CVIndependent

Thu02222018

Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Growing tension between California and the federal government over immigration has business owners in the crosshairs—worried about the potential effect on their enterprises, and unsure which laws they should follow.

Those in immigrant-dependent industries, such as hospitality and agriculture, say conflicting messages from the state, with its new laws to protect undocumented residents, and the federal government, which is cracking down on people in the U.S. illegally, put them in an especially tough spot.

“It’s a bit scary to be caught in the middle of a stand-off between the feds and local law enforcement,” said Sharokina Shams, spokeswoman for the California Restaurant Association.

On Jan. 2, the interim director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement said California should “hold on tight,” because he planned to send in a flood of agents and conduct more actions to counter the state’s new “sanctuary” law. That law, which took effect Jan. 1, limits local and state law enforcement agencies’ cooperation with federal authorities.

ICE also recently raided nearly 100 7-Eleven franchises across the country and arrested 21 people. If such raids happened in California, the store owners would be required under a separate law to request warrants and subpoenas.

That law, called the Immigrant Worker Protection Act, also went into effect Jan. 1. It requires that employers admit immigration officials to a worksite only if the agents have a warrant; keep workers’ confidential information private in the absence of a subpoena; and notify their workers before a federal audit of employee records takes place.

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced on Jan. 18 that his office would go after employers who share information about workers in contradiction of the new law. Employers could face prosecution, including fines of up to $10,000.

“We want to protect people’s rights to privacy and protect their ability to go about their business, going to work and feeding their kids,” said Becerra, an appointee (who replaced Kamala Harris when she was elected to the U.S. Senate) running for election to the office this year.

He said his announcement was prompted by rumors in Northern California that immigration agents intend to conduct workplace raids.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement says employers in California are expected to comply with federal regulations, as they have in the past, when asked to open their records for review.

The Immigrant Worker Protection Act “reflects yet another effort by the State of California to interfere with federal immigration enforcement authorities,” said Lori Haley, spokeswoman for ICE, via email. “Federal law established by the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 requires employers to verify the identity and work eligibility of all individuals they hire.”

Such audits protect jobs for citizens and others who are in the country legally and help battle worker exploitation, child labor and other illegal practices, Haley said.

California business owners shouldn’t be put at odds with the federal government, said GOP Assemblyman Travis Allen, who represents Huntington Beach.

“Business owners should always feel safe to cooperate with federal authorities without fear of persecution by California’s rogue attorney general,” said Allen, who is running for governor. “Business owners should never be used as pawns in the California Democrats’ ongoing war with the White House.”

He called the new law unconstitutional and likened Becerra’s threat to the Mafia silencing witnesses. The Constitution has “laid out clearly that immigration is federal, not state jurisdiction,” Allen said. “Federal law trumps state law, and Xavier Becerra knows this.”

The California Farm Bureau Federation, which represents farmers, has been reaching out to its 27,000 members to educate them about the new employer law. But officials there say they may not be able to reach everyone and worry that some may get caught unaware.

“It was a little disconcerting that the attorney general felt compelled to make a public statement to the effect that ‘we are going to fine anybody that we think might have violated the law at the max penalty’ when people make mistakes,” said Bryan Little, director of employment policy for the federation. “It would have been more helpful for the attorney general to be more informative.”

Typically, Little said, when immigration authorities decide to do an employment inspection, an employer receives a letter stating that the agency wants to audit its records, how those records should be provided and whether agents plan to show up at the worksite. That’s different from an enforcement action, when agents show up without warning to look for someone specific or to question all employees about their legal status—the kind of operation that does not happen very often.

Regardless, said Little, California law adds a layer of complications.

“Our business owners, operators and employers are caught in the middle” between ICE’s right to enforce federal law and the state’s limited-cooperation directive, he said. “It’s unfortunate.”

Restaurateur Patricia Perez, co-owner of Pho Show restaurants in Culver City and Redondo Beach, feels the pressure.

“Being in the hospitality industry, the whole social and political climate is worrisome,” she said. “Even before this, there is a lot to comply with. I don’t know what we would do.”

“The small business owner is the loser in this,” said Perez, who is also on the board of the Los Angeles Chapter of the California Restaurant Association.

Keeping up with new laws and regulations is hard enough, said Perez. Anytime a government agency shows up at a business for audits or information, employers and workers are nervous or even intimidated, and the new employment law doesn’t help, she said.

“It’s not an issue of transparency. Once a government agency asks for anything, it’s a feeling of not having a choice,” she said. “Business owners don’t always know their rights or what to do except to comply.”

California could be contradicting itself with the new employer law, according to Jonathan Turley, professor of public-interest law at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The state weighed in on a 2012 case involving an Arizona law that required police to cooperate with immigration agents, Turley noted in a review of California’s new employer law. Kamala Harris, who was then California’s attorney general, signed a brief arguing that Arizona’s law improperly interfered with federal jurisdiction. Today, California is putting business owners in the direct path of the federal government, Turley argues, and its law could be challenged based on its own position that states should not impede federal authority.

CALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

Published in Local Issues

One of the most controversial issues in Sacramento this year has been what is widely referred to as the “sanctuary state” law, which will take effect Jan. 1.

It is intended to protect law-abiding immigrants from being set on a path toward deportation after interactions with local police. But in immigrant communities and elsewhere, there is confusion about how the law will work—and exactly what protection it provides.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the measure, named the California Values Act, into law after negotiations made it more palatable to law enforcers, who had protested it initially.

Why do people call it the “sanctuary state” law when the senator who wrote it says the phrase is a misnomer?

The author, state Senate leader Kevin de Léon, a Los Angeles Democrat, and others say the label is confusing, because the term “sanctuary” has become political—a flashpoint in the immigration debate.

The phrase originated with people who took sanctuary in churches. Some undocumented immigrants continue to do so, and so far, immigration officials have not gone to places of worship to arrest them. However, just being in California does not mean immigrants have blanket protection from federal authorities. The state law sets up guidelines for California law enforcement agencies’ interactions with federal immigration authorities. Undocumented immigrants may still face deportation if they have committed crimes or are swept up in raids by federal agents at workplaces, in neighborhoods or other venues, or if they are arrested individually.

The Values Act has been called a tool for public safety, put in place to ensure that immigrants continue to feel safe cooperating with local police as reporters of crimes and witnesses in court. Some police officials, including the chief of police in Los Angeles, endorsed the law for this reason.

What does the new law actually do?

The measure erects a barrier between state/local law enforcement, and federal immigration agencies. It doesn’t completely prohibit cooperation or the transfer of certain felons to federal custody; it creates a framework for when state agencies may cooperate with federal agencies. Previously, state and local authorities could use their discretion in many circumstances.

For people convicted of certain crimes—as many as 800, identified in a 2013 law called the Trust Act—there is little protection. Those infractions range from violent crimes and other serious offenses to felony drunk driving. State and local police agencies will still be allowed to let federal immigration authorities know when individuals are to be released, and to hand them over to those agents. However, individuals cannot be held beyond their release dates even if they have committed serious crimes.

The law also allows state corrections officials to continue to work with federal immigration agencies regarding those who are incarcerated and who face deportation after serving their sentences. They will continue to communicate with federal authorities about who is in prison and their expected release dates, and will hand those individuals over to federal agents upon release.

But the new law prohibits new or expanded contracts between the federal government and local facilities to be used as detention centers. Existing contracts are allowed to continue. The law also designates all courts, schools, libraries and hospitals as safe zones—immune to immigration enforcement as long as federal law does not require arrests there.

Police and sheriff’s deputies will not be allowed to act as immigration authorities; inquire about a person’s immigration status; detain someone based only on a federal hold request; participate in arrests based on immigration status; assist immigration authorities in arrests; or transfer people to federal custody without a warrant or certain other criteria.

Does the Values Act mean immigration agents can’t deport people in California?

No. No one can claim that living in California makes them exempt from deportation. Federal authorities can conduct raids, arrest suspected undocumented immigrants and do other work separately from state and local law enforcement. In addition, they can continue to communicate with local agencies about arrestees who have committed certain crimes, and they will be able to take custody of those individuals from local lockups when they are released. Agencies, however, will not honor “hold requests” from federal immigration agencies that previously could last up to 48 hours.

Does it mean undocumented immigrants won’t be deported if they commit violent crimes?

