Latin American Discrimination



Table of Contents

Latin American Discrimination

History of Latinx Discrimination

Latinx US Territories

Latin American Discrimination

  • Estimated 54 million Hispanic and Latinx live in US
    • Hispanic: From a country speaking Spanish
    • Chicano/Chicana: of Mexican origin, Mexican American
    • Latino/Latina: From Latin American
      • includes Brazil, excludes Spain
    • Latinx: gender-neutral term in lieu of Latino or Latina
  • 8% of the total U.S. population
    • largest ethnic minority
    • 7% African Americans
  • 2016 Pew Study
    • 52% of Latinos have experienced racial discrimination

NPR Study: 1 In 3 Latinos Report Discrimination Based On Ethnicity

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NY Times Op-Docs: A Conversation With Latinos on Race

Vox: I’m Latino. I’m Hispanic. And they’re different, so I drew a comic to explain.

terry blas comics latino
terry blas comics latino
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  • Latinx, gender-neutral alternative to Latino, Latina
    • In Spanish masculinized version considered gender neutral
    • Aims to move beyond gender binaries
    • To be inclusive of the intersecting identities of Latin American descendants
    • Makes room for people who are trans, queer, agender, non-binary, gender non-conforming or gender fluid
    • Latinx is not the perfect identifying term
    • It shouldn’t be treated as the answer in the ongoing quest to develop a cohesive postcolonial identity

Why People Are Using The Term ‘Latinx’

“…What does Latinx mean?

Latinx is the gender-neutral alternative to Latino, Latina and even Latin@. Used by scholars, activists and an increasing number of journalists, Latinx is quickly gaining popularity among the general public. It’s part of a “linguistic revolution” that aims to move beyond gender binaries and is inclusive of the intersecting identities of Latin American descendants. In addition to men and women from all racial backgrounds, Latinx also makes room for people who are trans, queer, agender, non-binary, gender non-conforming or gender fluid.

“In Spanish, the masculinized version of words is considered gender neutral. But that obviously doesn’t work for some of us because I don’t think it’s appropriate to assign masculinity as gender neutral when it isn’t,” explains queer, non-binary femme writer Jack Qu’emi Gutiérrez in an interview with PRI. “The ‘x,’ in a lot of ways, is a way of rejecting the gendering of words to begin with, especially since Spanish is such a gendered language.”

Latinx is also, as pointed out by writer Gabe Gonzalez, a way to reclaim identity, a form of rebellion against “the language and legacy of European traditions that were imposed on the Americas.”

Here’s why people are using the term “Latinx:”

Languages change in order to accommodate the times in which it’s used, and in a year where discussions about trans and non-binary identity are at the forefront, it makes sense for “Latino” to evolve.

Though it is understood that many people may not identify as Latinx for various reasons, we feel it is important that we respect others who do and who want to be referred to as such. For what it’s worth, using Latinx in general is a way to be more inclusive of identities that go beyond the every day gender and racial norms that are rapidly shifting and being redefined in today’s culture. It’s not a perfect term, but for many people out there, it’s the beginning of a linguistic revolution. “[Latinx] is just one word,” explains Gutiérrez. “We adapt to survive in this kind of environment, you know, we also adapt our language. It’s vital to just expressing who we are and being able to explain to others in our own community, ‘Hey, we’re here. This is how you can be respectful of us. Acknowledge us.’”

Where did the term originate?

Latinx first began to emerge within queer communities on the internet in 2004, and saw a rise in popularity in late 2014, according to Complex. By 2015, Google searches for the term began to increase (see the graph below) and Latinx became a widely-used identifier both on social media platforms like Tumblr and in scholarly work. Many scholars and activists praise the term’s ability to better include many groups of people while challenging cultural and norms.

The word “Latinx” (pronounced “La-teen-ex”) has been used more and more lately. And, yet, while many people are using the term and identifying as Latinx, there are still others who may look at the word with skepticism and confusion.

Despite the growing popularity of the term, Latinx has been faced with criticism. Many opponents of the term have suggested that using an un-gendered noun like Latinx is disrespectful to the Spanish language and some have even called the term “a blatant form of linguistic imperialism.” However, in defense of the term, Brooklyn College professors María R. Scharrón-del Río and Alan A. Aja argue that the Spanish language itself is a form of linguistic imperialism for Latin Americans.

“Are we not aware that upon the arrival of the conquistadores and subsequent acts of genocide, a few thousand indigenous languages existed in the Americas, and a few resilient hundred continue to be spoken today?” they explain in a piece on “Not to mention the attempted erasure of African languages via the violence of slavery and colonialism.”

They go on to point out that many of the indigenous languages throughout Latin America and the world range from genderless to multi-gendered.

However, writer Monse Arce argues that Latinx is just as problematic as Latino and Latina. “They’re blanket terms that were invented to group us all under one common colonized identity,” she writes in Affinity Magazine.

Then, there are individuals who say they have chosen not to adopt the term because “Latinx doesn’t roll off the tongue when you’re speaking Spanish.”

As Complex points out, “‘Latinx’ is not the perfect identifying term, so it shouldn’t be treated as the answer in the ongoing quest to develop a cohesive postcolonial identity.” But its usage has been gaining traction, and people are taking notice.

It’s with this in mind that Latino Voices is incorporating the term Latinx into our coverage. We believe every individual’s identity is complicated and nuanced ― and deserves to be acknowledged and respected.”

