To Sin Against Hope: How America Has Failed Its Inmigrants: A Personal History
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Alfredo Gutierrez’s father, a US citizen, was deported to Mexico from his Arizona hometown—the mining town where Alfredo grew up. This occurred during a wave of anti-immigrant hysteria stoked by the Great Depression, but as Gutierrez makes clear, in a book that is both a personal chronicle and a thought-provoking history, the war on Mexican immigrants has rarely abated. Barack Obama now presides over an immigration policy every inch the equal of Herbert Hoover’s in its harshness.
His family experiences inspired Gutierrez to pursue the life of a Chicano activist. Kicked out of Arizona State University after leading a takeover of the president’s office, he later became the majority leader of the Arizona State Senate. Later still, he was a successful political consultant. He remains an activist, and in this engrossing memoir and essay, he dissects the racism that has deformed a century of border policy—leading to a record number of deportations during the Obama presidency—and he analyzes the timidity of today’s immigrant advocacy organizations. To Sin Against Hope brings to light the problems that have prevented the US from honoring the contributions and aspirations of its immigrants. It is a call to remember history and act for the future.
Methodist minister and a founder of Southern Methodist University, argued on the floor of the House in 1928 that “every reason which calls for the exclusion of the most wretched, ignorant, dirty, diseased and degraded people of Europe or Asia demands that the illiterate, unclean, peonized masses moving this way from Mexico be stopped at the border.” But in this and other instances, the quotas were blocked in the Senate by Southerners and Westerners who were protecting the agricultural lobby and
The logic was as convoluted as my attempt to explain it. The tactic was foolish, and ultimately discredited. Unfortunately, in the century to come, mainstream Washington-based Latino and immigrant rights groups would adopt the shameful tactic and suffer the same fate. In the tough mining town of Miami, the anti-immigrant hysteria played out with a difference. In much of the southwest, perhaps the only voices Latinos heard speaking out on their behalf were those of the compromised, often servile
the term were younger than thirty-six years old. Yet another survey published in 1981 echoed the findings that the term “Chicano” was most popular among the young and US-born. Significantly, the survey also found that those who called themselves Chicanos were more likely to have had attended or graduated from college than those who preferred other ethnic labels.1 We were the privileged few who had the opportunity to go to college. Many of us were the first persons in the family who had ever
recipient neighborhood organizations, including voter registration and region-wide social action; to establish leadership training programs for developing and giving technical/organizing assistance to community workers in Mexican American neighborhoods; to organize and maintain research and information related to securing public and private resources in support of local efforts.9 That, of course, is foundation-speak for “its mission was to raise hell.” SWCLR was a reembodiment of the defunct
just suspend deportations through executive order, that’s just not the case,” Obama said at a March 28 town hall sponsored by the Univision television network. “There are laws on the books that Congress has passed.”37 The campaign continued unabated. The reelection campaign was of course always on the horizon, and there had never been doubt that the majority of Latinos would support President Obama. The nagging question among Democrats was––given the president’s inaction on immigration