Latinos: Exiles VS. Immigrants

A recent post at LatinoPoliticsBlog.com got my attention titled “Seneca: Machiavelli & Exile Latinos.” The author “Seneca” (a pen name) goes on to try to explain the differences between exiles and immigrants. He writes:

Exiles are different from immigrants in that exiles … Unlike immigrants, who basically decide to strike tents in their country of origin and move permanently to another, exiles fret and brood over the fact that recapturing their native land may prove onerous. Plainly, immigrants normally leave for economic reasons whereas exiles usually go abroad for political reasons.

I kinda agree with this statement, the premise that exiles and immigrants are different, it also might be the only thing “Seneca” and I see eye to eye on.  I fundamentally disagree with his description of exiles as “devious,” because goodness forbid they decided to become an active part of the American political process.

Seneca goes on to attack groups like Cubans, Venezuelans, and Nicaraguans, all of which whose homelands were taken over by leftist dictatorships, and the exiles would like to see democracy return to their homelands. He also mentions Mexican-Americans around the early 1900s who where trying to rid Mexico of a dictatorship and later dealing with the nation’s revolution. While Seneca tries to use a 16th century philosopher to make a point that exiles might be fickle and possibly quick to abandon their adopted nation for other allegiances, most of history has proven the blogger wrong. These exile groups have become proud Americans and integral members of the democratic process, not evil players which a “devious” schemes. Exiles are thankful to America, a country that took them in when they had literally no other place to go. While they may have interests in their native homeland, they care deeply about their adopted country.

While Seneca points to these groups for having “out-of-proportion influence” in American politics, maybe he needs to be reminded that these “devious” groups expressed the same rights available to each and every American citizen – they educated themselves about the American political process, became naturalized citizens, registered to vote, and voted for candidates who cared about their issues. (punto y aparte!!)

Seneca attacks the exiles for trying to influence foreign policy. I wonder how the author feels about Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and the United Farm Workers who organized and influenced American domestic and foreign policy? (Many of their leaders lobbied the U.S. government to end the Bracero program…) They had their own allegiances, or special interests in politics, and used their skills to influence the outcome. Does he think they are “devious” for becoming politically involved and lobbying for their issues? Or maybe he believes in a new Latino “right-wing” conspiracy and wants to attack those he might not agree with?

Let me remind Seneca, and others, the “political power” created by these groups did not happen overnight. Like most exiles, Latino and non-Latino, Cubans came to America with nothing, because they left (or got kicked out) of their country with little to show but the shirt off their backs. They realized the power of people in numbers and organized as best they could to create change. Like any other minority group they faced many challenges and opposition. Yet, Cubans, and many other exile groups, found ways to empower themselves instead of being victims of the circumstance, they worked within the system. While they may have a specific political passions, they are still very much Americans.

If anything, more Latinos should get involved, register to vote and express their political clout. Latinos are a significant part of the population but have one of the lowest amounts of registered voters and actual voters. They are under represented because they have not exercised their full rights as Americans. Maybe Latino immigrants should take a page from Latino exiles and realize that power is in numbers. If you don’t vote, you wont get counted …

– signed a Cuban-Mexican-American voter…

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