Further Reading

Teaching Tolerance: Latino Civil Rights Timeline, 1903 to 2006

Citizenship and Social Justice: Latinx American Identity

Back to Top

History of Latinx Discrimination

PBS: The Birth and Growth of Racism against Mexican-Americans

Discrimination and Lynching

  • Pacific Railroad Recruitment
    • Railroad companies recruited Mexicans to immigrate to build Pacific Railroad
    • Latinos (citizens and non citizens) were critical to the US economy
  • Anti-Latino sentiment grew along with immigration
    • Anglo-Americans treated Latinos as a foreign underclass
      • Perpetuated stereotypes that those who spoke Spanish were lazy, stupid, undeserving
      • Barred from Anglo establishments
      • Segregated into urban barrios in poor areas
    • In some cases, that prejudice turned fatal
      • Mob violence against Latinos were common in late 19th and early 20th centuries
      • 547 documented cases but estimated that thousands were lynched
      • Many lynching cases occurred over the California Gold Rush
        • Accusations of murder, fraternizing w/ white women, insulting white people, removing competition
      • Mexican gov pressured US to stop these lynching in the 1920s
        • The lynchings decreased but the racism remained

“nativism was born in the months of 1849 and early 1850 when mining enterprise was most individualistic, government most ineffectual, and immigration most rapid.” scholar Leonard Pitt

The dark history of “gasoline baths” at the border

Mexican Repatriations

  • Great Depression (1929-1939)
    • 1920s – Anti-Mexican sentiment grew as Great Depression began
      • Whites accused Mexicans and other foreigners of stealing American jobs
  • Mexican Reparations (1929-1936)
    • US forcibly removed 2 million people of Mexican descent
      • Due to fears about jobs and the economy
    • Up to 60% removed were American citizens
      • Local governments cut off services and raided gathering places
        • People w/ disabilities & illnesses were removed from hospitals & dumped at border
      • 1936 Colorado ordered all of its “Mexicans” (anyone who spoke Spanish or seemed to be of Latin descent) to leave the state
      • Around 1/3 of Los Angeles and Texas Mexican population left the country
        • California and the city of Los Angeles apologized for repatriation in the early 2000s
      • Considered Ethnic Cleansing

Latin Jim Crow Segregation

  • Segregation in Southwest
    • Segregation in Southwest was legal but not enforced by Jim Crow laws
    • Latinos excluded from neighborhoods, restaurants, theaters, schools
      • Latinos were expected to attend separate “Mexican schools” beginning in the 1870s
      • 1940s 80% of Latinos, in places like Orange County, attended separate schools
      • Schools were often in poor facilities that lacked basic supplies and sufficient teachers
        • Many only provided vocational classes or did not offer a full 12 years of instruction
        • Children were arbitrarily forced to attend based on factors like their complexion and last name
  • “Mendez v. Westminster School District” Federal Court Case
    • 1945 – school segregation challenged “Mendez v. Westminster School District”
      • Schools officials defended their policies with racial stereotypes
        • Claimed Latinos were dirty and infected with diseases that put white students at risk
        • Argued Latinos didn’t speak English thus not entitled to attend English-speaking schools
        • “Mexicans are inferior in personal hygiene, ability and in their economic outlook,” said one official
      • When asked officials conceded that they never gave students proficiency tests
    • 1946 – Court forced California to officially ended all segregation in its schools
      • Texas and Arizona followed suit shortly after
    • 1954 – Board of Education ended all school segregation based on race

Operation Wetback

  • Operation Wetback (1954)
    • Mass deportation of over a million migrant workers
      • Targeted millions of Mexicans that legally entered the country through joint immigration programs like the Bracero Program, in first half of the 20th century
        • Especially needed Mexican farm workers during WW2
      • Biggest mass deportation of undocumented workers in US history
      • Justified by campaign of fear and racial stereotypes against immigrants
        • “wetback” racial epithet for Mexicans illegally entering Texas crossing Rio Grande River
      • Mass human rights violations
        • Military removal of Mexican immigrants
        • 100s died in poor transportation situations
        • Due process suspended for many
        • 100s of US citizens deported

“was lawless; it was arbitrary; it was based on a lot of xenophobia, and it resulted in sizable large-scale violations of people’s rights, including the forced deportation of U.S. citizens,” UCLA historian Kelly Lytle Hernandez


Latino Discrimination in California

California passed a series of anti-Latino polices

  • The Foreign Miner’s Tax (1850s)
    • Pushed Chilean, Mexican, and Chinese immigrants out of the Gold Rush
  • The Greaser Act of 1855 (Anti-Vagrancy Act)
    • Law enforcement could arrest any Mexican (then called “greasers”) who violated vagrancy laws such as not having suitable employment
  • Proposition 63 (1986)
    • Declared English the state’s official language
  • Proposition 187 in (1994)
    • Prohibit undocumented immigrants from using non-emergency health care, public education, and other services
  • Proposition 209 (1996)
    • Ended Affirmation Action in the areas of public employment, public contracting, and public education
  • Proposition 227 (1998)
    • Ended bilingual education

California’s Proposition 187

  • 1994 referendum born of hostility to undocumented immigrants
    • due to false scapegoating and the decreasing white majority
  • Supporters of the initiative asserted that undocumented migrants:
    • Caused the recession
      • Loss of manufacturing jobs caused the recession, not immigrants
    • Were cashing in on tax funded social programs
      • Ignoring the reality that many had crossed the border seeking work not a handout
  • Prop 187 – make it bad for undocumented so they leave/not come:
    • Deny access to public schools, nonemergency health care, public basic services
    • Doctors and teachers would also have been required to become informers
  • Several GOP politicians, like Governor Wilson, adopted this plan for votes
    • Governor Wilson diverted blame for economy from him to claimed immigrants
  • The referendum passed but was stopped by legal challenges
    • Regulating immigration was a federal power
  • Began wave of anti-immigrant rhetoric & immigration crackdown policies

