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.
Former Arizona state legislator and immigration reform activist Alfredo Gutierrez recently appeared on Phoenix Channel 12's Sunday Square Off to discuss the convergence of the personal and political in his recent book To Sin Against Hope: How America Has Failed Its Immigrants.
One of his hopes for the book, which chronicles the history of Mexican immigrants in the United States through his own family's story, is that it will inform younger generations about past struggles for civil rights in order to contextualize the current issues facing Latinos and immigrants in the US. Gutierrez explains:
I was motivated to write the book because there is such ignorance, not only among Latinos but folks in this country about America's unique relationship with Mexicans in the United States, and with immigration policy vis-a-vis Mexicans in the United States, and there continues to be a concerted effort in [Arizona] led by General Horn and by public superindentent hupenthal to keep the public in ignorance, fighting any attempt to visit this unique history of America and Arizona.
...I think young folks in particular ought to understand how this notion that we are failed people came about and the degree to which we are complicit in that perception.
Giving millions of immigrants false hope and unattainable promises is not what we need. We need congress to stop building fences in front of immigrants, and begin to build bridges among nations. This will help achieve true immigration reform, and not send us once again hurtling down the path to failure, and to failing this nation’s immigrants.