Sunday, February 28, 2010

Just Say Now

A couple weeks ago I attended the Portland installment of Cheech and Chong’s Get it Legal tour that fuses comedy with activism on the drug war front, specifically marijuana laws. The audience spanned several generations that unequivocally appeared to support legalization. In an interview prior to the tour, Mexican American Richard “Cheech” Marin (winner of the first Celebrity Jeopardy show and recipient of a degree in English from Cal State Northridge) remarked on what he called the “quasi-legal” state of marijuana use in the United States: “[Legalization is] getting closer all the time. You can walk down the street of just about any city smoking a joint, and nobody’s gonna hassle you. It’s ridiculous that it’s not legal.”

 Although in their movies these hapless stoners have variously used and dealt a variety of drugs including LSD, cocaine, peyote, and amphetamines, the comedy duo is best associated with marijuana humor. Their tour wisely focuses on this drug as having the most traction for legalization. Marijuana use has entered the mainstream of pop culture with its comedic use in television shows such as Weeds and films such as Pineapple Express (2008), Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004) and Something About Mary (1998).

But despite these appearances, marijuana enforcement is no dead letter, particularly in neighborhoods of color. Despite studies confirming young Anglos use marijuana at the same or higher rate than Blacks and Latino/as, youths of color are disproportionately arrested for drug possession. In 2008, for example, although constituting only about half of its urban population, Blacks and Latino/as comprised 87 percent of the 40,000 arrests in New York City for marijuana possession.

Enforcement also continues on the interdiction side when Mexican drug dealers are targeted.  Even Tommy Chong fell victim to the post-September 11th conflation of the drug war with the war against terrorism. He served nine months in federal prison for his role in financing and promoting a family business selling bongs (Chong’s Bongs) and water pipes, and he also forfeited over $100,000.

Awash in drug violence, Mexico finally broke from U.S. influence and decriminalized user quantities of all drugs in 2009, eliminating jail terms for those possessing small amounts of marijuana (the equivalent of no more than four joints), cocaine (four lines), heroin (50 milligrams), methamphetamine (40 milligrams), and even LSD (0.015 milligrams). In a forthcoming book, Run for the Border: Lessons from 150 Years of U.S-Mexico Border Crossings, I argue for a more nuanced policy of drug legalization. In contrast to Mexico’s recent decriminalization across the drug spectrum, I argue for U.S. policies closer to those espoused by Cheech and Chong on their current tour.

Mexico’s recent action will do little, if anything, to suppress cross-border drug trafficking and the violence it creates. There is no chance that addicts or casual users in the United States will run for the border into Mexico en masse every time they want to partake in illegal substances. Therefore, the Mexican drug cartels will remain in business supplying the insatiable U.S. demand should the United States not take the drastic but logical action itself of decriminalization.

A more reasonable middle ground for U.S. policy is to start by decriminalizing and taxing marijuana production, distribution, and possession. The United States could then gauge the impact on the viability of the Mexican cartels as well as the impact on marijuana use and user health in the United States. According to estimates, marijuana constitutes some 70 percent of the product distributed by Mexican drug cartels, meaning decriminalization should have a cataclysmic effect on the Mexican drug trade and associated violence. With the illicit marijuana trade scuttled, cooperative cross-border enforcement imperatives could more easily tackle remaining drugs such as heroin, whose base ingredient of opium can only be cultivated in specific regions of Mexico and once harvested is devoted almost entirely to producing heroin intended for U.S. users. Methamphetamine, a horrible chemical scourge that destroys health and family life, could be pursued with greater vigor as well, once the distraction of marijuana laws is removed.

As with immigration policy, U.S. drug law should be considered a fluid work in progress that undergoes constant scrutiny to mitigate external harm while taking advantage of the best science and addiction treatment and abuse prevention techniques that come along. A public health focus means that government can concentrate on funding studies and technology to curb addiction rather than striving to entrap smugglers in the longstanding but failed policy of interdiction.

Maybe an alternate middle ground to broad-scale legalization is what Tommy Chong (now 71 years old and a casualty of John Ashcroft’s Operation Pipe Dreams) quipped on a Fox News interview while promoting the 2010 tour: the United States should legalize pot except for Republicans.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Judicial diversity promotes a just rule of law. It is not affirmative action for judges.

Currently, President Obama is on pace for appointing the most diverse cohort of federal judges to the bench. He has said that he believes that judges with different kinds of experiences bring empathy to the process of judges. This statement is not without controversy.

At the Sonya Sotomayor confirmation hearings diversity on the bench came under attack from Republican Senators. Repeatedly Republican senators asserted that Justice Sotomayor’s comment that “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life” showed disrespect for the rule of law. First, Senator Jeff Sessions asserted that this statement showed that she would be a judge that would play ethnic politics on the bench. John Kyl, who served on the Texas Supreme Court, asserted that the idea that a judge might bring to the bench her perspective based on experience violated the fundamental premise that the rule of law is based on neutrality

These Senators believe that justice is blind, and that judges have no precommitments when they take on a case.
However, EVERY judge brings to the bench. Each judge has a gender, a race, and a culture, and that means that he or she is bringing with him or her, some “wise” experience,

Can any judge leave behind who he or she is, her experiences, her political belief, and put on the blindfold and balance the scales of justice? Increasingly, the cognitive psychologists have shown empirically that ideology, gender, religion, culture or race frame how we make decisions. Culture influences how we process the information that we perceive and how we interpret it, at an unconscious level, even if consciously we are committed egalitarians. Making decisions with one’s gut, unconscious cognitive processing, can also tap into our prejudices and what culture has taught us to think as the way things are -- women stay at home, most Mexicans are illegal, same sex relationships are “unnatural” etc.

Diversity in group decision counters unconscious bias. It is through the process of engagement, challenging each others’ premises and conclusions, that we are forced to question that gut intuition and re-examine and think through our decisions. Careful more deliberative thinking is less likely to be biased. And that is the main reason that a diverse judiciary is important.

By Sylvia Lazos

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Identity Matters

As every litigator knows, the first question upon receiving a new case is: who will be the judge? This question is crucial because, as every litigator also knows, every judge judges differently. Now, two new studies confirm once again what many folks and folks of color in the US already know: not only do different judges arrive at different decisions and conclusions, but they do so specifically on the basis of race and gender. In other words, difference is not merely idiosyncratic, not merely a matter of individuation.

These new studies, originally reported at, were recently examined at the ABA Mid-Year Meeting in Orlando by the ABA Judicial Division. In one study, focusing on federal racial harassment cases, the plaintiffs lost 54% of cases when the judge was African-American. However, when the judge was white, 79% of plaintiffs lost their cases. But the picture is even more complex: when the judge was Hispanic, plaintiffs lost 81% of the time. When the judge was Asian-American, plaintiffs lost 67% of their cases. The second study looked at over 500 federal appellate cases involving sexual harassment or sex discrimination and found that plaintiffs were at least twice as likely to win in cases where the appellate panel included at least one non-male judge. What do these findings tell us about the role of race, ethnicity, gender or other categories of identity in the formal administration of law?

