By Julio C. Calderon
The 2006 elections are fading into history. The pundits are deep into their analysis on what went wrong, or what went right. The biggest losers in this election weren’t even on the ballot; President George W Bush; Rush Limbaugh; and the Latino community. Bush and Limbaugh losses are obvious, more subtle are the Latino community’s losses.
Our community has taken a beating since immigration became a national issue. While anti-illegal immigrant leaders always go out of their way to express the fact that they don’t have anything against legal immigrants or American-born Latinos, they still paint us all with the same brush.
If I am seen at Home Depot wearing my grubby work-at-home clothes, I wonder how many non-Latinos think; “I wonder if he is an illegal.” Therefore, my Americanism is questioned.
This may be understandable; we all look the same and worse, we also look Persian. We can thank the Moors’ occupation of Spain a few hundred years before Cortez came to Mexico.
Lost in all of the negative descriptions of illegals permeating the United States of American, are the thousands who have volunteered to serve this nation in the armed forces. According to statistics, Latinos have volunteered to serve disproportionately to their percentage of the population. They volunteered disproportionately even during times when drafting was in effect.
Thousands of Latino men and women have, and are, serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. Among them are men and women who are considered illegal immigrants only because they were brought here as children by their parents, who did come illegally and are raising families. The prize at the end of their service is citizenship, an opportunity to higher education, or a better career than their parents had.
There is a unifying effect to war. Once they don the uniform, be it U.S. Army; U.S. Marines; Navy or Air Force, once the shooting starts, they are all Americans. That attitude, however, doesn’t extend from the battlefield to the home front. While they are fighting and dying in Iraq, here, there are demands that they all be rounded up and deported, according to the most strident of anti-illegal immigrant proponents.
Still, they go to recruitment offices and march off to war because this is their country. They grew up and were educated in our schools; their families are here, as are the friends they were raised with in American cities and American barrios; in American deserts and farms…for all intents and purposes for these young men and women…the American way of life is the only one they know…and yes…love.
A study by Samuel H. Preston and Emily Buzzell for the Population Studies Center at the University of Pennsylvania titled “Mortality of American Troops in Iraq,” determined that “Hispanics are shown to have a death risk that is 21 percent higher than non-Hispanics…”
According to mortality statistics, since the war started in Iraq on March 21, 2003, 187 Latino Army soldiers have died; 117 Latino U.S. Marines, six sailors and three Air Force Latinos totaling 313 men and women have been killed. They constitute more than 11 percent of our war dead. How much of this has been part of the national debate on immigration? Some were illegal immigrants who died, who gave their life to be called American.
The debate focuses on national security, but none of the people responsible for 9/11 came into the United States via the Sonora Desert in Arizona. They came thru Canada or with our government’s blessings on student visas so they could enroll in flight schools to learn to fly the big birds, so why sweat a desert crossing? The stain on illegal immigrants comes from people smugglers and drug traffickers that feed the American thirst for illegal drugs.
The Democrats claim to be more compassionate toward immigrants, but they are just as guilty because of their silence during the storm of negativism toward immigrants during the election. I must also add Latino political leaders for their silence too. Latino political leaders of today are not the rabble rousers of the ‘60s and ‘70s, and because they are not, they are successful.
One can’t really blame them for that. I do so because they haven’t even raised our community’s contributions to our nation’s wars. The 313 that have died or a portion of those who came home blind, and without a limb or two, only because they do love their country, and that country isn’t Mexico, Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras…it is the United State of America.
Julio C. Calderon is freelance writer in Sacramento, CA. He is a past State/National President of the Mexican American Political Association and television news reporter. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.