Written by Martha Barry, PhD, Racial Justice Director, YWCA Southeast Wisconsin
Given the current national emphasis, much of our focus is on Hispanics/Latinos immigration. Our attention lingers on the horrors of detention centers at our US – Mexico border. Seeing young people ripped from their parents and held in inhumane conditions is heartbreaking. Immigration is a topic fraught with layers of emotion, and can be informed by limited information or information skewed by various news sources.
How do we think about immigration when President John F. Kennedy deemed us a “nation of immigrants.” The phrase, while within the frame of that time, was driven by a European-centered perspective focused on white people being deemed desirable or wanted.
In evaluating the reaction of people toward Mexicans and others from Central American countries including Honduras, El Salvador, et al, it’s difficult to swallow that our government’s involvement in the governments of those countries have (in some ways) contributed to current conditions people are fleeing. Add to that, the fact that a large portion of the southwest had been a part of Mexico has become forgotten history.
The untold story of Mexican migration is revealed in labor shortages during World War I & II. The guest worker programs fulfilled our needs then and today. Last month, ICE agents rounded up hundreds of undocumented people for deportation in Mississippi Many advocates questioned why the employers were not held accountable for hiring them. It’s hard to believe a few hundred people had fake documents.
As we celebrate National Hispanic Heritage month, how do we think about a group of people as diverse as the many lands from which they came? There are National Park Service celebrations, the National Register of Historic Places, the Smithsonian Latino Center; conferences hosted by the National Hispanic Caucus Institute and the Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities; and organizations dedicated to the life and work of Hispanic peoples, such as the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and UnidosUS.
I encourage reviewing these resources but also digging deeper to understand demographic trends. The Pew Research Center has a Hispanic Trends link that provides information and insights. Another resource is the Population Reference Bureau.
Reach out and connect with Latinos working in your organization and living in your neighborhood to learn more about their stories. To listen to a variety of histories, visit Story Corps Historias.
As you further educate yourself, consider joining us on Tuesday, December 3rd for our 15th Annual an Evening to Promote Racial Justice, where Maria Hinojosa will speak on Immigration and the Impact on Women and Families of Color. Tickets are available on our website.