As the ABA program noted, the comment by US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor about “a wise Latina woman” as a judge, and the difference of perspective based on race and gender conveyed by that comment, appear to be amply supported by the results of the two latest studies. I wonder what all those senators who made such a hullabaloo about such a bedrock fact would have to say now? Probably, as usual, not much at all.


By Frank Valdes

Monday, February 22, 2010

Latino Community and Internet Financial Fraud

I received a frantic telephone call on Thursday afternoon from my cousin who was born and raised in Ecuador but currently resides in Kendall, FL. After a few minutes of a harried conversation in Spanglish, she finally said, “oh my God, how could I have been so stupid, stupid, stupid.” My cousin has been the most recent victim of Internet financial fraud, and in the process has been swindled out of $3,800.

I assured her this type of financial fraud is very very common and the FBI has been looking into these types of financial frauds for years. I was rather surprised that she had never heard of these investigations. What happened to my cousin has happened to many many people. What I was more interested in determining was how a college-educated, well-experienced, accessories merchandise buyer for some of the most renowned fashion designer houses for more than 15 years, became the victim of a internet financial fraud scheme. She admitted that with the financial crisis, her job is not as secure as it used to be, and she was looking on the Internet, primarily on Hispanic-focused Internet websites for ways to make a little extra cash by working as a translator.

Last week, she responded to an email that offered her the opportunity to be a “secret shopper,” which required her to evaluate customer service procedures of local retailers in her community. This sounded right up her alley. The email suggested that the “Company” was looking for a “few secret shoppers in her area, and they would only select a few local residents.” She immediately, filled out an on-line form, which requested her personal data such name, address, and description of local community in particular types of retail stores. No credit card or banking information was requested. (I gather that would have triggered a red flag for potential victims.) A few days later she received a cashiers check for $3,800. The instructions required her to cash the check at “her local bank,” go to Western Union (WU) evaluate how well her local WU representative handled transactions with the public, in particular she should evaluate the level of courtesy, language ability, and efficiency displayed by WU representative. Once she had observed the WU representative she should conduct her own transaction and wire $3,600 (she should retain $200 as payment for her services) from the cashiers check that she had cashed at her local bank to the Company, which was located in Dubai, United Arabs Emirate.

My cousin immediately sent an email to the company and pointed out that $3,800 was a great deal of money for an initial customer service assignment, and whether there was anything “underhanded or potentially illegal” regarding the nature of the assignment. She received an immediate email response that assured her that the assignment was “100% LEGAL” and the amount of the cashiers check was the Company’s way of determining whether they were dealing with “honest secret shoppers.” My cousin’s fears were alleviated, and she performed her assignment as requested within approximately two hours of receiving the cashiers check including sending an evaluation report to the Company. She did not receive a response email from the Company. A few hours later, having heard nothing from the Company, she called me frantically, and shared this disturbing story.

The unfortunate reality is that the “cashiers check” is a fraudulent check. It was drawn on the United Federation of Teacher's Credit Union in Washington, D.C. A brief conversation with their Legal Department confirmed that they do not have a “secret shopper” pilot program nor do they have any representative or independent contractor that is located in Dubai, United Arabs Emirate. The check will not clear the inter-bank clearing process, which takes 2-3 days for in-state-checks and 3-5 days for out-of-state checks to clear. The account that the “cashiers check” is drawn on is not an active account. My cousin has been told that her local bank will withdraw the $3,800 funds from her personal account once the inter-bank clearing process rejects the cashiers check. I have advised my cousin to file a financial fraud affidavit with her local police department, which will permit her to file a theft and casualty loss on her itemized tax return for 2010. I also advised her to forward all correspondence to and from the Company to the FBI Criminal Investigation Division unit including the envelope in which the cashiers check was sent to her for forensic testing. The FBI Financial Crimes Report to the Public is available here. It really should be translated into multiple languages especially Spanish and French.

My cousin has learnt an expensive lesson. However, her experience has galvanized her to create an Internet Financial Fraud brochure in Spanish, which she will share with primarily Spanish speaking community groups in South Florida. I am a strong believer that all things no matter how demoralizing and painful they may be, happen for a higher purpose. Hopefully, my cousin’s unfortunate experience will prove to be a learning experience for many many people.

Lydie Nadia Cabrera Pierre-Louis

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Cuba and the US--Cold War Dialogue Masking Growing Interactions?

In a news story given little attention in this country, the United States and Cuba continue to cooperate behind a smokescreen of the usual Cold War rhetoric that seems to have become de rigeur in communicatons between the two governments.  Maurico Vincent, Cuba y EE UU vuelven al discurso de la guerra fría, El País, Feb. 20, 2010.

On the one hand, the Obama Administration continues its dialogue with Cuban state officials over migration policy, a matter characterized as tinged with national securtity concerns.
La Habana fue escenario este viernes viernes de la segunda ronda de conversaciones migratorias Cuba-Estados Unidos de la era Obama. Los encuentros entre ambos países para hablar sobre temas migratorios, un asunto que Washington considera de seguridad nacional, se reanudaron en Nueva York el verano pasado después de cinco años de interrupción durante el Gobierno de George W. Bush. EE.UU envió ahora a La Habana al subsecretario de Estado adjunto para Asuntos del Hemisferio Occidental, 
Mauricio Vincent, Cuba y EE UU se reúnen para hablar sobre temas migratorios, El País, February 19, 2010.  Negotiations centered on a deal under which the United States would make about 20,000 entry visas available to Cubans and promise to return immigrants undocumented for that purpose by either the Cuban or American governments encountered in international borders.  Cuban for its part would promise to more aggressively police its own bordes against undocumented immigration.
El convenio vigente establece la obligación de EEUU de conceder un mínimo de 20.000 visados anuales a inmigrantes cubanos, así como de repatriar a los balseros interceptados en alta mar. Cuba, por su parte, se compromete a tomar medidas para impedir las salidas ilegales. Ambas naciones expresaron entonces su voluntad de promover una emigración "segura, legal y ordenada", y establecieron un mecanismo de reuniones periódicas para asegurar el cumplimiento de los acuerdos.

But the U.S. delegation could not resist a bit of aggressive Cold War tactics.  In the course of its talks in Cuba, it invited a group of dissidents to a recption held by the Cuban Interest Section.  This was viewed as a provocation (Cold War style) and produced the necessary response form the Cubans.
hoy sábado la cancillería cubana ha acusado a EE UU de traicionar el "espíritu de cooperación y entendimiento" bilateral y de fomentar la "subversión" en la isla. ¿La razón del cambio? La reunión sostenida anoche por la delegación norteamericana con una treintena de disidentes y miembros de la sociedad civil, que La Habana considera "mercenarios" al servicio de Washington. 
Es el viejo guión de siempre. Según las autoridades cubanas, el subsecretario de la Oficina de Asuntos Hemisféricos del departamento de Estado, Craig Kelly, jefe de la delegación estadounidense, fue advertido de que no realizara "eventos provocadores" aprovechando su visita. Kelly es el funcionario de más nivel que ha visitado la isla desde que Obama llegó a la Casa Blanca, y a juicio de La Habana, su encuentro con los opositores ha demostrado que para Washington es más importante "el apoyo a la contrarrevolución y la promoción de la subversión para derrocar la revolución cubana" que "la creación de un clima conducente a la solución real de los problemas bilaterales".
Los disidentes habían sido invitados hace días a la recepción con Kelly en la residencia del jefe de la Sección de Intereses de EE UU en La Habana, por lo que las autoridades de la isla estaban al tanto de la celebración del encuentro.
Maurico Vincent, Cuba y EE UU vuelven al discurso de la guerra fría, El País, Feb. 20, 2010. SStill, the intensity of the rhetoric appeared somewhat muted, and it has thus far not affected the talks on immigration.  Id.  Talks have also been held on the resumption of direct mail service.  "En septiembre, la entonces responsable para Cuba del departamento de Estado, Bisa Williams, viajó a La Habana con la misión de iniciar un diálogo con vistas a un posible restablecimiento del correo directo entre ambos países, suspendido desde 1963."  Id.

This suggests a slow move toward greater cooperation between the two states.  But it also suggests that the interests of neither is yet to a point where their respective rhetorical positions can profitably be changed.  This isn't merely an "American" problem; rather it suggests the extent to which both states are locked inot rhetorical boxes of their own making.  In the meantime, both countries continue significant police cooperation with respect to drug interdiction.  M. Ziegler, "Forming a New Habit: US-Cuba Cooperation with Drug Interdiction" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association, Town & Country Resort and Convention Center, San Diego, California, USA Online March 22, 2006 Military cooperation also continues.  "Although U.S. forces at this remote base have been engaging in the annual rite with the Cuban Frontier Brigade for more than a decade, this is the first time that the Southern Command acknowledge the fact.About 150 U.S. and Cuban troops worked side by side last week, testing collaboration across a minefield that has long divided the Cold War adversaries." U.S.-Cuban Military Cooperation Goes Public, July 20, 2009. And despite the embargo, U.S. agricultural sales to Cuba are strong, strong enough in 2008 to "made Cuba the United States' 29th largest agricultural export market." U.S. food sales to Cuba soar 61 percent in 2008, Reuters, Feb. 11, 2009 ("a record amount since American producers began exporting to Cuba under a 2001 amendment to the U.S. trade embargo against the communist-run island" Id.). 

The differences between praxis and rhetoric will likely widen during this year.  It will be interesting to see the way that this gulf between word and deed continues to distort relations between these states.  It will also be interesting to understand the value to both of these disjunctional stances.


Friday, February 19, 2010

The Mexican Cemetery

Malakoff, Texas is located in the northeastern Piney woods of the State and is the former site of indigenous population groups, an estimated 30,000 carved head known as the “Malakoff Man,” and curiously is also known for slightly credible “Bigfoot” sightings.
Yet another feature that compels this post is the Malakoff Cemetery in which a fence divides the final burial grounds of Mexicans from the town’s past and current non-Mexican populations. The area in which the cemetery is located was the home of the Malakoff Fuel Company that employed Mexicanos, Blacks and others in its coal mines during the Great Depression and into the 1940s.
Seeking cheap labor, the Company had recruited Mexicans not only from within the state such as my mother’s family but also from Mexico. As an enticement the Company town that skirted the coal mines and consisting of small tin shacks housed its workers and their families. Raised with the stories and cuentos of my tios and family that resided in the Company town until it closed, compelled this first stop of my Texas sabbatical research trip.
Whether from natural deaths or from the dangerous conditions of coal mining, the Company had dedicated several of its acres for the Malakoff Cemetery. Yet into the present a fence divides the Mexican side from the non-Mexicans resting in the Cemetery. While the segregated cemetery is a reminder of times past it also reaches into the present.
The non-Mexican side for example remains cared for and well tended. A handsome pavilion offers a bit of relief from the inclement weather. Yet as of yesterday the Mexican side remains isolated, primarily neglected and without a pavilion that the Anglo side retains. In contrast, the Mexican side has a collapsed picnic table “decorated” with surrounding debris around its base. Tending the cemetery in fact has fallen to the descendents who mined for the company whether they reside nearby or great distances from Malakoff. It is a reminder of how Mexicans were identified, regarded and treated.
Concretely the cemetery serves as a reminder of current times where U.S. employers seek Mexican laborers as in the instance of the earlier coal miners. Once recruited however the workers witness discriminatory treatment. In some instances federal law protects the employers who hire them. Finally, the cemetery offers a glimpse in time where social construction theory proves invaluable.
Specifically, on the far edge of the Mexican cemetery tucked away in a corner, rests the isolated graves of three young children all under the age of five with the last name of Saldana. Their mother Maude O’Donnell Saldana also rests alongside their graves. While Maude may have had a choice of burial grounds her long lost Saldana children tell us otherwise. They along with their mother speak volumes on how race is socially constructed.
In sum, the Saldanas are a reminder of how important the past remains. Yet they along with the totality of the Mexican cemetery also highlight how much work remains.

Guadalupe T. Luna

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Harsh Economic Realities for People of Color

A new report issued by the National Council of La Raza paints a bleak picture of Latino economic fortunes during the current financial crisis. Over 400,000 Latino families have suffered foreclosure and 1.4 million more will face foreclosure before the end of 2012. This is bound to have a devastating impact on children in these families, and to have effects years down the road in terms of educational attainment, future employment prospects and health outcomes.

According to Professor C. Nicole Mason of NYU: "In January, the unemployment rate fell to 9.7 percent, but the rates for Blacks and Latinos have inched up to 16.5 percent and 12.6 respectively; figures significantly higher than the national average." Even before the economic crisis people of color were getting hammered in terms of wage growth at the hands of the GOP:

Then, during the real estate boom Latinos and other people of color were steered into subprime mortgages at disproportionately high rates: in fact, in "2005 alone, subprime mortgages to Latinos jumped 169 percent."

President Obama prevailed in 2008 because he carried the people of color vote overwhelmingly; Latinos voted 75% in favor of Obama. The economic pain within these key communities cannot be ignored by this administration any further. They are facing political annihilation if these constituents stay home in 2010 and 2012.

Which brings me to the most painful part of the La Raza report: "Despite seeking help to avoid foreclosure, none of the [25] families interviewed were offered a sustainable payment plan or loan modification by their financial institutions." That is crazy!

As I argued in a forthcoming law review article in the Dayton Law Review, successful financial rescues should include assistance to strapped debtors, and it makes no sense to bailout only reckless bank managers (and creditors). They will simply cover up losses and hoard capital to maintain their positions. Elizabeth Warren of the TARP Congressional Oversight Panel made similar points in April of 2009:

So I confess: the Obama approach to Wall Street mystifies me. It is lousy politics, as they are inflicting unnecessary pain on their own base. It is not economically sound. And, many commentators warned about the problems with trickle down bailouts. It is time to bailout the victims of predatory lending, not the bankers that made billions.

