[UPDATE May 6, 2011:] Update: Since the details of this story have not been confirmed, some media outlets have called it a hoax.
Andrea Nill over at Wonkroom points out that one of the Navy SEALs involved in Sunday’s CIA-led mission to kill Osama bin Laden was Ruben Mejia, the son of Mexican immigrants. While this point has been celebrated by some, news of Meija’s involvement raises serious questions around the military’s recruitment of Latino youth, the staggering numbers of Latino war causalities, and the Obama administration’s often contradictory messages on immigration reform. First, here’s Nill:
Mexico’s El Universal newspaper reports that Mejía’s parents came to the U.S. from Guanajuato, a city in central Mexico. Rubén Mejía was born in the U.S. and enlisted at the Moreno Valley, California military base six years ago. After spending 7 months in Afghanistan, Mejía joined the SEALs and was able to see Osama Bin Laden’s corpse as it was carried out of the building where he was killed yesterday.
Mejía’s father, a machine operator, recalled the moment that soldiers in uniform came to his home in Los Angeles holding a folded flag. “It was one of the biggest scares,” explained Martín Mejía. “When they [the soldiers] saw us [the family] begin to cry they clarified that bringing the flag was an expression of recognition and honor because our son had carried out a great mission for our nation,” stated the SEAL’s father.
For a long time, Latinos were underrepresented in the armed forces. Yet, this started to change dramatically as the Army launched “a vast recruiting campaign targeting Latino youth, placing ads in Spanish-language media, including magazines, radio, and television.” In fact, several military experts have come out in support of the DREAM Act which would legalize undocumented youth who go to college or serve in the military precisely because it would significantly increase the pool of qualified recruits in the Latino population — which comprises the majority of undocumented immigrants and is more likely to enlist and serve in the military than any other group.
Read more over at Think Progress. Nill also points out that casualties among Latino soldiers in Iraq rank highest compared to other groups of soldiers of color. Yet while the military actively courts Latino youth and immigrants with one hand, it’s aggressively deporting them and their families with the other. The Obama administration has deported people at unprecedented levels. It’s also rapidly expanded programs like Secure Communities and 287(g), which have worked to criminalize many immigrants. Yet now, in campaign mode, the president has offered renewed rhetoric on his commitment to immigration reform. Some advocates, however, aren’t buying it.
“While we appreciate the president’s effort to keep immigration reform on the national agenda, his actions belie his intent,” Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, told Julianne Hing at Colorlines last month. “If the president genuinely wanted to fix the broken immigration system, he would respond to the growing chorus of voices calling for the suspension of the Secure Communities program and move to legalize instead of further criminalize our immigrant communities.”