Eleanor Roosevelt said, “the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” That statement holds strong for immigrants in America. Equal access to opportunities allows immigrants to achieve the American dream. Their success correlates with America’s success because of the contributions immigrants provide to America. Unfortunately, the current immigration policy in America denies many immigrants the American dream. It is crucial to understand the historical context of immigration in America. Initially, most immigrants were from Europe and were not restricted by any immigration laws. Now, most immigrants come from Latin America but are restricted to severe immigration laws. The Latino/a community is one of the most severely affected groups because the current immigration system disproportionally affects Latino/as. Recognizing how the experience of Latino/a immigrants have been both similar and different in the past from other immigrant groups and dispelling common misconceptions about Latino/as today bring an awareness how Latino/as are affected.
Latino/a immigrants share similar experiences of anti-immigrant rhetoric just like other immigrant groups. Many Latino/as in America have faced negative comments based on their identity. For example, Rush Limbaugh, a radio host, expounds negative comments toward Latino/as, particularly Mexicans. He claimed that Mexicans are “a renegade, potential[ly] criminal element” that is “unwilling to work” (Media Matters for America, 2/28/06). These malice comments were similar to that of other immigrants. As other immigrant groups of non-English descent started arriving in America, there was an immigrant phobia towards the newcomers. During the mid-1700s, Benjamin Franklin said that the Germans, who were the new immigrants, are “excessively fertile, reluctant to assimilate, lazy and unwilling to learn English” (History 324, 10/19/10). This statement is important because the formation of negative comments toward the newcomers places them in an unwanted social bracket, which influences people to conceptualize that immigrants are bad for America. This is also the case for many Latino/a immigrants because there are people who believe that Latino/a immigrants to the U.S. should be restricted.
The experience of racialization by the Latino/a population is similar to that of blacks and Asians. Some Latino/as are racially ambiguous, leading some people to place Latino/as in different racial categories. For example, Mexicans in Chicago have been denied jobs because they were perceived as a group who did not have any intellect, alluding to the notion that Mexicans are blacks.
The Latino/a experience within the racial system in America was similar to that of Indian immigrants from Asia. In the early 1800s, Indians were granted free access to immigrate to America and naturalize as American citizens because they were perceived as whites. However, as social tensions between Indian and Anglo men began...