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UConn Advance

Reforms nothing new for Latinos, speaker says
By Luis Mocete
April 11, 1997

Juan Gonzalez can't quite understand the increasing movement to restrict immigration - especially of Latinos - into the United States.

Many Latinos date their presence in this country to before the formation of the present boundaries of the United States.

"In south Texas 85 to 90 percent of the population has been Mexican-American since the 1700s," said Gonzalez, a staff columnist for the New York Daily News.

The latest attack against immigrants is nothing new in the United States, Gonzalez said April 2 in the Student Union Ballroom during opening ceremonies of Latino Awareness Month.

"You can go back to the early 1800s for the first anti-immigrant wave," Gonzalez said. "It was directed against the Irish and that was followed in the early 1900s with the second great wave that was directed against the Italians and Polish."

Now, he believes, there is a "third major anti-immigrant hysteria, and now the target is Latin Am- ericans and Caribbeans." And it's a worldwide problem.

"All of the advanced industrial countries of Europe and the United States now suddenly in the last 10 to 15 years have been increasingly upset about the surge in immigration that is unprecedented," Gonzalez said.

"Since the 1950s European and American companies have gone into the Third World and built incredible facilities and have hired these people to work in their factories."

This has led to the industrialization of the cities, drawing people from the countryside hoping for a brighter future.

"The only problem is the laws are all being fixed to make it easier for the businesses to go and to make it harder for the workers to come," he said.

Puerto Rican statehood
That's only one problem gripping the Latino community, he said.

Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of Puerto Rico's becoming a territory of the United States. What most Americans don't understand is that Puerto Ricans are not immigrants but citizens of the United States, Gonzalez said.

There have been many debates on whether to make Puerto Rico a state. If that happens, he said, it will be a state that speaks a different language.

"This will be an enormous problem," Gonzalez said. "I think it is already, and was the moment Congress declared a country that speaks a different language American citizens."

Many people continue to insist that English is what binds Americans together, he said.

"Ask black Americans and white Americans if English is what brings them together," Gonzalez said. "They have been speaking English for hundreds of years and that has not done a whole lot in the area of bringing people together. What binds the country together is more the sense that America is a place where everybody has equal opportunities, where everybody is treated fairly under the law and have the same opportunities to succeed."

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