NY Times: California’s Proposition 187 and Trump Rhetoric

Arizona Ethnic Studies Battle

  • Mexican American Studies (MAS) Department (1998)
    • MAS Department created to offer Mexican American history in Tucson Unified School District
    • The program was shown to raise graduation rates and decrease drop out rates for Latino students
    • La Raza Studies – Study of Chicanas/os and Latinas/os in the Americas
  • The program was banned by the state law Arizona House Bill 2281 passed in 2010
    • Banned schools from teaching classes that
      • Are intended for any given ethnic group
      • Go against another ethnic group
      • Advocate for overthrowing the government of the United States
      • Encourage Ethnic solidarity, as opposed to individuality
  • Banned subjects, people and books from normal history classes
    • Banned “alleged” radically anti-American worldviews and anything “anti-White European heritage”
    • Books banned due to HB 2281 because of
      • 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures by Elizabeth Martinez
      • Critical Race Theory by Richard Delgado
      • Message to Aztlán: Selected Writings of Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzalez by Rodolfo Gonzales
      • Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement by Arturo Rosales
      • Rethinking Columbus by Bill Bigelow and Bob Peterson
      • Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire
      • The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement by Arturo Rosales
      • Mexican WhiteBoy by Matt de la Peña
  • MAS has been revived in limited modified programs by various court rulings

Vice News: Arizona Ethnic Studies Battle

“Show Me Your Papers” law

  • Arizona: The Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (2010)
    • “Show Me Your Papers” law or SB1070
      • Drafted by ALEC who introduce 21 other states to similar model legislation
    • Broadest and strictest anti-illegal immigration measure at the time
      • Other states, like Texas, passed similar laws
    • Made it a misdemeanor crime to be undocumented in Arizona without carrying the required documents
    • Gave police power to detain anyone suspected of being in country illegally (encouraged racial profiling)
    • Banned sanctuary cities and policies
    • Imposed penalties on those sheltering, hiring and transporting unregistered aliens
  • 2012 Supreme court stroke down most of the law
    • But upheld giving police power to detain anyone suspected of being in country illegally
  • Consequences
    • Increase in racial profiling and discrimination
    • Undocumented women avoided domestic abuse hotlines and shelters for fear of deportation
    • School attendance decreased
    • Families were separated
    • Mistrust for police and public institutions increased
    • Increase in trauma especially among Latino children
  • No substantial evidence that it reduced crime
    • Crime did reduce, but on par with it reducing before the measure, when immigrants were increasing

A Generation Raised Under SB1070


History: The Brutal History of Anti-Latino Discrimination in America

“Olvera Street is a Los Angeles icon—a thriving Mexican market filled with colorful souvenirs, restaurants and remnants of the oldest buildings in Los Angeles. But though the bright tourist destination teems with visitors, few realize it was once the site of a terrifying raid.

In 1931, police officers grabbed Mexican-Americans in the area, many of them U.S. citizens, and shoved them into waiting vans. Immigration agents blocked exits and arrested around 400 people, who were then deported to Mexico, regardless of their citizenship or immigration status.

The raid was just one incident in a long history of discrimination against Latino people in the United States. Since the 1840s, anti-Latino prejudice has led to illegal deportations, school segregation and even lynching—often-forgotten events that echo the civil-rights violations of African-Americans in the Jim Crow-era South.

The story of Latino-American discrimination largely begins in 1848, when the United States won the Mexican-American War. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which marked the war’s end, granted 55 percent of Mexican territory to the United States. With that land came new citizens. The Mexicans who decided to stay in what was now U.S. territory were granted citizenship and the country gained a considerable Mexican-American population.

As the 19th century wore on, political events in Mexico made emigration to the United States popular. This was welcome news to American employers like the Southern Pacific Railroad, which desperately needed cheap labor to help build new tracks. The railroad and other companies flouted existing immigration laws that banned importing contracted labor and sent recruiters into Mexico to convince Mexicans to emigrate.

Anti-Latino sentiment grew along with immigration. Latinos were barred entry into Anglo establishments and segregated into urban barrios in poor areas. Though Latinos were critical to the U.S. economy and often were American citizens, everything from their language to the color of their skin to their countries of origin could be used as a pretext for discrimination. Anglo-Americans treated them as a foreign underclass and perpetuated stereotypes that those who spoke Spanish were lazy, stupid and undeserving. In some cases, that prejudice turned fatal.

According to historians William D. Carrigan and Clive Webb, mob violence against Spanish-speaking people was common in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They estimate that the number of Latinos killed by mobs reach well into the thousands, though definitive documentation only exists for 547 cases.

The violence began during California’s Gold Rush just after California became part of the United States. At the time, white miners begrudged former Mexicans a share of the wealth yielded by Californian mines—and sometimes enacted vigilante justice. In 1851, for example, a mob of vigilantes accused Josefa Segovia of murdering a white man. After a fake trial, they marched her through the streets and lynched her. Over 2,000 men gathered to watch, shouting racial slurs. Others were attacked on suspicion of fraternizing with white women or insulting white people.

Even children became the victims of this violence. In 1911, a mob of over 100 people hanged a 14-year-old boy, Antonio Gómez, after he was arrested for murder. Rather than let him serve time in jail, townspeople lynched him and dragged his body through the streets of Thorndale, Texas.

These and other horrific acts of cruelty lasted until the 1920s, when the Mexican government began pressuring the United States to stop the violence. But though mob brutality eventually quelled, hatred of Spanish-speaking Americans did not.

