Blogging mostly about mundane stuff like, immigration, Workers' Compensation and other immigrant related activities.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Mayans and Ladinos of New Bedford

Are the newly arrived Central American immigrants of New Bedford, Mayans? or are they Ladinos? Some of them would prefer to be referred to as, "Guatemalan Mayan's".

An investigative four part series being published by The Standard-Times titled; "The New Immigrants" highlights some of the unique differences.

In case you are wondering, Ladinos, are people of Mayan and mixed European heritage. Mayans, are people of pure indigenous background, from the Southernmost regions of Mexico, Guatemala and Belize.

The investigative project took almost 2 years to complete and it's a great series that sheds much needed light on the causes and effects that newly arrived Central American immigrants bring to New Bedford. The series also tells the story of two immigrants, Alex and Casimiro, and chronicles some of the perils and dangers endured by these two immigrants in their journeys to safely arrive in the United States.

The series is about both legal and illegal immigration and despite the fact that this story focuses primarily on Central American immigrants it's a must read for anyone who is seeking a further and broader understanding of the complex issue of illegal immigration.

The series is commendable because it touches on the push factors and pull factors that largly contribute to illegal immigration today, and despite political posturing from both political parties, not much will stem the flow of illegal immigration until the push and pull factors are addressed and both sides agree on comprehensive immigration reform. Read more about The Standard-Times findings here, amongst those findings:

— Contrary to popular belief, most immigrants who came to New Bedford in the early 20th century faced no restrictions on legal immigration. Many Portuguese immigrants came to the U.S. on tourist visas and simply stayed to work afterwards.
The statement above is specific to New Bedford, a community largely settled by Portuguese immigrants, but such statement can apply to almost any immigrant group in the United States.

Americans are fond of talking about how today's immigrants should come "legally," the way their parents or grandparents did. The fact is, however, that if their forefathers and mothers came to the United States before 1921 — as many did — there were virtually no restrictions on immigration from Europe or the Americas.

Anti-immigration advocates typically speak of how illegal immigrants are breaking the rules, they deem them to be "cutting in line", of getting ahead of other unidentified immigrants who they claim are seeking legal entry into this country via the proper channels. Although, that argument is false, mostly because for Mexicans, Central Americans and South Americans there are no "proper channels", sure those with an education, some of the middle class with money or land can secure tourist or student visa. The fact is that these immigrants account for largest number of illegal immigrants, immigrants who arrive via legal means and simply don't return, they just overstay their visas and effectively join the ranks of millions of illegal immigrants.

“We did it because we had to do it,” said Victor Pixcar Gonzalez, the brother of Casimiro. “We are poor people. I needed to go to the U.S. because in our village there are not many resources or jobs.”
The only exception is made for Cubans to whom the Clinton Administration granted the "wet foot, dry foot" provision, which essentially guarantees any Cuban who touches US soil is guranteed legal residency within one year, all that in the name of combating communism, but that is fodder for another day.

The comparisons of 19th century U.S. immigration versus the influx of illegal immigration today is flawed. As the article points out:

The only 19th century U.S. immigration restrictions were against individuals who were incapable of working (the mentally and physically disabled), had criminal records or were Chinese laborers.

Unrestricted immigration was the environment in which New Bedford's largest immigrant group — the Portuguese — first came to America.

As much as anti-immigration proponents would like to blame the illegal immigrants for all of societies ills, whether those immigrants are Latinos, Ladinos or even Mayan, the fact remains is that those groups will supplant one another, as long as they serve an employers bottomline and we continue our reliance on the availability of cheap goods and services.

Americans would do themselves a big favor if they fully examined how we've come to depend on cheap immigrant labor. Few of us consider how a fast food chain restaurant is able to offer us a .99 Cent burger or the fact that we pay less to have our lawn mowed than we did 10 years ago, without putting to much thought into how this is economically possible.

Think about it, something has to give.


mh said...

Thanks for a good post. People do make a lot of assumptions about how their folks got here -- Like they all came through Ellis Island (1892-1930 something) or they were all legal (immigrant visas generally required after 1924). We're more diverse than that. My family were all undocumented, so far as I can tell, and quite a lot would not have been admitted under today's regs.

Brian Pacheco Corleto said...

Thanks for the post.
I'm not sure if the issue of how ethnic/racial differences of migrants from Latin American countries and how it relates to their U.S. experience is studied enough.