No. Immigrants—those here both legally and illegally—are not safe from deportation under the new law. Undocumented immigrants who are convicted of certain crimes will continue to be reported to federal immigration officials for deportation. The list of relevant crimes was not included when the Values Act was originally proposed. However, Gov. Jerry Brown negotiated with de León to ensure that those who commit serious crimes—including homicide, sexual assault and theft—will not be allowed to stay, while those arrested for a minor offense will not be held for deportation.  

What will happen if a county or city does not follow the new law and allows its authorities to cooperate with immigration agents?

Local agencies that do not follow the new law could face lawsuits by advocacy groups or others for failing to uphold it, or for constitutional claims such as wrongful detention. They could also face action from the state attorney general. Some law-enforcement groups that had criticized the measure dropped their opposition when the list of excluded crimes in the new law was increased from 60 to 800.

CALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

Published in Local Issues

On Oct. 8, the Trump White House released a long list of demands that the president had given to Congress—demands that Trump said would need to be met in order for the fate of young undocumented immigrants, often called DREAMers, to be determined.

“These findings outline reforms that must be included as part of any legislation addressing the status of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients,” Trump said. “Without these reforms, illegal immigration and chain migration, which severely and unfairly burden American workers and taxpayers, will continue without end.”

The list of demands disappointed advocates of DREAMers—young men and women who could face deportation if Congress does not act.

Hadley Bajramovic is a Riverside County immigration attorney for both the Consulate of Mexico and the Consulate of Guatemala. She said the proclamation by Trump did not surprise her.

“I don’t know that it was shocking,” Bajramovic said, “but the recommendations (the Trump White House) made are very harsh from our point of view. A lot of the principles and policies that are talked about in that memo are already in place. So, for me, there are parts of it that are just a big eye-roll.

“I noticed a theme of using criminality as a scare tactic—like we aren’t protected from (immigrants). ‘We need to protect the U.S.A. from these people,’ but the protections are already there.”

Bajramovic highlighted some of the positions outlined in the White House directive that she found to be misleading and/or inflammatory.

“The administration is suggesting that the border is still porous, and it is not,” she said. “I work with people who come to the border and declare asylum or ask for protection, and also people who crossed the border illegally. In the past two to three years, I have not had anybody come to my office who recently crossed without inspection. It was very common up until about 2007-2008 that people would either cross through the desert or come in (with the help of) a coyote. Now the people I am seeing were admitted or paroled in by the Border Patrol because they established that they could be eligible for relief. So the notion that the border is still porous is wrong. Building a wall is unnecessary. It’s an unnecessary expense.”

“But what was interesting and eye-opening is that whoever drafted these policies was aware of the protections coming into place under our local laws to help undocumented people or people with immigration issues who have criminal convictions. Most recently, California passed a law that allows attorneys to submit motions to vacate criminal convictions if it can be proven that the defendant was not fully aware of the immigration consequences of accepting a plea deal. This law, California 1473.7, went into effect this past January and says that before a person can do a plea deal, they must understand what they are doing. It’s a due-process protection, and it’s fair. This memo attacks that type of due-process protection and is calling it a part of the ‘sanctuary status.’ It calls for prohibiting states or cities from giving that kind of a remedy. That’s really disturbing.

“Another point that is really important: California provides services and benefits to aliens,” Bajramovic said. “In fact, the California Department of Social Services just opened up federal funding (to access by the public) of $45 million to fund immigration relief for undocumented people. Now this memo says they want to restrict grants to states that do that.”

Megan Beaman Jacinto is a La Quinta-based immigration-rights attorney.

“I’ve seen some phases of reaction and response (among current DACA beneficiaries), beginning with the time leading up to Sept. 5, when Trump declared that DACA would be ended by executive order. There was dread mixed with terror leading up to that date—but after, it was just terror,” she said. “There was a lot of uncertainty immediately about whether that announcement meant that Immigration and Customs Enforcement would just be coming for everyone who then possessed DACA. That was the initial reaction, I think, both in the advocate community as well as the DACA-recipient undocumented community.”

Beaman Jacinto pointed out a less-obvious consequence of the Trump administration’s ongoing anti-immigration stance.