In the late 1920s, anti-Mexican sentiment spiked as the Great Depression began. As the stock market tanked and unemployment grew, Anglo-Americans accused Mexicans and other foreigners of stealing American jobs. Mexican-Americans were discouraged and even forbidden from accepting charitable aid.

As fears about jobs and the economy spread, the United States forcibly removed up to 2 million people of Mexican descent from the country—up to 60 percent of whom were American citizens.

Euphemistically referred to as “repatriations,” the removals were anything but voluntary. Sometimes, private employers drove their employees to the border and kicked them out. In other cases, local governments cut off relief, raided gathering places or offered free train fare to Mexico. Colorado even ordered all of its “Mexicans”—in reality, anyone who spoke Spanish or seemed to be of Latin descent—to leave the state in 1936 and blockaded its southern border to keep people from leaving. Though no formal decree was ever issued by immigration authorities, INS officials deported about 82,000 people during the period.

The impact on Spanish-speaking communities was devastating. Some light-skinned Mexican-Americans attempted to pass themselves off as Spanish, not Mexican, in an attempt to evade enforcement. People with disabilities and active illnesses were removed from hospitals and dumped at the border. As one victim of “repatriation” told Raymond Rodriguez, who wrote a history of the period, Decade of Betrayal, “They might as well have sent us to Mars.”

Others, like Rodriguez’s father, did not wait for raids or enforcement and returned to Mexico independently to escape discrimination and the fear of removal. His wife refused to accompany him and the family never saw him again.

When deportations finally ended around 1936, up to 2 million Mexican-Americans had been “repatriated.” (Because many of the repatriation attempts were informal or conducted by private companies, it is nearly impossible to quantify the exact number of people who were deported.) Around one third of Los Angeles’ Mexican population left the country, as did a third of Texas’ Mexican-born population. Though both the state of California and the city of Los Angeles apologized for repatriation in the early 2000s, the deportations have largely faded from public memory.

Another little-remembered facet of anti-Latino discrimination in the United States is school segregation. Unlike the South, which had explicit laws barring African-American children from white schools, segregation was not enshrined in the laws of the southwestern United States. Nevertheless, Latino people were excluded from restaurants, movie theaters and schools.

Latino students were expected to attend separate “Mexican schools” throughout the southwest beginning in the 1870s. At first, the schools were set up to serve the children of Spanish-speaking laborers at rural ranches. Soon, they spread into cities, too.

By the 1940s, as many as 80 percent of Latino children in places like Orange County, California attended separate schools. Among them was Sylvia Mendez, a young girl who was turned away from an all-white school in the county. Instead of going to the pristine, well-appointed 17th Street Elementary, she was told to attend Hoover Elementary—a dilapidated, two-room shack.

The bare-bones facilities offered to students like Mendez lacked basic supplies and sufficient teachers. Many only provided vocational classes or did not offer a full 12 years of instruction. Children were arbitrarily forced to attend based on factors like their complexion and last name.

Then Mendez’s parents fought back. In 1945, along with four other families, they filed a class action lawsuit against four Orange County school districts. Their goal: Ensure that all children could attend California schools regardless of race.

The case culminated in a two-week-long trial. In court, school officials claimed that Latino students were dirty and infected with diseases that put white students at risk. Besides, they argued, Mexican-American students didn’t speak English and were thus not entitled to attend English-speaking schools. (When asked, officials conceded that they never gave students proficiency tests.) “Mexicans are inferior in personal hygiene, ability and in their economic outlook,” said one official.

Mendez’s attorney countered with testimony from experts in social science. He argued that the policy trampled on Latino children’s Constitutional rights. When Carol Torres, a 14-year-old Latino girl, took the stand, she immediately proved that Mexican-American students in the district could and did speak English. It took seven months for Judge Paul J. McCormick to render a decision. On February 18, 1946, he ruled that the school districts discriminated against Mexican-American students and violated their Constitutional rights. Though the school districts challenged the ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with McCormick. Thanks to Mendez v. Westminster School District, California officially ended all segregation in its schools.

Mendez, who was eight when the lawsuits began, later told reporters that she thought her parents were fighting for her right to attend a school with a nice playground. But the case accomplished much more than that. Soon, parents in Texas and Arizona successfully challenged school segregation. In 1954, a decade after Mendez was turned away from the whites-only elementary school, the United States Supreme Court ruled that all school segregation based on race was unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education.

Though the case was a victory for the Mendez family, Sylvia was harassed and heckled by her fellow students when she attended the white school. Nonetheless, she pushed to succeed and became a nurse and civil-rights activist. She was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010—and now, two Los Angeles-area schools are named after her parents.

Today, an estimated 54 million Latinos live in the U.S. and around 43 million people speak Spanish. But though Latinos are the country’s largest minority, anti-Latino prejudice is still common. In 2016, 52 percent of Latinos surveyed by Pew said they had experienced discrimination. Lynchings, “repatriation” programs and school segregation may be in the past, but anti-Latino discrimination in the U.S. is far from over.”

History: The Largest Mass Deportation in American History

July is scorching in Mexicali. The Mexican city just across the border from Calexico, California, averages 108 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, but temperatures often swell into the 120s.

In 1955, thousands of disoriented people roamed the city’s streets as the sun bore down on them. They had just been dumped there by American immigration officials—snatched from their lives and jobs in the United States and thrown into a city where they didn’t know anyone.

These Mexican immigrants had been caught in the snare of Operation Wetback, the biggest mass deportation of undocumented workers in United States history. As many as 1.3 million people may have been swept up in the Eisenhower-era campaign with a racist name, which was designed to root out undocumented Mexicans from American society.

