By LAURA GONZÁLEZ and DAVID ROSAS
Laura González is president of the Sonoma County Latino Democratic Club. David Rosas is a Roseland community advocate.
The advocates of racial hatred continue to beat their drums of fear and mistrust.
Here in Sonoma County, we witnessed this when a candidate for county supervisor decided to support “sanctuary” for undocumented immigrants. In response, a campaign mailer from the Sonoma County Alliance Political Action Committee suggested that Sonoma County would be turned into a haven for murderous immigrants who would prey upon local residents.
As Latinos involved in our community, we want to set the record straight: “o más derecho.”
As community leaders, we refuse to remain silent while our people are stigmatized and dehumanized. “Illegal immigrants” has become code for Latinos in California, and our nation. That many Latinos feel the same as we do is witnessed in our voting patterns.
Recent polls by the Pew Hispanic Center and a Democracia USA survey found that three out of four Latinos have a bad impression of the GOP, mostly because of its hard stand against immigration policy and its support of Proposition 187. As proof of this, the recent election saw Democratic victories here in California, in part because of Latino voters.
Yet the anti-immigration rhetoric continues. The result? As a recent New York Times article recognized, “The nation’s largest minority (approximately 47 million) feels beleaguered by backlash from the polarized debate over immigration in the past year … ”
Our county’s recent anti-“sanctuary” campaign mailer reminds us that these problems are indeed close to home.
We do not find solace in the fact that this mailer limited its attack to those who are “illegal.” We see this mailer for what it is: a hostile caricature, full of empty rhetoric. Most Latinos believe that the differentiation between “legal” and “illegal” simply serves to mask prejudice against Latinos and is a cover to fan the flames of ethnic intolerance. Otherwise, why would more than six in 10 of us say discrimination is a “major problem”?
Those who advocate for immigrant (documented or not) rights do not “protect criminals.” They speak on behalf of an overwhelmingly hard working, family-oriented, religious and under-represented people who are seeking a better life.
That some immigrants put their lives in danger to enter the country without permission is a testimony to their desire for a viable future for themselves and their children, not proof that they are “mere criminals.” Most Latinos understand this and abhor the vitriol aimed at these members of our ethnic group.
The Press Democrat has acknowledged that, “As America grows more Latino; the perils of immigrant-bashing will begin to outweigh its rewards.”
That day is coming. Every year for the next 20 years, half a million Latino youths will reach voting age. These young people will remember being called “illegal” or “anchor babies” (regardless of their or their parents’ actual immigration status) because they are of Latino heritage.
Yes, within a few short years, thankfully, mailers demonizing Latinos will be a death knell for the candidate they represent. State representatives who liken undocumented immigrants to rats, as recently happened in Tennessee, will find themselves voted out of office.
As a nation of immigrants and the ancestors of immigrants, both documented and undocumented, none of us should stand by quietly while self-serving groups, candidates or political parties pound their hateful drums. The time has come to condemn race baiting campaign tactics and to support comprehensive national immigration reform that provides a pathway to citizenship.
This was also signed by 20 other Latino leaders in Sonoma County, including: