How do 8.8 million people come to define 47 million people? The media.
The 8.8 million Latino illegal immigrants living in the United States have come to not only define but blur the remaining 47 million Latinos thanks to mainstream media. I want to preface that I have absolutely nothing against illegal immigrants be they Latino or not. I do not blame them for the fact that Latinos and immigration reform have become so closely related that it’s nearly impossible to separate the two. I find the exploitation of illegal immigrants detestable. Treating illegal immigrants of any country as second-rate citizens, demeaning them, violating their rights, and robbing them of their dignity is something that should be severely punished. Our immigration system is broken and policies must be enacted to finally provide protection to the vulnerable 11 million illegal immigrants who contribute so much to our country and enable us to live a life of comfort and ease.
While I do think it is important to keep an ongoing dialogue about immigration reform and finally come up with a bi-partisan solution in devising a more clear U.S. immigration policy, more should be done to make mainstream media more inclusive of other Latino narratives. The National Institute of Latino Policy President Angelo Falcón acknowledged that,“Although immigration reform affects about 15 percent of the total Latino population, 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.” My point is that the Latino narrative has become so saturated with immigration reform talk that the interests and existence of 85% of Latinos is seemingly forgotten. I want to highlight the 47 million of Latinos living in the United States and remind politicians and Corporate America that we are still here. Latino illegal immigrants have Jorge Ramos advocating for their rights and championing their cause. But it’s more than Jorge Ramos constantly reminding politicians about the plight of illegal immigrants and furthering the belief that the pathway to the Latino vote is solely through the immigration reform door. It’s a long list that includes essentially the whole of Univision, the Democratic Party, the National Council of La Raza, and U.S. Representative Luis Gutiérrez that are responsible for unconsciously perpetuating the notion that the Latino narrative is limited and stops at immigration reform. Again, it is fantastic that journalists and politicians provide a voice for the vulnerable and abused but who advocates and champions the cause for the remaining 47 million Latinos who want more accessible, affordable education, a better economy, and quality healthcare? Who is actively working to diversify our narrative? Who reminds Jorge Ramos and the Republican party that we are so much more than immigration reform and that the Latino Dream is the American Dream? Essentially no one. We have no watchdog that consistently reminds everyone that Latinos are also 100% American too.
Presently, there aren’t any bi-cultural Latinos diversifying the narrative for 47 million of Latinos in the media on a consistent basis. Why do I say bi-cultural? Because the average Latino living in the United States is born here, aged 27, bilingual, and straddles both American and Latino culture seamlessly. We need storytellers that are representative of our community so that we can identify with him or her and mobilize our community into action. The truth is that there isn’t nearly enough faces from our community telling our stories in a refreshing, thought-provoking, intellectual manner that challenges stereotypes and current notions about Latinos and redefines who they are. Latinos behind and in front of the camera, be it in Hollywood or news media, are abysmal and nowhere near representative of the Latino population and our interests. Sure there is Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Collins, who I have such deep respect and admiration for, but they only represent one perspective: the immigrant, 1st generation, immigration reform perspective. What we truly need as a community is a platform in the media that showcases the spectrum of the Latino narrative in the United States. If Univision represents Spanish-dominant, 1st generation Latinos, who represents the 2nd and 3rd generation of Latinos? Who represents Latino millennials? Republican Latinos? Feminist Latinas? even Democrat Latinos that care about other issues apart from immigration reform? This is the spectrum of 47 million Latinos I’m talking about that magically get lost in the media.
As we are entering an election year and politicians are courting our vote, it is time for Americans to be educated through a lens that is controlled by Latinos and not allow the mainstream English or Spanish media forget that there are 47 million Latinos want to be included and acknowledged.