Recently after discussing the growing Muslim community in the UK I asked the guy who I was having the discussion with what he thought about the growing Hispanic community in Las Vegas.
“I’m fine with it, as long as they are here legally,” he said.
Needless to say I was shocked. I never asked him about being documented or undocumented but it was clear to me that when he thought about Hispanics he thought about undocumented immigrants.
Now this guy is by all means a good person, he is a “white guy”, has been here in Las Vegas for a long time ,and I’ve never felt that he is one to stereotype. In fact, I’m sure he didn’t realize that in fact he was stereotyping. If he had, he probably would never have made that comment, especially to me of all people.
However, the truth is that the media coverage and conservative rhetoric that have gone on so long about immigration have created a strong stereotype about Hispanics that many probably don’t even realize they believe.
While undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. are from all nationalities from Africa, Philippines, Canada and even Europe, when people think of the topic of immigration they think of Latin Americans. As a Hispanic, I feel I have to fight these stereotypes. I also have to educate people about how undocumented immigrants are usually hard working people with intentions to provide the best opportunities for their families. I have to let people know that many undocumented immigrants came here legally, not by swimming across the Rio Grande. Undocumented immigrants pay taxes, they work, and they help local economies. I’m not undocumented, luckily, but I guess I could have been. I’d like to think that my mom’s love for me is so strong that she would have brought me to the U.S. with papers or no papers just to give me a better life. I am a U.S. citizen and I am fortunate, but I am not removed from this issue. I know that when people see me they see my darker skin, my dark hair, brown eyes and all the tell tale signs of a Hispanic and in some unfortunate stereotyping cases the “tell tale signs” of an undocumented woman. As a Hispanic this is my issue. As Americans who consume media images, who vote, and who live in a fast changing country – this is all of our issue.
This Saturday,the League of United Latin American Citizens along with several partners, NAHJ, Latino Leadership Council, UNLV and the Latin Chamber of Commerce will host a town hall on immigration reform at 10 a.m. at the UNLV Greenspun Auditorium.
The panel will consist of key national experts on immigration who will discuss every aspect of this issue from securing the border, addressing the Dreamers and gaining a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. This issue is being debated in Congress right now and in the next few months we may have one of the biggest immigration reforms in our country’s history. I encourage everyone to go to this Town Hall and get educated on these issues and ask questions, express your concerns and get a real grasp on the immigration topic. Whether you favor or oppose an immigration reform this issue is your issue.