The “Border Beat” (July 11, 2008)

Summertime in the borderlands comes with the good and the reminders of the not-so-good.  This week saw Barack Obama and John McCain compete over who loves Latinos more; it saw the premiere of the documentary “The Ballad of Esequiel Hernandez”; and it saw, well, is seeing my dear California burn all over the place.

Here’s some more from the headlines and bylines of Latinolandia…

  • Mexicans are becoming U.S. citizens in growing numbers…I can just hear Pat Buchanan saying “I told you so!” (Los Angeles Times);
  • Coverage of Obama’s and McCain’s speeches to LULAC (Boston Globe);
  • Another professor has nice humanistic things to say about Latinos (San Francisco Chronicle);
  • The U.S. seems ambivalent about immigration because, in fact, they are ambivalent! (;
  • Debate over the cause of the Latino decline in Prince William makes it look like a snapshot of the issues facing us everywhere (Washington Post).

The first and the last stories stand out this week in large measure for the unresolved questions that linger from their twin contexts.  Mexican immigrants–who for various reasons haven’t been as large a share of the new citizen pie as many would like–are becoming U.S. citizens in rising numbers.  This has multiple potential consequences.  First, depending on where many choose to live, they help to reinvigorate the national culture as they present yet another challenge to the ingrained (and often muted) addiction to the notion that “American” is “white.”  Second, they will be a growing constituency of first time voters.  Third, if as the article notes this trend is largely due to the effective campaigns of grassroots organizations and Spanish-language media, then we got some new political power brokers in town.

The last article is an update to the continuing anti-immigrant saga that is Prince William.  This suburb of the D.C. metropolitan area has been a frequent topic on this blog.  This article wonders why the Latino population of the town is in such steep decline, presenting a local debate that uncovers a matrix of forces.   In the end, I can’t help noticing how much the place embodies the most pressing Latino issues nationwide, from the gross statements of prejudicial associations in the first paragraphs to the growing roster of Latino foreclosures.