“There’s been an interesting political framing of the DREAMer community as the one, limited group of people who are deserving of immigration protection,” Beaman Jacinto said. “It’s like they were the victims of their parents (actions and decisions). I appreciate, and agree, that the group we call DREAMers should be protected, but it sort of requires that we vilify everyone else. The parents of those kids are not DREAMers, even though they came here to provide a better life for their families. And the kids arriving now are not DREAMers, because they didn’t arrive before the deadline and the passage of the DREAMer legislation. It’s an interesting and arbitrary set of guidelines that have established this one deserving group that’s received protection both from Obama’s DACA executive order and now, most likely, from the (new Trump iteration) of the DREAM Act which we think will become law, hopefully next year. If that passes, it will be really great, and a step in the right direction—but it has required throwing a lot of other people under the bus.”

“If the DREAM Act does pass, or even if it doesn’t, we need to do the right thing for other people who didn’t fall into that so-called DREAMer category—because we’re all dreamers.”

Published in Local Issues

On this week's Category 5 weekly Independent comics page: Jen Sorenson ponders the immigration fixation; The K Chronicles celebrates yet more of life's little victories; This Modern World puts on MAGA-vision specs; Red Meat calls Milkman Dan to the office; and Apoca Clips eavesdrops on a chat between the horsemen.

Published in Comics

Dear Mexican: You are a racist, my friend. How can you bring up Japanese and Chinese mistreatment, and not Irish or Jewish mistreatment? It’s because it doesn’t fit into your narrative of whitey being the vilest creature on Earth.

Worrying about language, culture and assimilation doesn’t make you a racist (even though Mexican isn’t a race, but I digress). People want to protect the melting pot of American culture. People want people to come here legally and assimilate—not forget or ignore their ancestors’ culture, but to embrace American culture.

Your race-baiting demagoguery is intellectually dishonest and a threat to the American way of life for all colors and ethnicities.

Jeff Sessions Is My Boo

Dear Gabacho: Ah, the wonders of the Internet. You no doubt found my columna from some random Google search or Google News or Stormfront or some other fake news outlet; read a couple of back issues; then surmised I hate gabachos for being white. No seas pendejo.

Again and again, I’ve brought up gabacho racism against European immigrants—whether it’s Benjamin Franklin railing against Germans, the British deeming Jews trying to enter Israel when it was still Mandatory Palestine as “illegals,” or the entirety of the Dillingham Commission report. I do love gabacho racism against “white” immigrants, because it’s proof that when idiots like you say they only want “legal” immigrants and don’t mind people holding on to the traditions of the motherland, it’s as much of a a false flag as saying Rick Bayless is a great Mexican chef.

Hate white people? The Mexican LOVES white people! Without them, tequila would’ve never become a worldwide product, and the Mexican soccer team wouldn’t have any other team to get humiliated by. It’s gabachos who ruin the United States—and if you can’t tell the difference between whites and gabachos, then you don’t know your Chris Rock.

Dear Mexican: I’ve noticed you haven’t addressed too many issues dealing with Mexican gangs in your column. Tell me what’s up with the Norteños and Sureños, and why they hate each other so much.

Aren’t all you Mexicans after the Reconquista in the first place? How did this split happen, and how does a guy like me stay out of the way in la Mission in Frisco?

Mulatto Man (Who Happens to Look Mexican)

Dear Negrito: Imagine all the power Mexicans would have if we were one unified force. Trump wouldn’t be president, for one. And we wouldn’t have all these ridiculous gang beefs that leave too many of our young dead, hooked on drugs or condemned to la vida loca.

I’m not going to get into the history of the Norteños and Sureños, because I’m sure you can find some documentary about their history on a NatGeo special, and I don’t want one side to think I favor the other side. Besides, the only gang I claim is the Gashouse Gang—look ’em up, eses.

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!

Published in Ask a Mexican

“The grass is dry and golden,

waves scour the headlands,

and the sea churns around me …”

When Teow Lim Goh first walked through the old immigration barracks on Angel Island, in San Francisco Bay, she was waiting to learn her U.S. immigration status.

It was 2010, and Goh, a poet, had received a coveted H-1B visa, which allowed her to stay and work in the U.S. She had emigrated from Singapore, attended college in Michigan, and had been put into a lottery system for the visa. While her circumstances were much different than those of the Chinese immigrants who passed through Angel Island from 1910 to 1940, as she walked the island’s paths and looked out over the same ocean vista, she felt that she shared their feelings of hope and uncertainty.

