Is Immigration Reform Undermining Latino Civil Rights?

By Carla Murphy Apr 30, 2014

Angelo Falcón recently posed a provocative question: Is immigration reform taking over the "traditional" Latino civil rights movement to the point that they’re now in conflict? "Although immigration reform affects about 15 percent of the total Latino population," Falcón writes, "as a public policy issue it now occupies almost all the Latino policy agenda, sucking up, as one colleague recently put it, all the oxygen on Latino issues."

With Obama facing increasing pressure to act on deportations, ongoing immigration reform protests and frustration among DREAMers, Falcón, president of the National Institute for Latino Policy, raises his questions at, he admits, a sensitive time. But he seems driven, too, by perhaps a longtime concern that immigration reform is inherently assimilationist. The Latino civil rights movement, he says, has traditionally been oppositional.

Juan Cartagena’s point-by-point rebuttal is a worthy follow-up. It takes issue in particular with Falcón underestimating the proportion of Latinos impacted by anti-immigrant laws. For example, Cartagena, head of longtime civil rights group LatinoJustice PRLDEF, says that increased racial profiling because of anti-immigrant laws affects more Latinos than those who are undocumented. 

And over on Feet in 2 Worlds, journalist Von Diaz profiles DREAMers who’re moving away from the movement’s core goal. Says one:

"The DREAMer narrative disciplines and censors a lot of undocumented people. It brings notions of who’s a good immigrant, and who needs to prosper in the U.S. …I think we talk about the border, but we ourselves within the immigrant rights movement, we’ve been building walls, about who we are and as human beings and people and our experiences."

Check out all the threads above. It’s a rich discussion.