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Rep. Don Young’s “Wetback” Comment Shows Depth of GOP’s Latino Problem

Statement from Presente.org

While the GOP is scrambling to revamp its image to welcome Latinos, Congressman Don Young’s comment shows the true problem the GOP is facing – some leaders who deep down have not challenged their racist and anti-Latino sentiments.
“We are outraged that in 2013 political leaders are still using racial slurs and insulting terms to refer to our community,” said Arturo Carmona, executive director of Presente.org, the largest online Latino advocacy organization in the country. “Rep. Ron Young needs to publically apologize for his careless and hurtful statement.”


While using an old-fashioned racial slur is deeply insulting, it is also problematic that politicians freely use the term “illegal” when referring to undocumented workers. Words that dehumanize the Latino community result in policy outcomes that devastate our communities. For instance, the term “wetback” allowed the creation of Operation Wetback, a 1949 program that organized Border patrol to work with government officials and police to round up and deport nearly 280,000 undocumented immigrants.
While the targets of this intense border enforcement were undocumented immigrants, Mexicans were targeted in general. The police swarmed through Mexican American barrios throughout the southeastern states. In some cases, undocumented immigrants were deported along with their American-born children, who were by law U.S. citizens. (http://www.pbs.org/kpbs/theborder/history/index.html)

“While we wish that this racial targeting was a thing of the past,” said Carmona, “we see a direct link between labeling someone ‘illegal’ and the creation of dragnet deportation programs like ‘Secure Communities’ that have led to the deportation of more than 1.5 million undocumented workers in the last 5 years. We call for all of our political leaders to learn from history and to challenge each other to treat our communities with respect.”

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