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Xavier Hermosillo is the President of, a national Crisis Communications, Marketing, and Management firm he founded 23 years ago. He is a former political chief of staff, an award-winning reporter and photographer, and a former radio talk show host and TV commentator in Los Angeles. He has co-founded two publicly-traded companies where he served as a member of the Board of Directors and as the Senior Vice President of Investor Relations and Corporate Communications. He has also served as a Hearing Examiner for the Los Angeles Police Commission on police officer discipline cases, and holds degrees in Administration of Justice and Business and Communications. He can be reached at

May 7, 2006

Now that all the immigrant marches around the country are completed, what's going to happen next?

Has anyone given thought to what it's going to take to either send 12-million immigrants back to "wherever they came from", as the anti-immigrant folks would like to see? What happens if they all stay? The costs to accomplish either approach will be astronomical and the logistics involved boggle the mind.

Before I can flesh this out for you and discuss the main point of this week's column, allow me to give you a quick test to see if you know some important historical facts that you'll need to understand to get a real feel for what I'm talking about.

You'll probably be surprised at this test and its results, but believe it or not, what you'll learn is actually a partial answer to the significance of why we're having this ugly fight over immigration today in America. If you fail the test, you have NO business being involved in this debate!

1. Name the first landmark education and desegregation case in America.

If you said Brown v. Board of Education, you're WRONG. Long BEFORE Brown V Board of Ed, there was Mendez et al. v. Westminster et al, the landmark Mexican American Desegregation Case from Orange County California in 1946. The case was decided seven years before Brown and was argued on Appeal by Thurgood Marshall of the NAACP, among many others. Marshall, of course, went on to become the first Black ever to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Our history books associate him with Brown v. Board of Ed, but this is but one example of how the role and value of Latinos has been minimized in American history.

2. The U.S. Congress, which several years passed legislation apologizing for the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, and also provided reparation to those victimized, is now considering a similar measure for which group of wronged American citizens?

It is considering legislation to apologize to and compensate American citizens, Mexican-Americans, who were unconstitutionally deported during the 1930s. I bet you never read that in your textbooks either. The Hoover administration sent about 2 million Latinos-including 400-thousand Californians-to Mexico to get rid of illegal immigrants and open up jobs after the Great Depression. Congressional researchers estimate that approximately 60 percent of those deported during the 1930s were children who were born in America and others who, while of Mexican descent, were legal citizens. The expulsion practice targeted anyone with a Mexican -sounding name and continued in California even after the Roosevelt administration cut off funding.

Please bear with me. This is more important than it is interesting. Trust me on this one. Last question.

3. Galveston is a major port in Texas. After who is it named and what connection does it have
to the founding of the United States by our forefathers like George Washington and Thomas

At the time of the American Revolution, almost all of the modern-day United States, west of the Mississippi River, was a territory of Spain, including Louisiana and what is now called Mexico. In the early years of the Revolution, Louisiana's governor was a young nobleman named Bernardo Galvez, who aided the American Revolutionaries by allowing tons of badly needed supplies to be shipped up the Mississippi to patriot forces in the North.

Upon Spain's official entry into the war in 1779, Galvez was named General of Spanish Colonial forces in North America. He quickly raised an army that included Creoles, Native-Americans, free African-Americans and his own Spanish regulars, as well as hundreds of Mexicans. He immediately marched on British-held forts at Baton Rouge and Natchez and he captured the British stronghold of Fort Charlotte at Mobile. He then directed a joint land-sea attack on Pensacola, the British capital of West Florida and commanded more than 7,000 men in the two-month siege of Fort George in Pensacola before its capture in 1781. A year later, Gálvez and his forces captured the British naval base at New Providence in the Bahamas.

He corresponded directly with American patriots Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, and Charles Henry Lee, and responded to their pleas by securing the port of New Orleans so that only American, Spanish, and French ships could move up and down the Mississippi River. Over the river, a veritable lifeline, great amounts of arms, ammunition, military supplies, and money were delivered to the embattled American forces under George Washington. He was busy preparing for a grand campaign against Jamaica when peace negotiations ended the war.

After the fighting, Gálvez helped draft the terms of treaty that ended the war, and the American Congress cited him for his aid during the conflict. The bottom line for this military leader of Spaniards, Mexicans, Creoles, Native-Americans, free African-Americans? The biggest bay on the Texas coast was named in his honor, Bahía de Galvezton, a name which we now know as Galveston.

Good luck finding this important and historic Spanish/Mexican involvement in America's founding.