The short-lived operation used military-style tactics to remove Mexican immigrants—some of them American citizens—from the United States. Though millions of Mexicans had legally entered the country through joint immigration programs in the first half of the 20th century, Operation Wetback was designed to send them back to Mexico.

With the help of the Mexican government, which sought the return of Mexican nationals to alleviate a labor shortage, Border Patrol agents and local officials used military techniques and engaged in a coordinated, tactical operation to remove the immigrants. Along the way, they used widespread racial stereotypes to justify their sometimes brutal treatment of immigrants. Inside the United States, anti-Mexican sentiment was pervasive, and harsh portrayals of Mexican immigrants as dirty, disease-bearing and irresponsible were the norm.

During Operation Wetback, tens of thousands of immigrants were shoved into buses, boats and planes and sent to often-unfamiliar parts of Mexico, where they struggled to rebuild their lives. In Chicago, three planes a week were filled with immigrants and flown to Mexico. In Texas, 25 percent of all of the immigrants deported were crammed onto boats later compared to slave ships, while others died of sunstroke, disease and other causes while in custody.

It’s not clear how many American citizens were swept up in Operation Wetback, but the United States later claimed that 1.3 million people total were deported. However, some historians dispute that claim. Though hundreds of thousands of people were ensnared, says historian Kelly Lytle Hernandez, the number of deportees was drastically lower than the United States reported—likely closer to 300,000. Due to immigrants who were caught, deported, and captured again after re-emigrating, it’s impossible to estimate the total number of people deported under the program.

Mass deportations of Mexican immigrants from the U.S. date to the Great Depression, when the federal government began a wave of deportations rather than include Mexican-born workers in New Deal welfare programs. According to historian Francisco Balderrama, the U.S. deported over 1 million Mexican nationals, 60 percent of whom were U.S. citizens of Mexican descent, during the 1930s. Balderrama told Fresh Air’s Terry Gross that the program was referred to as “repatriation” to give it the sense of being voluntary. In reality, though, it was anything but.

Despite a widespread belief among native-born Americans that Mexicans came to the United States to steal jobs from American workers, many were invited to the country to work in its fields. In 1942, the U.S. Mexican Farm Labor Program, also known as Operation Bracero after the Spanish term for “manual laborer,” began. The program funneled Mexicans into the United States on a legal, temporary basis in exchange for guaranteed wages and humane treatment—an attempt by the Mexican government to stave off the discrimination faced by earlier immigrants.

However, not all employers wanted to follow the guidelines or pay the thirty-cent-an-hour guaranteed wage (about $4.51 in modern dollars). Nor did the Mexican government want Mexicans to work in Texas, which continued its discrimination against Mexican people, and the state was excluded from the program between 1942 and 1947. That’s where “wetbacks” came in. The racial epithet was used to describe Mexicans who illegally entered Texas by crossing the Rio Grande River. The government turned a blind eye to Texans’ employment of these undocumented immigrants, even after hiring undocumented workers was declared illegal.

An estimated 4.6 million Mexicans entered the country legally through the Bracero Program between 1942 and 1964, and states like California soon became dependent on bracero workers. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of Mexican workers crossed the border without permission and found jobs on the farms of employers willing to flout the law.

In 1953, the government decided it had had enough. By refusing to participate in the Bracero Program,  South Texas farmers essentially received their labor for less money than farmers who complied. And Border Patrol head Harlon B. Carter—a convicted murderer who killed a Latino as a teenager in 1931 and who later headed the National Rifle Association (NRA)—was frustrated by the sheer numbers of Mexican immigrants, both legal and undocumented, in the United States. He convinced President Eisenhower to ramp up immigration enforcement efforts.

In 1953, Carter tried to get the National Guard involved in a forerunner of Operation Wetback,, but since the U.S. military is not supposed to be used to enforce domestic laws, he couldn’t gain authorization to do so. Instead, in 1954, the government introduced Operation Wetback, which used Border Patrol resources instead.

Operation Wetback may not have had troops, but it used military tactics and propaganda to achieve its goals. It was headed in part by General Joseph Swing, head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and was planned like a war strike.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Carter promised sweeps of factories, farms and other workplaces, ending with the detention of undocumented workers in holding facilities to await deportation. It would be “the biggest drive against illegal aliens in history,” Carter told the paper. News of the raids terrified Latinos in the United States, many of whom remembered the wave of forced deportations in the 1930s.

Historians have documented the behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing that the United States participated in during Operation Wetback—deals that were not publicized at the time. Immigration officials threatened South Texas employers, some of whom had resorted to hiring armed guards to fend off Border Patrol officers, with stepped-up raids and offered them watered-down versions of the Bracero Program that let them get papers for their workers without committing to all of the program’s strenuous requirements. As a result, the number of immigrants in the Bracero Program grew as undocumented workers were deported.

Operation Wetback “was lawless; it was arbitrary; it was based on a lot of xenophobia, and it resulted in sizable large-scale violations of people’s rights, including the forced deportation of U.S. citizens,” Hernandez told CNN in 2016.

Within a few months, Operation Wetback’s funding ran out and the program ended. The Bracero Program continued until 1964, when Congress terminated it against farmers’ complaints in an attempt to preserve jobs for American citizens. By then, the program had created an ongoing thirst for cheap farm labor and cheap food—and a corresponding thirst for Mexican nationals to seek out their fortunes in the United States. Ironically, the program bred even more illegal immigration.

Though it took place over 60 years ago, Operation Wetback charged back into the news when Donald Trump endorsed the program during his presidential campaign. Though he did not refer to the program by name, Trump praised a policy that dumped undocumented immigrants in Mexican territory. “They never came back,” he said in a 2015 speech.

