Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Not all Latinos are illegals

By Ruben Navarrette Jr., CNN Contributor
updated 6:11 PM EDT, Fri June 8, 2012
Not all Latinos in the United States arrived here five minutes ago, says Ruben Navarrette.
Not all Latinos in the United States arrived here five minutes ago, says Ruben Navarrette.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ruben Navarrette: Don't lump together Latino U.S. citizens with Latino illegal immigrants
  • Navarrette: Not all Latinos in the United States arrived here five minutes ago
  • He says many readers mistakenly thought he demanded respect for illegal immigrants
  • Navarrette: Some Latinos have been "American" longer than the descendents of Europeans

Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette is a CNN.com contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette

San Diego (CNN) -- In my CNN.com column last week, I wrote that the first thing a candidate running for office needs to know about Latino voters is that they value nothing more than respect.

Here's the second thing: It's not respectful to lump together Latino U.S. citizens with Latino illegal immigrants.

Not all Latinos in the United States arrived here five minutes ago. In fact, some of us come from families who have been here for five generations. And there are those in the state of New Mexico who can trace their roots in the Southwest back several hundred years.

Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Ruben Navarrette Jr.

This message is not getting through. Just look at the comments posted at CNN.com in response to my column, which was about Latino citizens who can vote. Many readers thought that I was demanding respect for illegal immigrants who can't vote:

"How about the illegals start respecting our laws first off? Then we'll talk." -- ThirdeyeWO

"I will respect them once they stop stealing money and jobs from the US citizen...Anotherwords (sic) they need to go back to Mexico...Leave Now and you may get a little respect, until then you are the enemey (sic) of the american (sic) worker and taxpayer!!!!!" -- GopUSA

"I have zero respect for the arrogant, self centered, disrespectful display of illegal foreigners marching and yelling - in SPANISH - in the streets of MY COUNTRY demanding MY RIGHTS that they have not earned and are not entitled to!" - For

"Want respect? Earn it by obeying the laws of our country, even the immigration laws!" -- Robbery

In my e-mail in-box, there was more of the same:

"Respect is something one EARNS. The Latino voter needs to RESPECT this country and not use it as an ATM to send money to their families in Mexico. Latino voters need to speak and understand the ENGLISH language because that is how business is transacted. Latino voters need to respect the rules and laws in this country and not demand bilingual education and ballots and drivers manuals in Spanish..." - Pat P.

"Are you saying that because Latinos contribute to the economy, deserve respect and are family-centric, everything else doesn't matter, even if they are here illegally?...This is the issue I see coming up with some who advocate for illegal immigrants: a lack of respect for our country's laws...." -- Bill C.

"In response to your recent CNN articles, I am 100% against everything you stand for...I don't respect illegals, and I certainly want our president, weak as he may be, to continue to deport each and every illegal and every child of every illegal. Drivers licenses and tuition for illegals?!...You're in MY country. Adapt. If you want respect, adapt to OUR ways..." - Lawrence F.

I'm always amazed when I see comments like these. People are pretty worked up over the growth of the Latino community and the role that immigration played in fueling it. Many of them can talk your ear off about that. And yet, not many of them seem to know any flesh-and-blood Latinos. If they did, they would know how ridiculous it is to treat U.S. citizens and illegal immigrants as if they are one and the same. Besides, they seem to put a lot of stock in what it means to be an American. So shouldn't they be able to recognize Americans when they see them?

There is some good news, though. Some readers figured out the difference between U.S Latino citizens and illegal immigrants and tried to explain it to others:

"Just for the record, not every Latino in America is illegal. Please stop combining us with the minority that came here illegally. I'm sick of being told off for 'being illegal' just because I'm Hispanic. My family has been here since the 1600s thank you very much. Longer than most people's families that tell me to 'go back to Mexico.' Ironic isn't it?" - Iblink

Ah, yes. Go back to Mexico. In the 20 years that I've written about immigration, I've been told that hundreds of times. I don't suppose it has anything to do with being Mexican-American?

Apparently, I'm not the only one hearing it. Someone has even taken the experience and put it to music. The result is a profound and provocative song called "Somos Mas Americanos" from one of my favorite Mexican bands, Los Tigres del Norte. It goes like this:

"They have shouted at me a thousand times that I should go back to my country...Because there's no room for me here...

I want to remind the gringos: I didn't cross the border, the border crossed me...

And they can call me "invader." That's a very frequent mistake...

If we take into account centuries...even if it bothers our neighbors ...We are more American.. Than all of the gringos..."

Noting that "America" is actually made up of three continents and not just one, the lyrics declare that -- in reality -- Mexicans have been "Americans" longer than the descendants of European immigrants. In that sense, Mexican immigrants to the United States are more American than the folks trying to keep them out.

So there. If that sounds harsh, then so be it. A song like this is born of anger, frustration and righteous indignation. Imagine being treated like a second-class citizen on your own home turf.

It does get tiresome. I was born in the United States. The same goes for my parents, three grandparents, and half of my great-grandparents. And I'm supposed to "go back to Mexico"?

What? You mean on vacation? Great idea. Puerto Vallarta is lovely this time of year.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ruben Navarrette Jr.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
updated 10:14 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
updated 12:00 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
updated 2:51 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Crystal Wright says racist remarks like those made by black Republican actress Stacey Dash do nothing to get blacks to join the GOP
updated 6:07 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Mel Robbins says by telling her story, Monica Lewinsky offers a lesson in confronting humiliating mistakes while keeping her head held high
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
updated 11:36 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
updated 10:21 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
updated 8:05 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
updated 12:42 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
updated 12:07 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
updated 1:00 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
updated 9:35 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
updated 10:08 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
updated 6:50 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Sat October 11, 2014
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT