In the United States “Latino” is a word used to characterize those who recognize their origin in one of the Latin American countries (“Hispanics” is also used when those from Spain are included). For most of us, immigration is one of the most important public interest subjects which overcome our diversity and unite all of us.
It also offers the community the possibility to acquire more visibility and power, it represents what the Civil Rights were for the Afro-American community in the 60s, a way for the rest of the country to recognize their importance.
The United States have been enormously successful in their immigrants becoming integrated, but today, unlike countries like Canada or Australia, are not able to agree in a system which allows for safe, legal and orderly immigration, because there is not any room for a bipartisan agreement. This split has been present for decades and today it is also characterized by a strong polarization which makes even a rational debate difficult, and ideas have been replaced by an exchange of insults. In relation to past years, there has been a retrogression and Congress and different administrations have failed in this objective.
In immigration policies a basic continuity is expected, not such abrupt changes, as those produced by both the Tump and the Biden administrations. As the law has not changed, there are outdated regulations and the turmoil produces confusion in the countries where the illegal immigrants come from.
As it is shown today by the southern border, immigration is a complex issue where right and wrong does not belong to any one sector. Immigrants do not only arrive because of the political and economic situation of their home countries, but also because of a reality where USA needs them, provides them with jobs while at the same time they are rejected by the legal framework, thus, encouraging illegality, helped all this by mixed messages from authorities.
Poverty, violence and corruption are good reasons to emigrate, but nothing compares to the attraction represented by the opportunities offered by the country and society. The U.S. has not signed several international immigration and childhood treaties adding more disarray, and some policies that were successful in the past like guest workers have become irrelevant in border regions.
The deportation of millions is impossible and unthinkable and there is urgency in solving the situation of those known as “dreamers”, who have not really known any other country. A basic fact to consider is that most who arrived illegally at the end find the promised land, including a project for their personal life and family.
The presence of cartels and “coyotes” make it a journey full of dangers like sex abuse, human trafficking, organized crime and the tragic suffering of small children. The decision making process in the USA has not been able to overcome their conflicts and if the Latino community is able to propose a solution or at least a way out, it can play a unique role for two reasons: a) it can introduce a welcome rationality allowing for the different views to be equally present, that is to say, the immigrants being accepted in a secure and legal way at respected borders, and b) it is a welcoming opportunity to become a more important actor for all those involved in the political process.
The Latino community can understand the immigrants but equally important, the different sides of the internal debate. It also has the possibility to do it well without being disqualified with the insults and names being used today.
Most legal or illegal immigrants are strong supporters of the very idea of the United States and their institutions. If the Latino community is able to overcome their differences and agree a proposal that breaks the stalemate it will be a unique opportunity to reach a new step in a theme of national interest for the United States: start a conversation which today es elusive in a secure, legal and orderly immigration.
(*) Lawyer (University of Chile, University of Barcelona), Doctor (Ph.D.) in Political Science (Government, University of Essex), former presidential candidate in Chile (2013)