From that visit came Goh’s first book, Islanders, a collection of fictional poems.

Called the “Ellis Island of the West,” the Angel Island Immigration Center processed Russians, Germans, Koreans, Indians, Japanese and Mexicans for entry into the U.S., but it was the Chinese who had the longest detention periods there and bore the brunt of institutionalized racism. It was during long periods of captivity on the island that they painted or carved poems in Chinese into the walls.

“It was a way to pass time and process their experiences,” Goh said in an interview.

The immigration center closed shortly after a fire burned down the women’s barracks in 1940. While the men’s barracks is marked with at least 135 poems, any poetry that the women might have scrawled there was turned to ash.

In Islanders, Goh attempts to fill that hole in history with words of her own. Written from the perspective of early Chinese immigrants and others, Goh’s poems are based on historical accounts. These would-be Americans faced a future full of uncertainty and the bureaucratic tangles of an emerging immigration system.

Goh eschews the rhyming structure of traditional Chinese poetry, and instead writes in free verse. Her sparse lines take on various perspectives: an immigrant, an immigration official or an American citizen.

“How much injustice do we have to abide by in order to survive?” Goh said. “Those are the questions I attempted to ask with those poems.”

Those questions have come to the fore since Donald Trump’s election. Trump attempted a temporary travel ban for seven Muslim majority countries (which was recently tweaked to six countries after legal troubles). The Trump administration has also rolled out a plan for enhanced immigration enforcement, including a border wall.

“Trump tapped into a sentiment that was already there,” Goh told me recently. “It did not start with him, but he articulated it. He was willing to breach standards of decorum to say aloud what a lot of people had been thinking.”

Islanders is a testament to the early roots of such sentiment. The Angel Island Immigration Center was the result of anti-immigrant laws passed in the late 1800s, particularly the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first of its kind in the U.S. It put limits on immigration based on race and class, keeping out any Chinese who were not merchants, teachers, clergy or diplomats. Unaccompanied women were assumed to be prostitutes and turned back, as was any immigrant without enough money, deemed “likely to become a public charge.” Judy Yung, an Angel Island historian, calls the law “the end of free immigration and the beginning of restrictive immigration.” The Chinese Exclusion Act set the tone for a number of other acts focused on banning specific races from immigrating.

Goh explores the outlooks of diverse individuals in her poems, separated into five sections. She delivers the voices of American workers at the immigration center, who became part of a system that separated families for months or longer and drove some immigrants to suicide. She delves into San Francisco’s 1877 Chinatown riots, where anti-Chinese anger, fueled by a downturn in jobs, led to violence against Chinese immigrants, who often worked for the railroads or mining companies.

An integral part to the story of Angel Island were the “paper sons,” who Goh also writes about. After San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake demolished immigration records, many Chinese men claimed legal residency, a claim that was hard to refute. This brought an increase in boys and young men who claimed to be the sons of Chinese residents of the U.S. Related only on paper, they came to be called “paper sons.” To uncover them, U.S. officials would interrogate newcomers for weeks, asking the layouts of their villages, the number of steps at their front doors, and other questions about their “families.” The wives of paper sons faced a double test, as they had to attest to who they were, as well as to the fictional past of their husbands. Any son, paper or real, who couldn’t pass the tests was sent back. If an immigrant appealed, he or she faced the prospect of life in cramped wooden barracks from six months to a year, as their case was resolved.

Goh’s book is an ode to people caught in an unfair system. Her poems are a mournful byproduct of imprisonment, though she says the lessons the islanders’ stories hold have gone largely unnoticed.

“The one thing I learned while researching this book is we don’t learn from history,” said Goh, who is now a U.S. citizen living in Colorado. “The history is there. We’ve been through this, but we’re still going through the same questions.”

Anna V. Smith is an editorial fellow at High Country News, where this review first appeared.

Islanders

By Teow Lim Goh

Conundrum

90 pages, $14.99

Published in Literature

Dear Mexican: A Mexican man recently broke up with me. We had great sex but a somewhat distant relationship. Anyway, the reason he left me was his immigration status. He says he can’t “be with me mentally,” because he’s somewhere else mentally—not knowing where he might be living in the next days and months is really bothering him. There is also the fact that he can’t find work now because of E-File.