It is time for Obama to get serious about imposing real discipline on Wall Street. November looms.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Marriage and Identity

Here we go again: yet another system of supremacy snatches victory from the jaws of the defeat. This time, the system is patriarchy. And this time, the victory is in the “New Economics” of Marriage as reported recently by the Pew Research Center.

According to the researchers at Pew, “the economic gains associated with marriage have been greater for men than for women” during the past 30 of 40 years. Why, you might ask? Well, perversely, perhaps the answer is: Women’s Lib!

Here’s the way it works: because women are now more liberated to go out, get educated, and earn big bucks, when they marry, their husbands are the big winners. It seems that previously, when women were kept barefoot and pregnant most of the time, they were the big economic “winners”!? Got that?


Executive Summary:

Full Report:

Posted by Frank Valdes

Monday, February 15, 2010

Latino Olympians

As I sat sipping a cup of café con leche, and reading the Sunday New York Times, I received an email from a friend in Montreal sharing a video clip of approximately 1,500 Canadians participating in a dance-a-long to "Dancing in the Streets" on Robson St in Vancouver, British Columbia. The event was to celebrate the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games from February 12th through 28th in British Columbia. The video with hundreds of people dancing to a synchronized version of the electric slide, is really quite amusing. The video is available here.

A few hours later, I received an email from my uncle in the Dominican Republic sharing a video clip of how American Latino comedians were making fun of Latinos’ un-athletic participation in the Olympics. Latino Comedians such as Felipe Esparza, Andrew Norelli, and others made fun that there should be an Olympic games focusing on unconventional sports geared towards Latinos such as Extreme Carpooling--how many Latinos can fit in a car; Farming; Boxing—Latinos boxing oranges, apples, grapes; and Playing Dominoes a/k/a Dominican scrabble. The video is available here. Although, I laughed at the humor of mis hermanos, I did not laugh at the underlying message—a lack of Latino Olympians. As I researched the issue, I quickly realized that the real issue was not a lack of Latino Olympians. There had been approximately 24 Latino Olympians in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. The problem was more fundamental--it was a lack of Latino Olympians' media coverage by major U.S. networks.

For example, in the Summer 2008 Olympics, NBC's coverage of the Beijing Olympics was touted as having better than ever content, and production. During, the Opening Ceremonies with its parade of nations, the commentators said something about every country, dropping interesting facts like its geographical location or an interesting anecdote about a certain athlete. When the Puerto Rican flag bearer entered the stage waving the Puerto Rican flag, the flag bearer himself was an Olympian who was schedule to compete in the 2008 Summer Olympics, Luis Rivera Rivera. The NBC announcers said nothing about him. Rivera had made it into the finals, competing on par with China, the U.S., Russia, Japan, Germany, and France. He made us all proud. However, the NBC announcers simply stated, “…Here is Puerto Rico, …and now for a commercial break from our sponsors.” Nothing else was said about Puerto Rico or Rivera when the coverage resumed after the commercial break.

The irony is Rivera finished 14th in the overall standings. It is interesting to me that out of approximately 7 billion people on Earth, Rivera was ranked the 14th best all around gymnast in the world. Yet, NBC did not interview him. To make it numerically even more bizarre, Rivera at the time was the third best gymnast in the western hemisphere. As a Puerto Rican Olympian, Rivera made us all proud. Nevertheless, NBC never interviewed Rivera, or mentioned his name during the 2008 Summer Olympics media coverage. For the approximately 8.5 million Puerto Ricans (living on the island of Puerto Rico, residing in the U.S., serving in Iraq & Afghanistan, and scattered across the world), watching the ceremonies they expected some mention of their native son, Luis Rivera Rivera, or at least some mention regarding how the Puerto Rican National Basketball team was the first to defeat the U.S. “Dream Team” Basketball Team. Unfortunately, Latinos across the world waited in vain.

After the 2008 Olympic Games, Associated Press (AP) reported on the under representation of Latinos in the US Olympic team. AP reported that out of approximately 600 team members, AP could only identify 24 Latino Olympians, roughly 4%, Latino athletes. AP attributed the lack of Latino Olympians to several factors economics (lack of scholarships and programs), cultural gender roles (many girls are discouraged by their families to enter sports), and placed part of the blame on Spanish TV networks (focus very little on sports outside of soccer). Some of these factors may well be contributing factors, but doesn't the lack of media coverage by major U.S. networks of existing Latino Olympians play a much greater role in creating the invisible Latino Olympian? and compiled separate lists of Latino Medalists for the 2008 Beijing Olympic. I have combined the list and there are approximately 17 Latino Medalists out of approximately 24 total Latino Olympians from the 2008 Summer Olympics, which represents a 71 percent rate of receiving a medal. That is pretty impressive. We may be few in numbers at the Olympics, but we totally rock when it comes to our athletic skill, and seizing the coveted gold, silver or bronze medal. The 17 Latino medalists from the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic included:

1) Carmelo Anthony, Gold, Basketball
2) Tony Azevedo, Team USA Water Polo
3) Crystal Bustos, Silver, Softball
4) Patty Cardenas, Silver, Water Polo
5) Henry Cejudo, Gold, Wrestling
6) Stephanie Cox, Gold, Soccer
7) Andrea Duran, Silver, Softball
8) Shawn Estrada, Silver, Boxing
9) Vicky Galindo, Silver, Softball
10) Mark Lopez, Silver, Taekwondo
11) Steven Lopez, Bronze, Taekwondo
12) Diana Lopez, Bronze, Taekwondo
13) Jessica Mendoza, Silver, Softball
14) Amy Rodriguez, Gold, Soccer
15) Diana Taurasi, Gold, Basketball
16) Dara Torres, Silver, Swimmer,
17) Brenda Villa, Silver, Water Polo

Latino Olympian medalists are not a new phenomenon. The historical evidence tells a compelling story that Latino Olympians have competed and won Olympian medals for more than one century. Mario Longoria of UTSA HRC calculated in March 2000 that Latino Olympians have participated and won Olympic medals since 1896, and won the first of many medals in 1900. (Longoria’s data included medalists from Spain and Portugal.) As of 2000, Latino Olympians have won 409 medals—117 gold medals, 127 silver, and 158 bronze. Impressive. Cuba leads in every medal category with a total of 113 medals—46 gold, 34 silver, and 33 bronze. As such, Latino Olympians are to be celebrated for their athleticism, and yet we hear nothing from the major U.S. media networks regarding Latino Olympians.

Perhaps the media coverage will be different when Brazil, hosts the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. At least that is the expectation from many people in the Latino community, especially Brasilians living in New York City, dining at a local restaurant aptly named Brasil, and celebrating news that the 2016 Olympic Games will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. Perhaps Latino Olympians will go from invisibility to invincibility. Viva Brasil!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Diversity: its costs and challenges

The value and virtues of diversity have for decades been the topic of heated national and local debates. Accordingly, this post does not intend to explore all of the arguments and permutations of those debates. Instead, this post seeks recast one of the primary arguments against promoting diversity—the costs of diversity efforts. Specifically, this post intends to exam this so-called cost from a different perspective. The traditional argument against diversity as it relating to its cost basically goes as follows: promoting diversity and thereby hiring or accepting less qualified candidates perverts this country’s notions of merit by advancing weaker candidates in the name of some amorphous notion concerning a value associated with diversifying a certain group, profession, or other targeted arena or area.

