Some Latinos go own way on illegal immigration

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sun Jun 18 12:48:11 UTC 2006

>>From the Chicago Tribune, Published June 17, 2006

Some Latinos go own way on illegal immigration

By Ana Beatriz Cholo
Tribune staff reporter

As National Guard troops patrol the U.S.-Mexico border to try to stop
people from entering this country illegally, a minority of Latinos want to
make a point: Don't assume Hispanics share the same opinion on illegal
immigration. These Latinos say undocumented immigrants should not be
eligible for government services and are hurting the economy by driving
down wages. Tensions have simmered over the years between those who came
here legally and those who didn't, and between U.S.-born Latinos who date
back generations and the undocumented newcomers. A survey last year by the
Pew Hispanic Center underscores the divergence of opinions among Latinos.

While proud of their heritage, some Latinos say they are just as proud of
the American flag and denounce the idea of singing "The Star-Spangled
Banner" in Spanish, as was done during the height of this spring's
protests in support of amnesty for undocumented immigrants. When hundreds
of thousands were televised marching in the streets, Rene Hernandez Jr. of
north suburban Round Lake realized he did not want those Latinos to speak
for him and wrote about it in his blog, titled Mexican Republican.
Hernandez, a salesman who was born in Mexico and came to the U.S. legally
as a child, said he feels immense pride in his Mexican roots but is
against giving amnesty to illegal immigrants. "There is a process to
getting a better life," said Hernandez, who became an American citizen in
2002. "I wish people respected that."

The Pew survey found at least a third of Latinos born in the United States
believe undocumented immigrants drive down wages. The strongest sentiments
against illegal immigration were among middle-class, middle-aged,
U.S.-born Latinos. Roberto Suro, director of the Pew Hispanic Center and
author of the study, said some Americans assume all Hispanics think alike
on immigration issues. "This is a population that has a large diversity of
experiences. The temptation is to sort of lump everyone together," he
said. Some Chicago-area Latinos who oppose amnesty said they weren't sure
if their forefathers came here legally. But they said that has nothing to
do with their views on immigration.

Lidia Rodriguez Downs, the executive director of the Family Taxpayers
Network, speaks fluent Spanish and listens to Spanish-language CDs in her
car. But she thinks it would be wrong to give undocumented immigrants
amnesty. "There are people who in good faith have been going through the
process,"  said Downs, 56, of East Dundee. "To put these people in front
of the line would be very unfair." The issue has created a rift in her
family. One sister, Ofelia Rodriguez, of Chicago, whole-heartedly agrees
with Downs. But sister Martha Ibarra, also of Chicago, disagrees
vehemently, accusing her sisters of forgetting their culture and their
deceased parents.

Downs resents being labeled anti-Hispanic or elitist. "I just want to
preserve our wonderful country," she says. There is a long history of
established Mexican-Americans (as well as immigrants from other
backgrounds) espousing anti-immigration policies, says Rodolfo de la
Garza, the research director for the non-profit Tomas Rivera Policy
Institute and a professor of political science at Columbia University. At
one time, the League of United Latin American Citizens or LULAC, a
longtime Latino civil rights group, required that all members be citizens,
de la Garza said. But even he was taken aback to learn a Latina--Rosana
Pulido--was in charge of the Illinois Minuteman Project, a controversial
national anti-immigration group. He compared it to an African-American
leading the Ku Klux Klan.

"To be a Mexican Minuteman, to be that extreme, is really hard to fathom,"
de la Garza said. But Pulido, 50, of Chicago doesn't see a contradiction
in her work with the Minutemen. "I've said the Pledge of Allegiance one
time too many ... and now I believe it with my whole heart," she said,
wearing her tall trademark Uncle Sam hat. "My allegiance is to this land,
not to being Mexican, not to being Latina." Pulido, whose grandparents
came from Mexico, grew up with a patriotic father who discouraged speaking
Spanish at home. And when someone said, "Viva Mexico," he would tell them,
"Go back." "If you love it so much, why aren't you there?" he would say,
according to Pulido, who is not sure whether her grandparents came to the
U.S. legally. At rallies and marches, Pulido stands out in a sea of mostly

The group recently held a rally in Batavia where supporters were asked to
bring brooms and toilet brushes to signify there are Americans who want
the menial jobs that some say only immigrants are willing to do. Pulido is
unusually bold about her beliefs, unlike many other Latinos who share her
views on immigration. A prominent restaurant owner spoke of his fear if
people knew his true feelings. He was already threatened with being
boycotted by Latinos because he remained open on May Day, the day of the
largest national immigration march. Such a position on immigration can
cause other Latinos to view those like him with suspicion. Elva Luna of
Elgin displays two American flags in front of her house. The 37-year-old
bus driver gets annoyed when she sees people flying Mexican flags in her
neighborhood and when automated telephone answering services offer an
option for Spanish speakers.

But when she showed up at the Minuteman rally in Batavia, she said she
felt some discomfort at being one of very few Latinos on the "Anglo" side.
She wondered if others thought of her as a "spy" and added that she got
some quizzical looks. She considered, half-jokingly, buying a blonde wig
for herself. Luna and other like-minded Latinos say their views on
immigration are rooted in a respect for the law. De la Garza said many
internalize the American system to the point that they vehemently oppose
violations and become "super patriots." The owner of a small cleaning
business in Downstate Murphysboro, Gloria Campos makes sure to hire only
legal workers.

Campos came to the U.S. legally from Nicaragua after many years and much
paperwork. She resents those who are streaming in without waiting, as she
and her husband did to enter the country as political refugees. "I was
welcome over here, but at the same time, I think I was welcome because I
did the things the way that they had to be done," she said.


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