I’m trying to find closure. It’s only been a few days since he left me, but I’m struggling with finding peace in myself. My friends say things like, “You’re better off without him,” and, “Things happen for a reason.” I miss him, miss the great sex (adventurous, great oral, got very close to anal) and most of all, I miss the idea of him. He’s liberal politically, helps his family here and in Mexico, is a good person, helps others and is very organic. I forgot to mention he has beautiful long hair and is “como un tren,” which means he’s solid like a football player and made me melt when I touched his “guns.”

Please help me deal.

La Heina No More

Dear Ya No The Chick: Man, you know Trump is destroying lives when Mexicans can’t even have sex with gabachas anymore without deportation on their mind. (Quick thought, gents: Think of 45’s blobbish physique to hold out just a bit more.)

It seems like the two of you had a great relationship outside of el sexo, and he’s obviously concerned about his livelihood and those of his fellow undocumented friends and family, so don’t take it personally. The most important thing right now is for you to be there for him, even if he’s unavailable physically. Protest whenever the inevitable migra raids inflict terror on the barrios in your city. Bombard your congressman and senators, demanding they oppose Trump’s wall of shame. Donate to nonprofits designed to help out people like your hombre.

Remember: The most important body part of his to have right now is his back. Oh, and #fucktrump.

Dear Mexican: This past Thanksgiving weekend for me was a bit surreal. I was born and raised here in the beautiful city of Nuestra Señora de Los Angeles and decided to visit my mother in Arkansas, where she recently moved with her new husband. (Her husband is from the state of Guerrero!) Before my boyfriend (who is white) and I arrived, my mother told me that they (her husband’s family and friends) were going to kill a goat in honor of me and my boyfriend’s arrival, and have a huge fiesta on Saturday. I thought she was pulling my leg.

Thursday, we had the traditional turkey; come Friday evening, there was a weird stench coming from the back yard of the house. My boyfriend and I noticed that my mom’s husband and his friends were preparing the goat. Mind you, my boyfriend and I only eat three meats in our diet—chicken, beef and a little bit of pork. Someone told me that this tradition happens in many places in the world, and the type of animal they kill in your honor depends how important you are.

So, do Mexicans really do this, or am I just super-special with my family?

Turning Vegetariana Very Soon

Dear Gabacha: I have always maintained that only the world’s superior cultures go crazy for goat. That means that the GOATs of the world are Jamaicans, Vietnamese, Koreans, Pakistanis and, of course, Mexicans.

If your ’billy mom is now with a guy who’s immersing her in the art of cabrito, consider yourself blessed. That he and his compas slaughtered a goat in your name is nothing but respect.

“Weird stench”? Watch your manners—and be glad they didn’t make you a taco bowl.

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!

Published in Ask a Mexican

On this week's deeply depressing weekly Independent comics page: This Modern World looks at the reign of the mad king; Jen Sorenson looks at the detainment of America; The K Chronicles fears this is just the beginning; and Red Meat goes for a swim.

Published in Comics

Dear Mexican: Recently at the local Northgate market, I saw a man wearing a T-shirt that said “MEXICAN” followed by a clarification: “NOT Latino: Latinos are Anglo Europeans from Italy. NOT Hispanic: Hispanics are Anglo Europeans from Spain.”

I may be crazy, I’m pretty sure the words for those two descriptions are “Italian” and “Spanish.” Do I need to start telling my family members that we are actually of Latino descent? What’s the proper term so I don’t refer to all such people as “Mexicans” like an asshole?

Dago Dino

Dear Gabacho: Don’t pay attention to that T-shirt; it’s the mindless droppings of a group of yaktivists who long ago declared your beloved Mexican the biggest vendido in Aztlán, beating even Carlos Menstealia and Paul Rodriguez.

Mexicans are Latinos in the way Americans are North American: an identity of convenience, not a matter of the corazón. The only time Mexicans use “Latino,” like Americans with “North Americans,” is when trying to group themselves with other people based on perceived shared traits: language for Mexicans, countries involved in the Monroe Doctrine for Americans. Other than that, “Latino” and “Hispanic” are labels with about as much use in the daily lives of Mexicans as condoms.

Dear Mexican: In the 1820s, the Anglos were coming to Texas (which at the time was under Mexico’s control) for the rich farmland. When doing so, they violated the empresario land system, and brought slaves despite Mexico’s outlawing of it.