Indeed, the arguments for and against diversity are far from rare in academic circles, particularly legal ones. These debates are typically couched in terms of affirmative action and specifically, whether accommodations should be made for students and academics that do not have the same predictors of success that other candidates possess. For opponents of diversity, or at least affirmative action, traditional modes or barometers of success, such as standardized exams, represent the so-called “coin of the realm” for the means to predict merit and likely success. Supporters of affirmative action and diversity question the value of such tests or traditional means of measuring merit. Situated as such, the advocates of diversity unfortunately seem to argue against what appear to be objective means to measure achievement. These advocates seem to oppose or at least question a core value--the American way to measure performance and even a person’s worth.

What do the advocates of diversity appear to offer instead— amorphous critiques with few objective means at predicting achievement? These advocates of diversity ask supporters of the dominant narrative, or at least traditional advocates of merit, to change their perspective or change the axis of the debate. The advocates of diversity argue that adding diversity adds perspective to many debates and promotes robust exchange of ideas and varying views on a host of subjects that would likely not be available absent a diversity of perspective and representative voices. The opponents of diversity, when they do acknowledge value of diverse ideas, typically argue that diversity of representation does not necessarily reflect a diversity of views. Furthermore, when some diversity occurs, the opponents argue, said diversity does not necessarily result in the robust exchange that so many suggest comes with diversity. These opponents typically end the exchange by noting that the cost of promoting weaker candidates not only undermines our system of merit, but also hurts all in society by creating weaker institutions and ultimately costing all of us significant opportunities.

What this advocate of diversity finds challenging is what happens when diverse candidates are actually more qualified than their contemporaries. Do these diverse over-achievers gain from a wealth of riches? Is there a collective clamor for their services? Or is something else at play? Instead of being properly classified as opponents of diversity, do most individuals in society, and law professors in particular, benefit from a more subtle phenomenon—being supporters of affirmative affinity. What I mean by this somewhat provocative term is that even the most liberal of individuals that value diversity often are part of institutions that do not come close to resembling the statistical make up the society where they exist. In other words, most legal academics, which include the most liberal and progressives amongst us, live and work in places that do not represent the grand goals of diversity. They live and work in enclaves that do not remotely resemble the diversity that exists in this society. Could it be that there are just too many costs to diversity? It is easy to use merit to justify not appointing a so-called weaker candidate, but does that explain why diversity in legal academia resembles the diversity one would see at dinner party during the 1960s? Each school has its obligatory African-American professor, for instance, and sometimes even more than one. Yet there still exists a dearth of African-American male students and faculty at most schools. What is even more astonishing, as I have examined in some of my recent empirical work, is that roughly half of American law schools fail to have any Latino or Latina faculty? This is so despite this group representing the largest racial and ethnic minority in this country and the numbers of representatives of this group are in law schools in greater numbers than ever before. Is there such a lack of qualified candidates? I think not! What is going on then? We as Latino and Latina professors are told to publish, to teach well, and to not cause any reason for fear or doubt. For the most part, most of us excel in these areas. Yet even a cursory review blog’s such as Brian Leiter’s blog on lateral hires, seem to indicate a lack of significant mobility for certain groups (though it is not always easy to identify members of groups, such as Latinos and Latinas, just by reviewing names). What I have found more telling in an article I recently wrote, Freeriders and Diversity in the Legal Academy, 83 Ind. L. J. 1235 (2008), was that half of American law schools, and half of the elite schools of this country are devoid of Latina and Latino representation. Moreover, my studies have found that the bulk of Latino and Latina faculty members are at third and fourth tier schools, and schools with one representative, tend to have several representatives.

While the subject of diversity is one I have spent countless hours writing about and lecturing on, I will not spend too much more time on the subject other than to perhaps provoke some debate or at least have some individuals think about the cost of diversity in a different light. I start my ending by noting that while I was pleased to read about diversity in traditional blog sites such as the Faculty Lounge, even these entries struggle with this issue. For instance, in a series of post by Professor Kimberly Krawiec,, the author raises the issue of diversity in corporate boards, and provides important insights. Yet as Professor Krawiec notes, many interviewed on the subject struggle with finding a basis or value to achieving diversity. Such struggles are not new, and said value, whatever it may be, will likely continue to be debated.

I suggest here that instead of attempting to put a value on diversity, a task that will leave many weighing other values that appear to be far more important, perhaps we should think about the cost of affirmative affinity. In other words, when segments of our society remain suspect, or perhaps at least create some hesitation because they happen to be of different backgrounds and write on issues that make some feel uncomfortable, should we recast that debate? Should we simple openly acknowledge that the cost of hiring such a person is too high, particularly when it is so much easier to appoint someone we can better relate to, we can better empathize with, and seems more like us. Is it just too costly for us, our institution, and this academy to promote individuals that may challenge current norms?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Trouble on the Texas/Mexico Border

In the middle of a campaign for a third term as governor, Texas Governor Rick Perry has called for predator drones to be used in patrolling the Texas/Mexico border for undocumented immigrants and drug gangs. (Dianne Solis, Dallas Morning News, 2/9/2010) These drones are similar to the ones now being employed in Afghanistan in the war against terrorists except that they are unarmed. This further militarization of the border is unwise and dangerous, as it connotes immigration with terrorism. Instead, immigration reform is necessary, particularly in this time of economic downturn. Studies show that immigration is good for the American economy.

Tancredo Strikes at Latinos Again: The GOP Must Renounce the Tea Party

This past weekend the Tea Party again showed its true colors as its first convention speaker was former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.). Tancredo should be a major embarrassment to the GOP, which Eidberto Roman highlighted in the inaugural post on this blog. He opened up the convention with controversial remarks about Obama voters: "People who could not even spell the word 'vote' or say it in English put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House." He also advocated a civics test and literacy test for voters. A founder of the Tea Party said: "Tom Tancredo gave a fantastic speech last night."

Well, consider these facts. First, Obama carried voters with postgraduate degrees by 64 to 36, or 28 percentage points over McCain. Second, Obama gained eight points among college graduates relative to John Kerry in 2004. Third, the only group where Obama did not out poll Kerry is among the least educated--those with no college. Thus, the highly educated keyed Obama's victory, and Obama attracted more educated voters to the Democratic cause than John Kerry.

Next, consider the educational attainment of the states McCain carried versus those Obama carried. What do Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana have in common? First, they are lowest states in the union in terms of high school graduation. Second they are each deep red states that voted for McCain. What do Maryland, Massachusetts, and Connecticut have in common? First, they have the highest educational attainment in terms of advanced degrees. Second, each state is a deep blue state that voted for Obama.

