What are the social consequences of anti-immigrant rhetoric? Do racist words translate into violence against immigrants? Does this rhetoric discourage immigrants from participating in civic life, interacting with law enforcement, or obtaining needed services?  And what does it mean for children to grow up in an environment where this rhetoric is routine and reinforced?

See David Hayes-Bautista, author of La Nueva California: Latinos from Pioneers to Post-Millennials, discuss these issues on Tuesday, July 17 at 7:30pm at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy. And read an excerpt below from La Nueva California and California’s history of anti-immigrant rhetoric.

In 1928, California governor C. C. Young directed the state departments of Industrial Relations, Agriculture, and Welfare to fi nd a solution to what he termed “the Mexican Problem” plaguing the state. Employees of these departments, assisted by “Americanization teachers,” conducted surveys and collected data on the perceived problem. Meanwhile, the US census declared that Mexicans were a nonwhite race completely different from whites, and were to be enumerated along with other nonwhite races in the 1930 census: Negroes, Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, and the newest racial group, “Mexican.”Governor Young’s Mexican Fact-Finding Committee followed the lead of the US census and “racially segregated” state and country records so as to discover clues about the “intelligence of the group” they called “Mexican.”Two years later, the committee’s tautological report on “the problem of Mexican immigration into California” concluded that the problem, in essence, lay in the immigration of Mexicans into California. Governor Young reported to the state in 1930 that the Mexican Problem required a “solution” at the national level.

By the time the report was released, the Great Depression was forcing millions out of work, which created serious strains on state and local welfare departments. Consequently, the nativist “solution” to the Mexican Problem called for deporting the “problem” population back to Mexico, which would open up jobs for “real Americans” and thereby reduce welfare costs. As a result, during the 1930s over 1 million legal US residents and American citizens of Mexican descent were forcibly removed from their homes and transported to Mexico. The trauma of this abrupt uprooting and expulsion from the only country they had ever known scarred a generation of Latinos so deeply that, sixty years later, many US citizens came forward in 2003 to testify at the California State Senate Hearings on Unconstitutional Deportation and Coerced Immigration. Sometimes in tears, they shared their stories of how they, US citizens, were deported, and their lives broken, in order to solve Governor Young’s “Mexican Problem.” For a decade and more, a generation  of Latinos—whom I call the deportation era generation—grew up learning to hide their Mexican roots, so as not to stand out and be liable to sudden deportation.

Read more from the first chapter for La Nueva California

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