Trump’s statement isn’t accurate—despite the best efforts of the United States and Mexico during Operation Wetback, many workers simply returned to the United States again and again. Now, it appears that Operation Wetback, or its tactics, may be serving as inspiration for the Trump administration’s stepped-up deportation program and immigration policies.

But President Trump isn’t the only person who remembers the program: For many Mexican-Americans, the name brings back memories of a fearful historical moment they don’t want to relive.”

Fact Check: Did SB 1070 reduce crime in Arizona?

“THE MEDIA: Comment at legislative committee hearing.

WHO SAID IT: Sonny Borrelli.

TITLE: Representative, Arizona House.

THE COMMENT: “After 1070, crime dropped 78 percent.”

THE FORUM: Arizona House Committee on Military Affairs and Public Safety.

WHAT WE ARE LOOKING AT: Whether crime fell by 78 percent after passage of Senate Bill 1070, and whether there is a direct correlation between the immigration law and crime rates.

ANALYSIS: Borelli cited the statistic before voting in favor of Senate Bill 1377 during a March 17 Committee on Military Affairs and Public Safety hearing. The bill, which has since been passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey, requires undocumented people who are convicted of crimes to be sentenced to no less than the full sentencing recommendation.

Immigration activists argued passage of the bill would signal a return to the hard-line immigration approach of SB 1070, the controversial immigration law signed in 2010 by former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer. SB 1070 requires law enforcement to determine the immigration status of someone arrested or detained if they have reasonable suspicion that they are in the country illegally. Its passage prompted protests and boycotts of the state.

In a recording of the hearing, Borelli states SB 1070 led to a 78 percent drop in crime. He later told AZ Fact Check that he claimed the law led to a 43 percent drop in crime. Borelli said he got the 43 percent figure from the Arizona Department of Safety, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and the Phoenix Police Department. When asked for details on that statistic he did not elaborate.

AZ Fact Check examined Arizona crime index statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and DPS and found crime rates have declined since 2010, but not anywhere near the 78 percent Borelli said during the hearing or the 43 percent he later claimed to have stated. The crime index numbers from the FBI and DPS aggregate reported crimes from Arizona law enforcement agencies.

DPS statistics show a decline in the state’s crime index of about 9 percent between 2010 and 2014, the last year for which statistics are available. FBI statistics show a slightly larger decline for that period, about 13 percent. The FBI does not record data from agencies that don’t follow Uniform Crime Reporting guidelines for certain crimes, resulting in a discrepancy between the DPS and the FBI figures.

And experts told AZ Fact Check that even if crime index statistics matched either of Borelli’s claims for the decline in crime, it would not mean SB 1070 is the cause. University of Utah law professor Carissa Hessick, who has analyzed the impact of SB 1070 said it is nearly impossible to say the law’s passage had any effect on crime.

It is important to note that crime rates in Arizona were already falling before implementation of SB 1070, according to DPS statistics. The Arizona crime index had been steadily declining since 2002 because of a number of factors. “It’s easy to make a claim about a correlation between crime rates and other factors but it’s extremely difficult to make a causative claim,” Hessick said.

In addition, there doesn’t appear to be a correlation between illegal immigration and higher crime rates. Crime rates in Arizona continued to decline as southern border apprehensions were at their peak for the past 10 years — in 2005 with more than 1 million recorded apprehensions.

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Arizona State University justice studies professor Marie Provine agreed it’s nearly impossible to credit SB 1070 for declining crime rates.

Provine told AZ Fact Check that SB 1070 wasn’t intended to curtail violent crime, rather to assist the federal government in doing its job and deporting those who are in the country illegally.

She also said that undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit crime than U.S. citizens.

“This undocumented population tends to stay ‘under the radar’ as much as possible, and every study I have seen reports that they have a lower crime rate than American citizens. No surprise — this is a group that is attempting to evade detection,” Provine wrote in an email.

BOTTOM LINE: Neither figure Borelli references in his claim of a post-SB 1070 decline in crime match statistics from the FBI or DPS. While there has been a slight drop in Arizona crime rates since 2010, it can’t be attributed to implementation of SB 1070. Crime rates were already falling and the intent of the bill was to assist law enforcement in finding those who are in country illegally, not to curb crime.

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Wikipedia: Mexican American Studies Department Programs, Tucson Unified School District

“The Mexican American Studies Department Programs provided courses to students at various elementary, middle, and high schools within the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD). The program sought to provide students with culturally relevant material taught in schools as well as a community in which they could thrive while readying the students to be leaders.


The Mexican American Studies Department Programs in the Tucson Unified School District came into existence in 1998.[1] The department began offering just a few classes, but in more recent years was able to offer about 43 classes.[1] Students were able to take these courses at elementary, middle, and high schools throughout the district.[1] The program was shown to raise graduation rates.[2] Students achieved highly, with a dropout rate of only 2.5% for Latino students enrolled in MAS compared to 56% nationally.[1] The program was banned by a state law passed in 2010, but has been revived to a certain extent by various court rulings.