More facts? Let's consider Tancredo's statement that Obama is an "avowed" socialist. Sarah Palin explicitly supported the greatest act of socialism in the history of the US when she supported the bailout of Wall Street. Moreover, it is obvious from this clip that she is utterly clueless about the bail out and has zero economic understanding:

Anyone viewing that video must conclude that Sarah Palin is an economic ignoramus. And, she is the keynote speaker at the Tea Party; in fact, reports put her speaking fee at $100,000. A central part of her speech was opposition to the bailouts. Is the Tea Party really ignorant of her strong (even if clueless) support of the bailout when she was on top of the GOP national ticket?

The Tea Party ought to be careful what it wishes for because they may not score very high on a fair test of current events or being well-informed regarding the positions of the candidates.

Which brings me back to Tancredo: All educated persons know that the reference to literacy tests harkens back to Jim Crow. Thus, commentators such as Rachel Maddow can be forgiven for terming Tancredo's rant a "big loud racist bang."

Tancredo's not so subtle slap at Latino voters (nonsensically claiming that there were voters who could not say the word "vote") who voted 2 to 1 in favor of Obama is not likely to endear the Tea Party to this growing voting block. The very fact they would pick Tancredo to open their first convention shows that the Tea Party is a whites only organization, hostile to people of all other colors.

So the GOP faces a stark choice. They either renounce the hateful message of Tancredo and the Tea Party. Or, they run the risk of further alienating voters of color and losing the Latino and African American vote permanently.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

MALDEF, ACLU and NDLON File Day Laborers Lawsuit

Kudos to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) for rejoining efforts to protect the rights of day laborers in southern California. For several years MALDEF was at the forefront of efforts to protect day laborers from ordinances aimed at restricting their ability to stand on street corners soliciting work. Last week, with recently named President and General Counsel Tom Saenz at the helm, MALDEF re-entered the legal battleground with a lawsuit on behalf of the National Day Labor Organizing Network against the City of Costa Mesa, California. Along with co-counsel from NDLON and the ACLU of Southern California MALDEF is arguing that the Costa Mesa ordinance, which prohibits solicitation of employment on public streets, interferes with the free speech rights of the mostly Latino immigrant workers who comprise the day laborer population. The ordinance prohibits standing on a street to solicit employment or business from the occupants of a vehicle on the roadway. The lawsuit claims that the ordinance violates the workers’ first and fourteenth amendment rights, and seeks an injunction against the implementation of the ordinance. MALDEF and its co-counsel have successfully challenged similar ordinances attempting to curb solicitation speech in other communities. It is commendable that after some years of absence in the field, MALDEF has rejoined efforts to ensure that immigrant workers are afforded the same protection as others exercising their free speech rights. A copy of the MALDEF lawsuit can be found on its website,

Posted by Leticia Saucedo

Monday, February 8, 2010

10 More Things to Know About Justice Sotomayor

I think we need to bask a little longer in the glow of the Honorable Justice Sonia Sotomayor's nomination and confirmation. It is not every day, month, year or even decade-- that a Latina is seated in the highest court of the land. It took years and hard work for this to happen, let's enjoy it! I have been a fan of Justice Sotomayor since I met her at my law school during a visit in 2003, and am always interested in learning more about her. In this inaugural blog post, I offer 10 things I have learned about Justice Sotomayor, so we can celebrate a little longer. Aqui van (Here they go):

1. She is the first person appointed by three presidents from the two different parties. First, Bush 41, then Clinton and finally, Obama. Not only is she exceedingly qualified, she knows how to navigate all sorts of political waters--adelante!
2. According to the NAACP's Ted Shaw, she is the first Supreme Court Justice raised in the projects. You can imagine the effects of her presence in the Supreme Court when she shares her experiences with other Justices in conference...I am glad someone with her socioeconomic background is there.
3. She is quick on her feet-but we already knew that! Here is more evidence of this ability. Lauren Collins reports in a January 11th , 2010 New Yorker article that: "when Senator David Vitter, a Republican from Louisiana, told her" 'I want to ask you—do you think if I was you, and I had made the wise-Latina comment that you made, that I would have deserved to be a Supreme Court Justice?' Justice Sotomayor replied, “If you had my record, yes.”
4. She is not easily intimidated either, again according to The New Yorker, "when [South Carolina Republican Senator] Lindsey Graham attempted to trap her into repeating the “wise Latina” comment for the evening news, she simply sat it out as he shuffled through his papers, making a show of not being able to find the quote. " She also showed excellent lawyering skills, by not filling in the silence during the pause in the questioning.
5. She is not afraid to take on new challenges, and she prepares well for them-but we also already knew that! Here is more evidence of this trait. A lifelong Yankees fan, she was invited to throw the first pitch at a game against the Red Sox this past September. To prepare to throw the first pitch, she practiced with the help of a personal-trainer friend. Bien hecho!

6. She has already been spoofed on NBC's Saturday Night Live, see You can also find the video on the January 30, 2010 episode on the NBC website. I am sure this a record time for a recently appointed Supreme Court Justice to make it onto the venerable (35 years old!) show.
7. She has a sense of humor about herself. Just take a look at this Lalo Alcaraz drawing that The New Yorker reports she has framed in her office. Role model for young Latinas, anyone?

8. She embodies the CRT theme intersectionality-as a woman, a Latina and because of her diabetes (she has insulin injections daily). Judge Guido Calabresi states this view in a non CRT way, as reported in The New Yorker: “Her whole experience as part of three discriminated-against groups, and ones which are not always coherent with each other—I’m talking about ethnicity, gender, and disability—plus her legal experience, in really being a district judge, really being a Court of Appeals judge, makes her different from really any Justice that I can think of.”
9. Her warm personality has already garnered her somewhat of a fan club. Again, according to The New Yorker, "Justice John Paul Stevens, who has long shunned White House ceremonies for new Justices, showed up [to a reception in her honor at the While House], telling people that he felt as though he’d known Sotomayor his entire life."
10. LATINA magazine in its December 2009/January 2010 issue reports that her favorite nail color is fire engine red. However, she kept her nails neutral during the confirmation hearings, at her White House team's request. LATINA further reports that at the reception celebrating her appointment, she showed President Obama her freshly manicured nails, which were back to her favorite color. Here's to a Supreme Court Justice who we can continue to celebrate!

Ex-Vice President May Avoid Run-Off Vote in Costa Rica

MEXICO CITY — Early results in the Costa Rica presidential elections held Sunday gave a decisive lead to Laura Chinchilla, a former vice president who was on the verge of becoming the country’s first woman president.

Esteban Felix/Associated Press
Laura Chinchilla, who led in polls before Costa Rica’s presidential election, with supporters Sunday after voting in San José.

Times Topics: Costa RicaMs. Chinchilla, 50, had about 48 percent in early counting, and both the second- and third-place candidates, the leftist Ottón Solís and the libertarian Otto Guevara, conceded before 10 p.m.

Ms. Chinchilla thanked her supporters via Twitter before heading to a hotel in the capital, San Jose, to make her victory speech.

The campaign was dominated by voters’ concerns over rising crime, and Ms. Chinchilla, a former minister of justice, has promised to raise spending on security by 50 percent.

