Blog post

Alfredo Gutierrez Highlights Racist History of Immigration Policy on Eve of New Bill

Matthew Schantz 6 June 2013

Alfredo Gutierrez, the former Arizona state senator and author of the forthcoming memoir To Sin Against Hope, recently published a powerful oped in the Arizona Republic tracing the racially charged history of immigration policy in the United States.

Gutierrez provides both a glimpse of the ways that beliefs about whiteness have shaped US law and the effects that such laws have on those of Latino heritage. Drawing on his experience growing up, Gutierrez writes:

In the ’50s, we were under extreme pressure to be “White” — ideally, having no accent, never speaking Spanish in the earshot of White people; if confronted about your skin color or surname, conceding you were Mexican-American or, better yet, an American of Mexican descent.

In segregated Bullion Plaza School, teachers taped your mouth shut if you spoke Spanish. Your name was “Americanized” — Alfredo became Alfred, Guillermo, William, Federico, Fred. Girls weren’t exempt. Maria became Mary and Rosa, Rose.

Gutierrez’s plea is timely; a comprehensive immigration bill nears the Senate floor. While the proposed bill would provide a clearer path to citizenship for the estimated 12 – 15 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States, it is not free of detractors.

Just yesterday Rep. Raul Labrodor (R-ID) announced that he would be dropping out of the committee of eight responsible for designing the immigration bill, citing concerns about health care costs the bill would incur. Other Republicans have reiterated demands for stricter border security and guarantees that the bill would deny immigrants certain tax benefits.

As Gutierrez reminds us, there is much more on the line than tax dollars. If the bill fails to pass, those denied a path to citizenship will only be the latest victims of America's historic xenophobia.

Visit the Arizona Republic to read the interview in full.

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