Now that you have this background, let's get to the main story. The reason these questions and answers probably surprised you is that we generally tend to be very ignorant about our neighbors South of the border. We don't know a lot about them in terms of their contributions to our nation over the last few hundred years; we tend to view them as maids, gardeners, restaurant employees, and casual or construction laborers.

It's hard for most Americans to have any significant level of respect for people they only know in a servant class of existence, and that many of us employ because they're very cheap to hire, very good at what they do, and their work ethic in doing it. You have to look at the history of people and the contributions they have made to our country before you condemn them outright. It doesn't mean they get a free ride to be here, but it also doesn't mean you get to attack them out of your sheer anger and ignorance.

I'm rather tired of writing about the immigration issue because people on both sides are so firm in their positions and perceptions, that it doesn't matter what the facts are; each side sticks to its position. The hostilities after the "Day Without Immigrants" now include some Black folk, on top of the red necks, and those who weren't sure what the problem was, but have decided to take a position against mostly Mexicans anyway.

Ignorance is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to permanently resolving this issue. People are unrealistic in what they are demanding, and our politicians are generally willing to give voters what they want, just to stay in office. Since the polls show most people want a cheap labor pool in the U.S., then Congress is willing to give us that.

The anti-Latino lowlifes willing to show their anger in public are small in number, but they are willing to stand up for their cause, even if they lack any historical or real context for their position.

For decades, Latinos, especially those from Mexico, have been mistreated and abused, yet, these facts are conspicuously absent from our history books. The three points above are but the proverbial tip of the iceberg. It's easy to hate people you don't fully understand and whose contributory background has never spent time in the recesses of your mind.

Part of what makes resolution of the immigration issue hard, other than the attendant costs, is that while some of you like Mexican food, Mexican music, Mexican architecture, and the beautiful Mexican names of our streets, cities, and states, you hate the actual Mexican who lives here. And you tend to label all Latinos as just plain Mexicans. Immigrants of all shades of skin color have always been the scapegoats during difficult economic times (see Test Question #2 above), and the discussions today are no different.

One of the most beautiful immigrant marches on May Day was in Chicago, where immigrants carrying the flags of more than 50 countries, made the point that this issue is about a lot more than just Latinos or Mexicans. Among the more than 400,000 marchers, I spotted flags from Poland, Germany, Niger, Ireland, Scotland, the UK, Russia, Haiti, Italy, Greece, China, Korea, Norway, and others I could not name.
Did you know that in Chicago alone, there are more than 20,000 "illegal immigrants" from Ireland?

So what happens now to the Irish, the Poles, the Germans, the Italians, the Chinese, and yes, the Mexicans, now that the marches have ended? The current legislative package being debated in the U.S. Senate calls for a three-tier system where residents of more than 20 years can easily become citizens, those with less than 20 years but more than five or six years can pay penalty fees and go through the legalization process, and those here in the U.S. less than five years have to leave and
begin the entry process anew.

For those who want to kick out all the immigrants, there have been estimates that you would have to line up buses from the tip of Alaska's Northern border, down along Canada's coast, and from the Canadian-U.S. border all the way to the Mexican border. Where would we find the money for such a logistical nightmare, especially with gas at more than $3 a gallon? And what about the damage to our already fragile environment from all those bus fumes?

More importantly, how do we determine who goes where? And what about those who were born here of "illegal" parents and are now adults with their own children? Do we send them "back to where they came from" even though many have never been to their parents' homeland?

It's not clear yet what the final result will be from Congress, but I suggest everyone take a deep breath and inhale a big dose of reality. For pro-immigrant advocates, there will never be full amnesty for everyone here because they have not all earned it. There is merit to the argument of many, including people from every nation in the world, that we should not give blanket approval to illegal entry. Many came here using the legal process and that seems to have worked very well.
At the same time, we should recognize the accomplishments and contributions of those who have been here for longer time frames and have not been a problem and who have become a vital part of our economic fiber.

By the same token, the anti-immigrant crowd needs to accept the fact we don't have the money or the logistical or moral ability to send these people back to the country of their origin. That's the reality of it, so get over the fact you didn't like watching 500,000 Mexicans marching in the streets of L.A. , or the almost half-million in Chicago, the 100,000 in Phoenix, and the tens of thousands in the rest of America's major cities.

Let's focus on protecting our borders so we can keep terrorists out and we will find out that this is a much better way to spend our limited and precious economic resources on a problem we all ignored for far too long, both as constituents, and as elected officials.