Ms. Chinchilla, of the National Liberation Party, promised continuity with the free-trade policies of out-going President Óscar Arias, a Nobel a Nobel Peace Prize winner who helped guide Central America out of its cold war conflicts.

Although she follows the center-left welfare policies of her party, she is social conservative who opposes abortion and gay marriage. Ms. Chinchilla holds a master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown University and is the mother of a teenage boy.

As the early results were announced, Ms. Chinchilla’s supporters began to fill the streets of the capital, waving the party’s green and white flag.

Although Costa Rica is still a relative oasis of peace and economic development in Central America, the rising crime rate there became the dominant issue in the campaign. Ms. Chinchilla blamed organized crime and the spillover from drug trafficking through Central America.

The global economic crisis pushed Costa Rica into recession last year, but the economy is expected to grow this year.

Both of Ms. Chinchilla’s leading opponents had argued that if she won, Mr. Arias, who is 69, would continue to wield power from behind the scenes. A campaign commercial for Mr. Solís showed Mr. Arias pulling the strings on a marionette representing Ms. Chinchilla.

The campaign has had its share of unusual moments. In response to questions over campaign financing, Mr. Guevara took a polygraph test on television. Mr. Solís also submitted to a test, but Ms. Chinchilla declined.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Latino/as and the American Dream

A couple weeks ago Oregon’s state economist presented a slide-show to our state Commission on Hispanic Affairs that included some statistics on the dismal economic picture for Oregon Latino/as. What struck me most was that in 2008 only 43.7 percent of Oregon Latino/as owned their homes. Of course, 2009 was not a kind year to homeowners and no doubt that already sorry percentage has declined some. Nationally, in 2008, 48.9 percent of Latino/a households owned their homes. In contrast, Anglo homeownership rates have always far exceeded these numbers, peaking at 76 percent in 2004 before dropping slightly in the current real estate crisis. Consider also that Latino/a-owned homes tend to be smaller and less extravagant—compared to Anglo home values in the United States, the median home value among Latino/a owners is only 75 percent as high.

After expressing my dismay at the meeting over Oregon’s low rate, I wondered why even California’s homeownership rate among Latino/as was higher (47 percent in 2005, compared to 66.7 percent for Anglos), despite the far greater cost of homes in most California cities. I assumed it was mostly due to the relatively new arrivals in Oregon of Mexican immigrants, and remembered my high school days in Eastern Oregon where we were one of only four transplanted Mexican families in town, in contrast to the much deeper roots of the Mexican presence in East Los Angeles we had just left behind. By coincidence, a few days later Richard Delgado sent me a link to an article titled Mexican Migration to the United States Pacific Northwest (  in which the authors found that Pacific Northwest Mexican residents earn lower wages and are more likely to work in agriculture than Mexicans elsewhere in the United States. At the same time, Pacific Northwest Mexicans send significantly greater remittances back to Mexico than their counterparts in other U.S. regions. These findings suggest the economic reasons behind Oregon’s particularly low homeownership rate for its mostly Mexican Latino/a population. Putting Oregon into the national perspective, it could be worse, as New York State holds the lowest rate of Latino/a homeownership at 26 percent, reflecting the recent immigrant status of many Latino/a groups there and the outrageous cost of housing in New York City.

I have no doubt that Oregon’s Mexican population aspires to homeownership in the United States in greater numbers than their current ownership rate. Owing mostly to the urgency of providing stability to one’s family, a study of Mexican residents in three major U.S. metropolitan areas found that more than 86 percent declared homeownership a household goal. Almost all Latino/as (90 percent) strongly agreed with the statement that “owning a home is better for raising a family.” Some critics argue instead that renting rather owning housing makes more financial sense for poor groups. See Richard Florida, “How the Crash Will Reshape America,” The Atlantic Online, Mar. 2009, (arguing that homeownership may limit the flexibility of workers, as “[t]oo often, it ties people to declining or blighted locations, and forces them into work—if they can find it—that is a poor match for their interests and abilities”). I respectfully disagree with these ownership critics, and wonder how many of them outside of Manhattan are renters themselves. In my forthcoming book with NYU Press, Tierra y Libertad: Land, Liberty, and Latino Housing, I make a case for equal housing opportunity for Latino/as and establishing the family home as the centerpiece for dignity among diverse Latino/a populations in the United States. In detailing the longstanding structural impediments to housing opportunity for Latino/as (whether rented or owned), I argue that the torch of homeownership that boosted many past U.S. immigrant groups must be passed willingly to Latino/as and especially to Latino/a newcomers to the United States.

I know many of us are working on the housing front, if only to restore the already miserable conditions that prevailed before the current housing implosion. I plan to include housing among the topics I’ll address foremost in future posts. If you have recent or forthcoming articles on housing you would like reviewed and promoted, please send them to me.

Recovering a Strand of Our History--Reconnecting With the Taíno Roots of Caribbean Culture

One of the more difficult issues in the construction of Caribbean Latino identity has been the incorporation of indigenous people.  Though el indio Hatuey is revered as a near mythic figure of resistance and independence from colonial masters, the place of the people he led, especially the Taíno, has been more problematic.  For a discussion from the perspective of Cuban identity, see, Larry Catá Backer, From Hatuey to Che: Indigenous Cuba Without Indians and the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (March, 27 2009). American Indian Law Review, Vol. 33, 2009. Available at SSRN:

It is therefore great to see a renewed interest in Taíno culture and connection among the Latino Diaspora in the United States.  Recently a project originating in Chicago sought to connect Puerto Rican students with Puerto Rican Taíno history and culture.  The project is described in a short video. More information is available from the group--Lost Taino Tribe, the web site for which may be accessed HERE

It would be interesting hear hear more about efforts to create ties among indigenous and other ghroups within Latino communities in the U.S. and in home countries.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

"Waving While Latino"

A number of suburban communities across the United States have violated the free speech rights of all by passing discriminatory anti-solicitation ordinances targeting day laborers. The latest town to do so is Oyster Bay in New York's Nassau County. Oyster Bay has two significant streetside hiring spots where day laborers congregate every morning in hopes of finding work. Back in September, under the guise of public safety, the town council passed an ordinance completely banning public job solicitation. The ordinance states:
Examples of behavior which constitute solicitation of employment include but are not limited to waving arms, making hand signals, shouting to someone in a vehicle, jumping up and down, waving signs soliciting employment pointed at persons in vehicles, approaching vehicles, standing in the public right-of-way while facing vehicles in the roadway or entering the roadway portion of a public right-of-way for the purpose of seeking employment.
This means that even waving one’s hand is punishable under this ordinance, an “offense” resulting in a $250 fine!

The First Amendment protects the free speech rights of all persons, not just U.S. citizens. By unfairly targeting day laborers, who are often Latino immigrants, this law breaches everyone's constitutional rights to free speech and equal treatment under the law.