About 1500 students were enrolled in the program.[1] According to an audit conducted by Cambium Learning, the racial breakdown of the students was 90% Hispanic, 5% White/Anglo, 2% Native American, 1.5% African American, and about 0.5% Asian American and Multi-Racial.[3]

Vision and Goals

The purpose of the classes was to enable students to have a community centered around learning, specifically learning that helps students to be leaders and understand and appreciate Mexican American history, both past and present.[3] The goals were to have culturally relevant curriculum that can be related to social justice work.[3] Another goal was that students would be able to be socially conscious and think critically.[3]


In the English Journal article “Developing Critical Consciousness: Resistance literature in a Chicano Literature class” Curtis Acosta, the teacher and creator of the Mexican American Studies curriculum, outlines the class curriculum he used.[4]:36 The classes in Chicano Studies/Literature could be taken instead of American History and Junior high school English.[4]:36–37 The curriculum used in the junior class of the program is based on indigenous philosophy using the Xicano paradigm.[4]:37 This paradigm has four key concepts Tezkatlipoka, Quetzalkoatl, Huitzilopochtli, and Xipe Totek.[4]:37–38 Tezkatlipoka is a concept about self reflection and finding one’s inner self.[4]:37 Quetzalkoatl is learning one’s history and how that shapes who someone is.[4]:37 Huitzilopochtli is based on the will to act and be “positive, progressive, and creative”.[4]:37–38 Xipe Totek is the concept of being able to reshape one’s self and be renew.[4]:38 Acosta states that the senior year high school classes follow the same paradigm and expand on it to incorporate more of a social justice aspect that relate specifically to “challenging mainstream assumptions and stereotypes”.[4]:38 Acosta states that the most important part of the curriculum is the “ability to loop with the same students in successive years”.[4]:41 The use of this curriculum Acosta expresses “is crucial for students to…discover their humanity and academic identity”.[4]:37 Also as part of the curriculum, students were required to go to community events.[3] Additionally, the teachers tried to engage and collaborate with parents.[3]

High School

The classes offered for High School students through the Mexican American Studies Department were American Government/Social Justice Education Project, American History/Mexican American Perspectives, Art Beginning and Art Advanced- Chicana/o Art, and Latino Literature.[3] These classes involved analyzing government, researching problems that students face in school and coming up with solutions that were then presented to policy makers.[3] Additionally, students engaged with history that included a variety of experiences, perspectives, and contributions, specifically those of Mexican Americans, that often were left out of other United States history courses.[3] Art skills were developed while using content for artwork based around social justice issues.[3] Students were encouraged to be active learners by engaging with literature through discussion, projects, writings, and readings.[3]


On May 11, 2010, the governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer, signed into law Arizona House Bill 2281.[5] This law, written by Tom Horne who at the time was Arizona’s superintendent of public instruction, made it illegal for schools to teach classes that are intended for any given ethnic group, go against another ethnic group, or advocate for overthrowing the government of the United States.[6] Additionally, ethnic solidarity, as opposed to individuality, could not be taught in accordance with the bill.[6] The bill was originally written with the intention to end the Mexican American Studies Department programs.[5] The consequence for school districts of not following this law was that they could lose 10% of their funding.[5] The bill came into effect on January 1, 2011.[6] Tom Horne, who at the time was the attorney general of Arizona, said that the program was not in accordance with the law.[6] However, the Tucson Unified School District decided against ending the program.[6] On December 27, 2011, the court found that the Mexican American Studies Department Programs were not in accordance with the law.[7] Then, on January 10, 2012, the school board voted to end the Mexican American Studies courses.[7] Additionally, seven books were taken out of the schools, as they were deemed during the case on December 27, 2011 to be in conflict with the law.[7]

Consequences of HB 2281

In 2012, the school district decided to bring about the Mexican American Student Services.[8] These services do not involve classes, but rather help address the achievement gap for Latino students.[8] Students and teachers who had been a part of the Mexican American Studies Department Programs appealed the ruling that the program should be eliminated.[1] In July 2013, a federal court decided that culturally relevant courses should be in place in the TUSD, specifically Mexican American Studies and African American Studies, in order to comply with desegregation.[9] On October 22, 2013, the school board voted to allow the seven books to be taught in the schools again.[10] As of May 2013, TUSD students can study Mexican American Studies through a class called CLASS (Chicano Literature, Art and Social Studies) offered at a college in Tucson.[11] The students can earn college credit and can take the class for free.[11]

Students who had participated in the Mexican American Studies Department classes brought a lawsuit against the officials who had gotten rid of the program.[12] Oral arguments were heard in January 12, 2015, and a ruling on the case by the United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit came out in July 7 of that year.[13] This ruling stated that the law banning ethnic studies classes in Arizona is not broad and vague as plaintiffs argued.[13] However, the ongoing case was also sent to the lower Arizona district court in Tucson.[13] This move to the lower court was due to enough evidence present that the law was “motivated at least in part by a discriminatory intent”.[13]

On August 22, 2017 Judge A. Wallace Tashima ruled that the Arizona school district had violated the students’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by eliminating the Mexican American Studies Program in Tucson’s public schools.[14] Because the ban of the Mexican American studies program had deprived the students from acquiring certain knowledge, Judge Tashima found the Tucson school district had interfered with the students’ First Amendment right. .[14] The judge further ruled that former superintendent Tom Horne, who initiated the campaign to remove the program, along with other school officials were motivated by racial bias and thereby violated the students’ Fourteenth Amendment right .[15]

Books Banned Due to HB 2281

The following books were not allowed to be taught in classes due to HB2281:[16]

  • 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures by Elizabeth Martinez
  • Critical Race Theory by Richard Delgado
  • Message to Aztlán: Selected Writings of Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzalez by Rodolfo Gonzales
  • Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement by Arturo Rosales
  • Rethinking Columbus by Bill Bigelow and Bob Peterson
  • Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire
  • The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement by Arturo Rosales
  • Mexican WhiteBoy by Matt de la Peña[17]

These books were banned because of their alleged radically anti-American worldviews and their generally racist sentiment against Americans of White European heritage. HB 2281 did not ban these books from the school library system nor did it ban students and teachers from discussing topics such as White Privilege or Latino succession from the United States. HB 2281 does ban any organized curriculum that specifically promotes any racial ideology.”

