By Keely Savoie
The famously welcoming lines engraved on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” are little more than a myth we tell ourselves, according to David Hernández, assistant professor of Spanish, Latino/a, and Latin American studies.
“Immigrants today are forever foreign,” said Hernández, who spoke on July 8 at the Charlemont Forum, a lecture series that explores issues in American political culture, according to an article in the Greenfield Recorder.
At the heart of the poor treatment of immigrants, he said, is the racism that was written into the original Naturalization Act of 1790.
“Whiteness was a core requirement” of citizenship, said Hernández. He added that while the law was changed in 1952 to prohibit explicit racial discrimination, the implicit stereotypes and assumptions of racism still are manifest in our treatment of immigrants today.
Immigrants are saddled with stereotypes portraying them as criminals, terrorists, and drug users. New immigration laws mean that immigrants face an ever-present threat of deportation, regardless of their tenure in the United States and even with spotless criminal records, Hernández explained.
The end effect in this “melting pot” nation is the de facto criminalization of immigrants. We now have 33,000 “detention beds” for illegal immigrants, and 90 percent of those detained are Latino men, he said.
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