On December 15, a group of organizations including the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) protested the ordinance in front of Oyster Bay's Town Hall. The New York Times reported:
One elderly protester, Stan Spiegelman, said he had lived in the hamlet of Oyster Bay since 1993. “It’s my job to fire up the menorah every night,” he said, leaning heavily on his walker. “But I’m here now for a different reason; in a democracy we need to protect the minority and the have-nots.”

Report from

Friday, February 5, 2010

“Basta Ya”

In many respects the two words above exemplify the reason for creating this blog. After reading countless newspaper articles, listening to hundreds of talk radio programs, and watching an apparently endless number of so-called balanced news accounts, I have grown anxious almost to the point of desperation at the vile, shameless, and inaccurate depiction of Latinas and Latinos in this country. What is almost as offensive is how these horrific and often racist statements go largely unchallenged. Frankly, I couldn’t recall a time when I heard a counterpoint or a rebuttal. I would wait and wait, but none was forthcoming. While there are civil rights organizations like MALDEF and Latino Justice that address civil rights abuses against the Latino and Latina community, in the United States and elsewhere, it seems like these groups were waging a war against overwhelming forces.
Then this past year at a conference of leading Latino and Latina legal scholars and activists, a panel on Latin public intellectuals both challenged and inspired me. The group addressed the nature of the public narrative levied against the Spanish-speaking communities, but somewhat struggled and perhaps even disagreed on the membership of Latino and Latina public intellectuals. Writers, poets, politicians, and even revolutionaries were mentioned, but a question seemed to arise concerning the place of legal academics in this laudable group of civil rights advocates and social justice champions. After some debate, a junior faculty member challenged many in the room and argued that many of the individuals that eventually would join this group—Voces Latina – were indeed public intellectuals. While those overly generous comments inspired me, and I am grateful to be included in such a list, I reflected and questioned whether my efforts at advocacy had any consequence. Despite perhaps being considered productive, possessing a resume that boasts numerous articles, books, and even a book series, I seriously questioned whether my efforts had any impact other than on the relatively few scholars that write on similar issues or happen to find one or two of my pieces. Was that enough?
I think not!
Then I, along with a group of accomplishend scholars, decided to create this blog in order to reach a broader a audience. In our organizational meeting at this year’s AALS conference, many of us wondered why we had not started this project earlier. We told stories that inspired us to undertake an engagement that would invariably take considerable time and perhaps cause criticism. I smiled and envisioned my daughter and many beautiful young Latinas and Latinos that would likely appreciate academics challenging hateful portrayals through a medium the younger generation might actually follow.
Perhaps it would be useful to mention a few examples of typical portrayals of Latinos in this country that is acceptable because they are purportedly address legitimate debates such as immigration. For instance, following increased isolationist sentiments after September 11, 2001, media, political, academic, and would-be academic figures used virulent attacks aimed against the Latino and Latina immigrant groups crossing the Mexican border. FBI reports on domestic hate crimes after 2001 indicate that such crimes against Latinas and Latinos surged from 2003 to 2006.

Media figures such as Fox Channel talk show host Bill O’Reilly proclaimed “the supporters [of immigration reform] hate America and want to flood the country with foreign nationals to change the complexion of our society.” Lou Dobbs, a CNN anchor and popular pundit, repeatedly warns against an “illegal alien invasion.” Some of Dobbs’ choices for expert opinion on the issues even include reports from the Council of Conservative Citizens, a national white supremacist organization. Dobbs is also known for blaming undocumented immigrants for a leprosy explosion of 7,000 cases over the last three years, while the actual leprosy figure is actually 250 cases over that period, and is not directly attributed to the immigrant population. Others engage in similar forms of hyperbole to promote a solution to the inevitable population overthrow, while also stoking the flames of fear. For instance, John Gibson implored viewers to “do your duty. Make more babies…half of the kids in this country under five are minorities and by far the greatest number are Hispanic. What does that mean? Twenty-five years from now, the majority of the population is Hispanic.” While Mr. Gibson was evidently a poor math student, and despite his flaw in addition and logic, the fact that the Latina and Latino population will only amount to twenty-five percent of the population in fifty years matters little to listening audience. Neal Boortz, for instance, while promoting a massive fence at our southern border declared: “I don’t care if Mexicans pile up against that fence like tumble weeds…Just run a couple of taco trucks up and down the line.” Another alleged that the civil rights organization “La Raza” is the “the Ku Klux Klan of Hispanic People.”
The media’s outspoken critics are not alone in their fear-mongering over the browning of America. The Washington Post recently profiled the views of the so-called “average American.” One interviewee stated that she stopped shopping at WalMart because she noticed she was the only non-Latino customer in the store. She reportedly said, “I’m in the minority, and if we don’t get control over this pretty soon, all of America will be outnumbered.” Another interviewee reportedly complained that “Latinos turn things into slums.”
Media figures are not alone in their hate: Republican Presidential Candidate Tom Tancredo, Head of the Immigration Reform Caucus, often speaks to the threat of “radical multiculturalism.” For instance, in his speech before the House of Representatives on halting illegal immigration, Tancredo warned:

If we were to actually do what is necessary to prevent people from coming into this country to create havoc and to commit acts of terrorism, we would essentially end illegal immigration….I do not understand how any American, any American regardless of the hyphen, what word we put before the hyphen, I do not understand how any American could say please do not defend our borders because if you do, fewer of my countrymen would be able to come in. Because if you feel that way, then that is your countrymen that we are keeping out, then you are not an American, of course.

• • •

Then, of course, there are the even more dangerous aspects of this, because the people coming across the border, bringing illegal narcotics into the United States. They
come with backpacks, 60 to 80 pounds on their back. Sometimes they come guarded by people carrying M-16s or various other automatic weapons. They come across the land in, again, droves, thousands. We have pictures of them.

As the presidential election primaries neared, Tancredo said he intended to visit New Hampshire and Iowa, as part of a campaign to get a leader in the White House who “understands the threat illegal immigrants pose to the country’s security.” According to Tancredo, we all need to be fearful because federal prisons overflow with illegal immigrants, some of whom aim to harm people. “They need to be found before it is too late. They’re coming here to kill you, and you, and me, and my grandchildren.” More recently, Tancredo took hate mongering to new lows when in a recent television commercial, he implies that illegal immigrants are terrorists in the making. The ad in question evidently asserted that radical Jihadists have slipped into the flow of illegal immigration, and as a result attacks are inevitable.
These inacuracies, are my inspiration to say “Basta Ya” or in in its English translation: Enough already. These and related issues are the ones that inspire me to write, and in some respect provide me an unfair advantage because I too often see, read, and listen to examples of matters that need to be challenged.
I am truly honored to be associated in this blog with the amazing group of academics and social justice advocates, who I believe will follow that old Puerto Rican saying a proclaim “Presente,” or in other words, state that they are present and should be accounted for to write on issues affecting the Latina and Latino community. Like the communites we represent, we come from various backgrounds and will provide a variety of perspectives on many issues including, race, class, gender, sexual orientation, education, health care, immigration, crime, and politics, just to name a few.
I, for one, expect to learn much, and will be inspired. Like the official tab describing this blog, the truth can heal and will inevitably rise.