An Introduction and Commentary
by Betina Cutaia Wilkinson, Wake Forest University
Throughout the 2016 election cycle, the racialization of immigration was mentioned repeatedly by political pundits, and it is discussed considerably in the Latino politics literature. Providing immigration a face and a name (i.e., brown and un-American, respectively), the racialization of immigration negatively impacts immigrants or those presumed to be immigrants. Labels such as alien and illegal used to describe unauthorized immigrants dehumanize Latinos, perpetuate a racial hierarchy in which whites are on top and Latinos are near the bottom, and ultimately labels all Latinos as “un-American” (Chavez, Lavariega Monforti, and Michelson 2015; Sampaio 2015). After September 11, 2001, the issue of immigration became associated with terrorism, and a plethora of legislation was proposed and enacted to ensure that our country remained “secure.” For instance, Arizona’s S.B. 1070 (enacted in 2010) permits law enforcement to determine the legal status of individuals if they have reasonable suspicion that the individuals lack legal status. This law results in racial profiling, given that since it was put into effect, Arizona law enforcement has focused almost entirely on reducing the number of unauthorized immigrants from Mexico and Central America (Provine and Doty 2011).
Given the racialization of immigration perpetuated by Trump in his comments leading up to the 2016 election, Latinos had the choice to respond in two ways, as discussed by Michelson and Lavariega Monforti (2018) in their symposium contribution.