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Latinx US Territories

Why Puerto Rico is not a US state

History: Puerto Rico’s Complicated History with the United States

Over a century ago, the U.S. prevented Puerto Rico from gaining autonomy.

In February 1898, Puerto Ricans had a lot to celebrate. After centuries of Spanish colonial rule, they had just become an independent part of Spain, complete with a Constitution and voting rights. But within only a few years, the U.S. would throw all that asunder, paving the way for Puerto Rico’s nonvoting territory status today.

It all started with the Spanish-American War, which began in the spring of 1898, when Puerto Rico was a Spanish territory. The U.S. invaded Puerto Rico not only because it was a Spanish territory, but also due to its interests in developing a sugar market there, says Lillian Guerra, a history professor at the University of Florida.

“When the Americans arrived, General [Nelson] Miles issued, very famously, a decree manifesto in which he promised to protect the life, liberty, and happiness of Puerto Ricans, and their property,” she says. “A lot of Puerto Ricans who were poor, who were working-class, who were peasants, took this as an invitation to side with the Americans in what was still a war against Spain.”

To support the U.S., Puerto Ricans began to attack Spanish-owned businesses and property. But “to their great shock and awe,” Guerra says the Americans did not keep their promises after they won the war, when Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the U.S. in the Treaty of Paris. The U.S. ignored the new, democratically-elected local parliament of Puerto Rico in favor of creating its own colonial system.

On May 12, 1898 during The Spanish-American War, U.S. Navy Warships Bombard San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Credit: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

On May 12, 1898 during The Spanish-American War, U.S. Navy Warships Bombard San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Credit: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

With the westward expansion of the 19th century, the U.S. established “incorporated territories” that could and did become formal American states—like the Colorado Territory. But in 1901, a series of legal opinions known as the Insular Cases argued that Puerto Rico and other territories ceded by the Spanish were full of “alien races” who couldn’t understand “Anglo-Saxon principles.” Therefore, the Constitution did not apply to them, and Puerto Rico became an “unincorporated territory” with no path forward to statehood.

In addition, the U.S. disrupted Puerto Rico’s coffee industry, implementing a sugar economy and creating massive poverty among the population. “Within the first 10 years of the U.S. occupation of Puerto Rico, U.S. sugar interests had pretty much taken over, and the Puerto Rican coffee class has been displaced entirely,” Guerra explains.

Puerto Ricans were outraged after the war. Instead of becoming citizens, Puerto Ricans were in limbo. “They didn’t even have a passport; they didn’t have any legal standing in the U.S. system until 1917.”

That year, Puerto Ricans became U.S. citizens under the Jones-Shafroth act—this way the U.S. could deploy them as troops during World War I (similar to how the Emancipation Proclamation legalized the Union’s use of black troops). The federal government believed that white people weren’t suited to fight in tropical climates because they didn’t have immunity to the diseases found there. Instead, the U.S. sent Puerto Rican “immunes,” as they were called, to defend the Panama Canal.

Although they were now U.S. citizens, Puerto Ricans could not vote for president or elect voting senators or representatives to the U.S. Congress. In fact, they still can’t.

“La Perla,” one of the worst slums in San Juan, and which was thoroughly inspected by Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt touring the last phase of her economic survey in the West Indies. (Credit: Bettmann/Getty Images)

Since 1901, Puerto Ricans have only been able to elect a nonvoting “resident commissioner of Puerto Rico” to the U.S. House of Representatives. Like the United States’ other territories of Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa, as well as the U.S. capital of Washington, D.C., Puerto Ricans have no real representation in Congress. And unlike D.C., which gained the right to vote for president with the 23rd Amendment in 1961, none of the American citizens in these territories can vote for the president of their country.

“They have a voice in Congress who has no vote, not even on legislation related to Puerto Rico,” Guerra says. “So the result of that is that nobody cares about Puerto Rico, and its government is basically only in control of local financial matters and the distribution of aid that comes from the federal government as well as its own tax base.”

During the 20th century, various Puerto Ricans have sought to win complete independence for their islands from the United States. However, Guerra says that the federal government quashed these attempts through overt censorship and the repeated jailing of revolutionary leaders, like the independence movement leader Pedro Albizu Campo who was jailed in 1936 for organizing Puerto Rican workers.

“It’s still a country that is dominated by U.S. investors,” Guerra says. “And you should know that most U.S. companies pay virtually no taxes to the Puerto Rican state.” This combined with the local government’s massive corruption has created an economic crisis. In September 2017, these economic problems worsened with the devastating impact of Hurricane Maria, which will require extensive rebuilding.

Is there any hope for Puerto Rico becoming a state in the future? After all, the reason they’re not is because more than a century ago, a judge said that Puerto Ricans were too racially inferior to be a part of the U.S. legal system. Today, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, whose parents were born in Puerto Rico, sits on the highest court of law in the United States—the Supreme Court.

Just a few months before Hurricane Maria, Puerto Ricans actually voted in favor of a referendum for statehood. But unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how many Puerto Ricans vote for it. The only people who can incorporate the islands into a state are the voting members of Congress.

“It’s very unlikely that statehood will ever happen, at least not in our lifetimes, unless something in the political culture of the U.S. Congress shifts radically to suddenly embrace Latin Americans, Latinos, and Puerto Ricans,” she says. “And I don’t think we’re going that direction.”

CNN: Ocasio-Cortez: Puerto Ricans treated like second-class citizens

AJ+: What Does It Mean To Be From A U.S. Territory? | AJ+









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