So my question is: Do you think the current immigration issue is simply a matter of, “What goes around, comes around?”

A Curious Anglo History Teacher

Dear Gabacho: More like, “Agua que no has de beber, déjala corer,” which translates as, “Water that you shouldn’t drink, let it stream by.” In other words, gabachos should’ve never drunk from the fountain of Manifest Destiny or cheap Mexican labor, because now they’re faced with either total Reconquista, or a collapse in their standard of living once cheap Mexican labor and imports goes adios.

This brings to mind another aphorism: Be careful what you wish for, because it just might park its car on its front lawn …

Dear Mexican: My girlfriend and I have had a standing argument about what some of my relatives call me. My cousins’ children call me “tío,” and I say I’m their uncle. My girl argues that they are really my second cousins, and I’m really their cousin, too. I can see her point, but she’s a gabacha and doesn’t understand that they refer to me as their tío out of respect for being older. All our white friends agree with her, but all our Mexican friends agree with me.

So who’s right?

El Tío Primo

Dear Cousin Uncle: Que chingada do gabachos know besides how to despoil the environment and kill indigenous folks?

But they’re technically correct on this: According to gabacho conventions, the children of your first cousins are called second cousins, while your children and them are first cousins once removed, whatever the hell that means.

I still say gabachos should be like Mexicans on this one: Even though the technical term for a first cousin is primo hermano, we usually use that to refer to any second cousin or third cousin thrice removed—basically anyone and everyone younger than us in our family.

Anyone older? tío. Anyone evil? Trump.

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!

Published in Ask a Mexican

Dear Mexican: Why do SO many chamacos of this generation. who are Mexican, refuse to learn Spanish and/or speak it? What’s the big deal? Are they THAT embarrassed of their native tongue because they’ve been so Americanized, or what? It’s been bugging me for years!

I’m Mexican-born and raised in San Diego, and grew up quite differently from most Mexican kids, I guess, but I never backed down to speak, read, write and learn Spanish. Osea, que conejos con está generación?!

Cachanillo, ¿Y Que?

Dear Pocho: Sure, the Pew Hispanic Center and other survey-happy think tanks publish study after study showing how quickly children of Mexican immigrants learn English, and how fast they begin to favor that idioma instead of habla. But the fact remains that it’s more acceptable than ever for people to speak Spanish, especially given that we’re in the end stage of Reconquista. And still, Mexico kids end up becoming English-dominant, as they always have in post-World War I America.

Why? Because despite what Univisión wants you to believe, English is how you win in los Estados Unidos—and win, we must. Besides, what’s wrong if Mexican kids lose the ability to speak Spanish? Sure, being bilingual is great, but a lack of Spanish doesn’t somehow make you less Mexican—just ask Cuauhtémoc.

Dear Mexican: When I was a small child of a poor farm family in Oklahoma, we started to have visits from an extended family of about a dozen persons who were following the harvest work from the border northward. They would stop again on their way south when harvest was over. Our farm was on a river, and our cabin had lots of shade and space for them to set up their tent and make the campfire. My mother always welcomed them, and we nine children were delighted to find these friendly brown children to play with. Mama would give them corn, tomatoes and sweet potatoes from our garden. They, in turn, would show my mother how to make flat bread on the cooking fire, and how to use very hot peppers in cooking.

I regret that the way to cook that flat bread was not passed on to me. I wish someone could tell me how to cook that bread. It would remind me of the great joy and delight we all felt when we saw them coming down our road from the high Dust Bowl plains. “The Mexicans are coming! The Mexicans are coming!” we shouted, and it was a great moment in our lives twice a year for three or four years in the 1930s.

Most of the Mexicans I encounter now are doing yard work or picking fruit here in Florida. Each time I see a brown face, I greet them with a smile and think of those wonderful people who I have always considered amigos. If anyone can give me a recipe for making the flat bread like those amigos made it, I would be most grateful.

Okie From Kissimmee

Dear Gabacho: Flat bread? You mean a tortilla, right?

Your letter is sweet, so I’ll spare you any further ridicule other than to note, as I always do when talking about Oklahoma, that the state should unconditionally support undocumented immigrants since it was founded by those dirty illegals called Sooners.

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Published in Ask a Mexican

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