Guest essay by Álvaro Huerta
I'm the son of Mexican immigrants, but I ain't no anchor baby.
My late father first migrated to the United States during the 1950s via the Bracero Program, in which more than 4.6 million rural Mexicans performed desperately needed agricultural work in this country. He worked long hours, six days a week, for little pay and under terrible conditions. Later, as a legal permanent resident, he performed factory work for decades at sub-minimum wage.
Meanwhile, my late mother originally came to this country during the 1960s, securing employment as a house cleaner for mostly white, middle-class families. Lacking formal education, like my father, she worked as a domestic worker for more than 40 years. This did not stop her, however, as a naturalized U.S. citizen, from seeking more clients in her twilight years.
Currently, U.S. politicians like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., are making a big fuss about the U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants. They're calling for a change in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which stipulates that all persons born in the United States are citizens. According to Graham, undocumented immigrants come to this country simply to "drop a child," or what he pejoratively refers to "Drop and Leave."
While Republicans endlessly talk about "family values" and the sanctity of the unborn child, when it comes to Latino immigrants, they defame the family unit and attack brown children. They are consciously instilling fear in the American public by scapegoating Latinos (both documented and undocumented) in this country. Let's not forget that the controversial Arizona law, now held up in court, required police to stop anyone they suspected was here illegally - and that could mean all brown-skinned people.
Responding to the anti-immigrant agenda, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., properly questioned how any person of Latino heritage could be a Republican. Reid should be applauded for calling out Latino Republicans for belonging to a political party that is hostile to them.
Instead of dealing with appalling unemployment figures, high home-foreclosure rates and lack of credit for small businesses, Republicans are targeting the most vulnerable population in this country: undocumented immigrants. By doing so, they are no different than schoolyard bullies. Didn't they learn basic manners, such as treating others with respect and dignity? I certainly learned those lessons from my parents.
My parents taught my siblings and me to be good and generous to others. They also encouraged us to pursue higher education so that we don't experience the same hardships they faced both in Mexico and this country.
My late parents came to this country to seek work and a better life for themselves and their family. They sacrificed themselves - toiling in backbreaking, low-wage, dead-end jobs - so their children could pursue better opportunities not available in their homeland.
Instead of praising them for their sacrifice and hard work, Republicans continue to bash and tarnish the memory of my parents and the millions of others like them in this country.
This is shameful.
[Álvaro Huerta is a visiting scholar at UCLA's Chicano Studies Research Center. He wrote this for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues; it is affiliated with The Progressive magazine.]