Excerpt from just one of the many letters I received after having included the phrase "the current anti-immigrant atmosphere" in a recent column:
Unfortunately you are mistaken in using the phrase 'anti-immigration atmosphere'. Many American citizens with brown, black, white, or even yellow skin are angry with ILLEGAL immigrants and the damage they have done to our country. If the millions of ILLEGAL immigrants, Hispanic/European/Asian etc, would have entered through the "front door" instead of the "back door", much aforementioned damage to our country would have been avoided. Now we have governments in bankruptcy due to these cheaters, and people are rightfully angry. You need to tone down your inflammatory rhetoric and see the issue realistically.
My standard response has been that while it's easy to say that the anger and hatred currently aimed at Latinos is about "ILLEGAL" immigration, the fact of the matter is that I, my family, friends, and neighbors have all gotten called terrible names, sent hateful emails or been otherwise snubbed not based on citizenship or residency status, but because we "look foreign."
The actual news reflects a growing number of violent acts against Hispanics. In Baltimore for three weekends in a row Hispanic men have been victims of violent crime; one just died from his shotgun injuries, another was beaten to death with a 2 x 2 wooden plank.
Baltimore officials arrested a 19-year-old man Saturday night after he gave a taped confession to police saying he "hated Hispanics."
Let me clarify here: he didn't say he hated illegal immigrants - he said he hated Hispanics.
Not convinced? Here is a teeny-tiny selection of emails - some just subject lines - that find their way into my inbox, none of which make any reference to citizenship status:
· "Immigrants are the scum of the earth. Latinos are the worst of the worst. Execute this scum. Enforce the freaking law. Kill this vermin - DEAD, DEAD, DEAD!"
· "Mexico is a malevolent machine of evil malice. Why won't my country declare war on this evil menace - Mexico. Death to Mexico. Death to Mexicans."
· "You are a spic slut whore"
Hatred is, in fact, boiling over in the U.S. against anyone who does not seem to be from this country - regardless of whether they are U.S. born, or legal permanent residents, or illegal immigrants, or not. (Sadly, it's not limited to those who look Latino, but is starting to boil over onto any brown-skinned individual who looks like they might be - GASP! - Muslim.)
So to all of those out there who dare say that the current anti-immigrant outrage is all just about legal residency status: stop kidding yourself because you aren't kidding anyone else.
The fact is that immigrant and non-immigrant Latinos alike are facing pure, bald-faced hatred, ire, and discrimination that goes well beyond perennial annoyances such as being asked how much you charge for mowing a lawn (if you should happen to garden in front of your nice house) or being asked if you "Habla English" for no apparent reason other than the looks of you.
The real question is: what are we going to do about it?
Esther J. Cepeda writes about hatred, love, and much, much, more on www.600words.com