Pharos-Tribune

Columns

June 8, 2014

CEPEDA: Reality check on immigration reform

We know that diversity is a source of strength. Yet sometimes it’s also a challenge.

I’m thinking of the “Hispanic community,” which I’ve placed in quotes because both parts of this umbrella term are heavily contested. Not only is there no consensus on whether the preferred term should be Hispanic or Latino, the very notion that there is a cohesive community with similar characteristics is laughable.

Anyone wondering why Hispanics have not yet reached critical mass at the voting booth or in legislative bodies should look to their immense diversity. We’re talking about a population that is both native- and foreign-born and no longer even united by language.

As the children and grandchildren of immigrants from Latin America grow up and become successful business people, politicians or Hollywood stars, they’re subject to being picked apart for not being “Latino-enough” or “Hispanic in name only.”

This is not a recipe for strength in numbers. It’s also, probably, the No. 1 reason that, for most of the past decade, immigration reform has gone nowhere: no consensus exists on how the issue should be resolved.

For so many reasons — for how Hispanics are perceived by non-Hispanics in society, by the acculturation and crime fears that invariably accompany any discussion about immigration, and to answer ever-present questions about true national loyalty — it bears repeating that immigration is not Hispanics’ most pressing issue and not one with widely agreed-upon views.

The current lively debate — almost exclusively among Hispanics active on social media and on the comment boards of Hispanic news sites — about whether immigration has crowded out other pressing issues for Hispanics has finally prodded the nonpartisan Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project to weigh in on the relative importance of immigration. Again.

“Indeed, when Pew Research Center has surveyed the Hispanic community, there are several issues that consistently rank higher on the list than immigration,” wrote Jens Manuel Krogstad on Pew’s Fact Tank Blog.

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