By Pablo Jaime Sainz
The crowd was surrounded by students holding signs with statements such as “No one is illegal,” “Racism is terrorism,” “The Sun equals Ignorance,” “We are not leaches,” and “Ya basta!”
And not even the rain stopped the 350 or so crowd that gathered at Southwestern College Free Speech Area on Thursday, February 10, for the open forum organized by several student groups who were protesting what student activists are calling “racism against Mexican immigrants.”
The controversy was sparked by an article published in campus newspaper The Sun titled “Illegal immigrants are taxing on American Citizens” on December 8, 2004.
In that article, writer Nathaniel J. Pownell gives a series of statements against illegal immigration and against Mexican immigrants in particular, blaming them for the economic problems of the United States.
Pownell also accuses Mexican immigrants of “breaking the law and consuming the wealth and resources of the states they occupy.”
The author goes on to list several dollar amounts to illustrate the costs Mexican immigrants bring to taxpayers, even though Pownell doesn’t specify where he got this information.
“They further drain our economies by taking jobs from American citizens, which increases the unemployment and poverty rate,” Pownell states.
But what has caused the most controversy is a line that reads: “It is time to burn the leaches off our society and crack down on the people who flagrantly take advantage of America’s wealth and prosperity.”
Pownell goes on to say that “(w)e cannot wait any longer. The time is now, and it is time for politicians to stop pandering to the Hispanic vote and start protecting the welfare and well being of their citizens.”
The Sun staff has defended its decision to publish the article based on freedom of speech, which it’s protected by the First Amendment.
But at the public forum, Lilia Huato, member of Students for Community Action, one of the groups organizing the protest, said the article advocates in favor of racism and violence against Mexican immigrants and Mexicans in general.
“I’m offended our school newspaper would publish something like this,” she said.
Huato said that using the First Amendment as protection for that type of writing was not a valid reason for The Sun to publish the article.
“The First Amendment has had a history of misuse. It has a history of using that amendment to allow notices of public lynching in newspapers, to allow Ku Kux Klan rallies in the South, and to allow signs at restaurants that said ‘No Mexicans and dogs allowed.”
Robin McCubbin, SWC faculty member and faculty advisor for Students for Community Action (SFCA), congratulated students who stood up for human rights.
“You’re defending the tradition of standing up against oppression and discrimination,” he said.
McCubbing was not so nice on The Sun and the SWC administration.
“Shame on The Sun! Shame on the school administration for not taking immediate action to protect our community!,” he said.
In a letter to the SWC faculty, McCubbin asks, “Does the First Amendment protect hate speech? Does it protect calls to do violence? I think it begs the question to assert that racist propaganda is legal. Even if that assertion were correct, does that make it ok? Does that make it ok to cooperate in its dissemination? Does the newspaper of an educational institution have the responsibility to air racist views? To ask such an absurd question is to answer it.”
MEChA, Students for Community Action and other campus organizations are demanding a printed apology from The Sun.
The Sun staff has said it will not apologize for publishing the article.
Max Branscomb, professor of journalism and faculty advisor of The Sun, said that the article doesn’t represent the opinion of the rest of the newspaper staff.
“(The Sun) represents a diversity of opinions,” Branscomb said. “We can’t apologize for the First Amendment. Even though I didn’t like the content of the article, the Opinion page is an open forum where different points of view are presented.”