Dallas Morning News columnist Mercedes Olivera has an article in the November 18, 2006, issue about a recent city resolution passed by the Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch. The resolution, in a nutshell, requires landlords to demand proof of U.S. Citizenship before leasing to a tenant, and dictates that English is the official language of the city, and therefore no city documents can be published in any other language. The article begins:
City officials in Farmers Branch who recently voted for anti-immigration measures seem increasingly out of step with the rest of the country.
And their efforts may only end up backfiring as the children of Latino immigrants take up their roles as future business and community leaders in North Texas.
Looking at races across the nation, it’s easy to spot the immigration policies and supporting candidates, such as those in Arizona, who lost big in this year’s midterm elections.
Most of those who promoted more comprehensive and humane immigration reform won. Indeed, exit polls showed that six in 10 U.S. voters believe undocumented immigrants should have a chance at legalization.
And while Farmers Branch officials may want to make undocumented immigrants feel unwelcome, data from the National Immigration Law Center show that 50 U.S. cities and counties and 23 states have opened their arms and enacted some variation of sanctuary for immigrants.
Even officials in cities neighboring Farmers Branch have no appetite for dishing out new ordinances that will prove unpalatable to immigrants.
Several officials, like Fort Worth City Council member Sal Espino, say that they understand the concern over immigration but that it’s a federal issue best left to federal agencies.
Still, many Republicans believed immigration rhetoric would be their ace in the hole for re-election. Instead, it was trumped by concerns over the war in Iraq and corruption in Congress.
And even though a record number of Latinos voted – 6.6 million this year compared with 4.7 million in the 2002 midterm elections – immigration may not have been what drove them to the polls.
“Immigration was not the salient issue in this election, not even for Latinos,” said Latino politics author Andrew Hernndez, a scholar-in-residence at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
The economy was tops.
Election Day polls showed that the majority of all voters listed immigration as the third or fourth most important issue.
Mr. Hernndez joked that Republican hard-liners eventually had trouble using immigration in a narrative that spoke to their base: “If they could have found a gay immigrant who was a terrorist, maybe they would have succeeded. But they couldn’t find that guy.”
Ultimately, Mr. Hernndez said, the historic Latino marches in April were powerfully effective.
“Immigrants won. They got [enforcement-only] HB 4437 taken off the table.”
Now, he said, Democrats and President Bush can work together on comprehensive immigration legislation that recognizes the need to protect our borders but also puts immigrants on a path to citizenship.
Several national immigration organizations are also hopeful that comprehensive immigration reform can now move forward.
Roberto Caldern, a Latino history scholar at the University of North Texas in Denton, said most Latino immigrants recognize that the movement for immigrant rights is a long-term struggle. But they are undaunted and hopeful.
“That’s why they’re here, because they have hope for the future of their families,” he said. “Their kids are imbued with this same hope and optimism, and these kids are the ones who will be running future political campaigns.”
But how these children are received in their communities will have a significant impact on their civic participation, said Jos Quionez, a former immigration reform lobbyist and founder of the bluelatinos.org Web site.
He said all immigrant groups, including Latinos, go through a maturation process.
“Because of anti-immigration forces, that process has sped up for a lot of us,” he said. “We’ve had to mature faster politically to defend ourselves.”
If so, then Latinos in Farmers Branch have a growth spurt ahead.