curb homophobia in the #Latino community. That’s why we support @Familiaefamilia. http://ow.ly/edRuL #LGBT
    Thu, Oct 04 2012 09:14:51
  19. As the national September jobs report was released showing unemployment finally dropping below 8%, we released our own Monthly Latino Employment Report.  We highlighted the good news (unemployment finally under 10%) and the bad: workplace fatalities are on the rise.
  20. NCLR
    Nat’l rate down, but Latino #unemployment is higher. Hispanics workplace fatalities also on rise. Read our jobs report http://bit.ly/VqHtMF
    Fri, Oct 05 2012 12:45:59
  21. NCLR
    Majority of Americans now believe #immigration reform should offer “path to legalization” for undocumented people http://huff.to/SEJUoO
    Fri, Oct 05 2012 13:21:58
  22. A majority of Americans now favor a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants, and Hispanics are affecting national politics like never before.  This is the last week to register to vote in most states!
  23. NCLR
    Only a few days left to #Mobilize2Vote! This election will shape your future: take 2 mins and register today! http://bit.ly/MMIQkN
    Fri, Oct 05 2012 10:20:32