Shakira Thinks Arizona Law Violates Latino’s Civil Rights and Remembering Operation Wetback

In the past week, the world, in a unified voice, has sent a clear message to the state of Arizona – the new immigration law is unacceptable.  As a Latino who grew up along the Texas border, I am fully aware of the problems with kidnapping, illegal drug smuggling, and murder from the Mexican side.  El Paso raised an electric fence to prevent illegal passage, and in so doing blocked the crime wave that has crippled much of its neighboring city, Ciudad Juarez.  Mexican politics is tormented because of corruption.  Largely because politicians are bought off by the drug cartels and mafias.

But none of these facts excuse a racist law.  History books are designed to remind us of past actions.  Arizona law makers need to review Mexican American history.  Do they remember the Bracero program or what happened in Operation Wetback?  I will come back to this in a second.

On Thursday, Shakira paid a visit to Phoenix to question the new immigration law by meeting with the city’s police chief and mayor over concerns about whether it will lead to racial profiling.

“I heard about it on the news and I thought, ‘Wow,'” Shakira told The Associated Press after meeting with city officials. “It is unjust and it’s inhuman, and it violates the civil and human rights of the Latino community … It goes against all human dignity, against the principles of most Americans I know.”

“I’m not an expert on the Constitution but I know the Constitution exists for a reason,” Shakira told reporters after meeting with city officials. “It exists to protect human beings, to protect the rights of people living in a nation with or without documents. We’re talking about human beings here.” (Source: Comcast News)

Shakira, along with every American in the country, has reason for concern about the new law.  Let’s face it, America has a poor track record of how it has treated ethnic minorities.  Native Americans, Asians, Middle Easterners, Africans, take your pick; every ethnic group has been treated poorly by Uncle Sam.

Shortly after the US was forced to enter World War II because of Pearl Harbor, the country experienced a labor shortage.  Where did the US look for labor? Mexicans.  Between the period of 1942 and 1964, millions of Mexicans were imported into the U.S. as braceros under the Bracero Program to work temporarily on contract to United States growers and ranchers.

As a result of so many “illegal aliens” sticking around in the US, the US became nervous over the growing numbers.  (Sound familiar?)  As a result, the country created Operation Wetback.  The program was designed to send back illegal immigrants only.  It failed.

“Illegal immigrants were deported along with their American-born children, who were by law U.S. citizens. The agents used a wide brush in their criteria for interrogating potential aliens. They adopted the practice of stopping “Mexican-looking” citizens on the street and asking for identification.” (Source: PBS)

Arizona law makers are fooling themselves by thinking that police officers, a group that already racial profiles, will act responsibly.  They have forgotten history or read the wrong books.

Now, US citizens are gathering and calling for a boycott, and they should.  After all, not all Mexicans have brown skin.  I have white skin.  My mother had blonde hair in her youth, now it is a little greyer.  Yet, our heritage is firmly Mexican.  Skin and image are a poor way to classify us.  Just look at the Census questionnaire under race.  There is no “Latino” option to check for “Race,” but that is my race.  Does that mean an AZ police officer will use my off-white skin color to classify me as a potential illegal alien?

Mexico comes from the word mesclado, which means mixed.  The United States is a nation of immigrants – a mixed people – which means we are all Mexican.

Update 5.2.10: Shakira posted her own commentary regarding her visit to Arizona on the Huffington Post.

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