Columnist Ruben Navarrette tore into both political parties Thursday evening for their treatment of Latinos. Navarrette is a nationally syndicated columnist with The Washington Post Writers Group and writes twice-weekly columns. His work appears on the Tulsa World‘s editorial pages. He spoke to a crowd of about 80 people at the Martin Regional Library on Thursday and discussed the mixed messages Latino people receive. On one hand, people of Hispanic ethnicity are growing at the most rapid pace of any minority group, he noted. Projections indicate that Hispanics will represent 25 percent of the U.S. population by 2030 and one-third of the population by 2050.
“But I don’t feel very powerful,” Navarrette said. “We are taken for granted by one party and written off by another.”
Navarrette criticized President Barack Obama for his inaction on pushing for congressional immigration reforms with the same fervor he did for health care and mortgage reforms. The record-high deportations under the Obama administration raised the most ire with him.
“My beef with Obama is not deporting people, but it’s the way he’s doing it that is deceitful,” he said. Navarrette pointed to the federal Secure Communities program, which deputizes local law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration laws. He said that has led to the deportations of more than 1.2 million people under the Obama presidency, most of whom were picked up for minor infractions such as speeding or drinking violations. He said local police agencies do not understand the nuances of immigration law.
He said the federal programs, along with tougher state laws, lead to racial profiling of Mexican immigrants. “Politicians want to blend all people with a badge into Border Patrol agents,” he said. “There are a lot of things local police do well and know what to do, but they don’t know how to enforce immigration laws. That is beyond their pay grade. It’s not what they learn in police academies.”
Navarrette said the approach to immigration and words used by Republican leaders are embraced by racist people. “I’m not saying you are one, but I’m saying you are speaking a language that appeals to racists,” he said. “It doesn’t make you a bad person, but it makes you an opportunist.”
Navarrette, a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, stressed the need for people to find factual information from trusted news sources for advocacy and informed voting.
“Read the paper – even if on your iPad,” he said. “Listen to radio; seek information; challenge your allies. Be informed.” Navarrette said the fear of immigrants is not a new story for the United States, starting with Ben Franklin’s opposition to Germans settling in Pennsylvania at the country’s founding. “It’s not a question of pushing people out but of bringing people together,” he said. “Always think about the promise we have, not the fear. Every challenge we have, there is an answer. We have to focus on the positive and build on that.”
READ MORE: TULSA WORLD
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