Latinos are lured to the South by the harvest season, opportunities in burgeoning southern cities and rebuilding after devastating hurricanes. Latinos in the South, however, are not whistling Dixie. Instead, they’re met with rampant abuse and discrimination. Construction workers’ wages, already low to begin with, aren’t paid or at best partially paid. Latinas are subject to sexual violence at the hands of their employers who use immigration status as leverage. What makes it even worse is that it all appears to have legal sanction. The police are feared by Latinos, not just because some fear deportation, but also because they have experienced much abuse at the hands of police officers. Immigration laws are also a major tool for the employers to intimidate and punish Latino immigrants. They’ll tell them, “if you complain I’ll call immigration and get you deported.” Sadly, there’s too much proof that the employer is correct and therefore the immigrant puts up with the abuse. Politicians go to black communities with a “divide and conquer” strategy and say that Latinos are the ones to blame for their poor situation. Latinos also suffer from the fact that there is no bilingual system in most southern states. When in court or reporting to the police they can’t be understood and they don’t understand; they’re left with no recourse.
As Latino law students, we need to get involved in the community to stop this growing problem. We need to work with local organizations willing to do “know your rights” presentations for immigrant groups. We need to volunteer at highly Latino populated schools to help children in their educational endeavors and give them positive role models. We need to volunteer with legal organizations that represent Spanish speakers and use our bilingual (and legal) skills to make sure that justice is being observed. We cannot allow the system to continue promoting Latinos as second-class citizens who do not receive the benefits of the law.
Southern Poverty Law Center Report http://www.splcenter.org/legal/undersiege/
New York Times Article