After the El Paso tragedy, I became as angry and distraught as anyone. We now know the shooter in El Paso was from Dallas, and drove to El Paso specifically to kill Hispanics and immigrants. Unbelievable! Prior to the attack, the killer posted a manifesto on social media where he essentially expressed that the demise of America was eminent because the “invasion” of Mexicans/Hispanics in Texas and the U.S. will result in governmental policies that will favor “their interests” and undermine American values. I am paraphrasing. The actual statement from the killer was surprisingly complex and much more disturbing. I never thought I would see the day that Latinos would be hunted in the street, but that is literally what happened in El Paso last week and it will be a long time before I get over it.
To make matters worse, the day after the massacre, nearly 700 Hispanics in Mississippi were arrested in one of the largest ICE raids in history. The sweep took place at several agricultural processing plants detaining workers who have been accused of working in the U.S. without proper documentation. Families, yet again, are being torn apart and children are being traumatized. I know some people, even some Latinos, will get all sideways on this issue – “what part of illegal don’t you understand” – trust me I’ve heard it all, but I don’t care; these people are not a threat to anyone. They are hard-working contributors with the family values that nearly everyone says defines what is great about America. They came to this country with or without proper documentation because they were desperate, AND because someone in this country was willing to hire them – plain and simple. If you want to punish someone, punish the employers. If the goal is to permanently put an end to illegal immigration, make the penalties for employing undocumented immigrants so stiff nobody would ever consider it. Trust me, that would do it. The raid in Mississippi was cruelty for the sake of cruelty.
My friend Stephanie Valencia tweeted “I’m damn near the brink of tears almost every moment of every day. I want to hug every Latinx + immigrant that I see, especially those working hard, thankless tasks: in restaurants, hotels, drivers… I want to remind them: We won’t let them win. You are not alone. We’ll get through this”. A lot of us feel the exact same way. We feel this way because we are compassionate, but I also feel emboldened because I know the facts and the fact is: the future is still ours.
American culture is not static, it has been evolving for 250 years. And while our Anglo-Saxon forefathers did one heck of a job building the foundation of our beloved country, our brothers and sisters who immigrated from Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America have enriched our lives with their cultures and have immeasurably contributed to the vision and process of forming a more perfect union. How different would our lives be without tacos and R&B music or more importantly, absent the indomitable work ethic of past immigrant populations who have come to America seeking a better life?
Latinos have been in America since before we were a country, and immigration from Latin America accelerated in the second half of the 20th century. America needed workers, and immigrants from south of our border were there to fill those needs. Today, the USA is home to almost 60 million Latinos and make no mistake, demographics are destiny and the script for America’s future has already been written. Latinos are the drivers of growth in our labor force, small business formations, and purchasing power. That should be good news for everyone. Besides the fact our food will be a little bit spicier and our music a little bit cooler, a full 61% of Latinos in America are under the age of 35, and 50,000 turn 18 years old every month. This means when many of us are hitting our retirement years, Latinos will be funding our retirement, health care, and national defense needs for decades. Thank God for that. Most other first world countries have a diminishing labor force and no idea how they are going achieve economic growth in the future. The only reason we don’t have the same problem is because our Latino cohort, and that’s a fact.
Will America’s political policies change as Latinos increase in population and economic clout? Perhaps…but probably not in the ways some people think. Latinos are all about family and faith. They are among the hardest working people in the world. They will never ask or expect something for nothing. When was the last time you saw a Latino panhandler? That’s because they don’t exist. Latinos will peddle oranges or homemade tchotchkes on the side of the road before they will ask for anything for free. So those who think America will become a welfare state if Latinos were more in control couldn’t be more wrong.
In the past decade, Latinos have made tremendous strides in education attainment, income and overall household wealth. We are getting ready to take on greater responsibility as stewards of this great country and we are up to the challenge.
That said, I’ll leave you with this thought. A disappointing truth resulting from the El Paso shooting was although the killer was crystal clear in his intent to kill Hispanics, the media virtually ignored this key fact and instead chose to focus their headlines on Trump and the debate around gun control. Lulu Garcia-Navarro wrote an interesting piece on this in the Atlantic. I’ve said it in this blog before, and I’ll say it again, Latinos need to be tougher in defense of our brand and we need better platforms where facts and the truth about our contributions are more readily disseminated. The future may be ours, but the quality of that future is squarely on us to create. God Bless America!