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June 14, 2003

And all they will call you will be—: Commenting on this post on Alas, a blog, Teresa spotted this bit of misdirection at The Globalist (“For Global Citizens. By Global Citizens.”), in a Q&A about “US-Mexican Relations”:
Which U.S. States do Mexican immigrants prefer to live in?

As of 2001, 25% of California’s population is Mexican. It’s 24.3% in Texas, 20.8% in Arizona—-and 10.5% in Colorado. (Wall Street Journal)

This was linked to in Alas-A-Blog’s comment section by one “Joe” (no last name), who used it to apparently substantiate the claim that “24% of Texas’s population are Mexican immigrants, legal and illegal.”

In fact, a bit over 24% of Texas’s population is Hispanic in ancestry. That’s around 5,100,000 out of a state population of 21,300,000. Of those, perhaps 700,000 are illegal immigrants. As best as I can Google—corrections welcome, particularly if you are Ginger Stampley—another 1,000,000 or so are legal immigrants from Mexico, about 25% of whom have become American citizens since entering the US. (Indeed, according to the Center for Immigration Studies, Texas has the highest rate in the country of Mexican immigrants becoming citizens. Warning: the agenda of the Center for Immigration Studies is unknown to me.) That leaves 3,400,000 born-in-the-USA Texans being called “Mexican” by The Globalist—and being labelled “Mexican immigrants, legal and illegal” by “Joe.”

As Teresa remarked, a lot of those people have been living in that part of the world for more generations than their Anglo neighbors have, so it’s a bit rich to be calling them “immigrants,” “Mexican” or otherwise. And yet when commenter “Joe” applies that label to the entire Mexican-ancestry population of the second largest state in the United States, Alas’s host, the normally sharp “Ampersand,” grants the point as if it’s true. Or even plausible.

This is how second-class citizenship is constructed: a series of shadings and misrepresentations and nuances, some in ignorance and some in clear bad faith, until “Hispanic” equals “Mexican” equals “immigrant” equals “illegal.” Do you wonder why Hispanic Americans whose families have been here for decades and even centuries are so touchy about calls to “tighten up enforcement” of immigration laws? They’re touchy because they know perfectly well that most of their Anglo neighbors, when the chips are down, won’t really distinguish all that much between them and the people who snuck over the fence last week—and if this little bit of theater in the blogosphere is any indication, they never will. The idea that America is a country based on a shared idea rather than a shared ethnicity is wonderful. Maybe someday white Anglo-Americans will actually start behaving as if it’s true. [06:44 PM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on And all they will call you will be--::

Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2003, 07:18 PM:

The original quote has some other problems, too; surely the interesting ratio for that question is (number of mexican immigrants in state : number of mexican immigrants in US), not (number of mexican immigrants in state : number of people in state). Even then, that would answer where mexican immigrants *do* live, not where mexican immigrants *prefer to* live.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2003, 08:01 PM:

And I strongly suspect that Americans of Hispanic ancestry can't hold a candle to Americans of Asian ancestry in this sort of nonsense. My own mother said to me perfectly sincerely that even people of Asian ancestry born in this country, who've lived here all their lives, have accents that make them difficult to understand. I only wish I were making this up.


Carlos ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2003, 09:16 PM:

MKK wrote:

"My own mother said to me perfectly sincerely that even people of Asian ancestry born in this country, who've lived here all their lives, have accents that make them difficult to understand."

Oh yah, sure, we talk kinda funny out dere, doncha know.

TNH -- Canadian maquiladoras? The later 19th, early 20th century New England milltowns. The Francophone immigration is still visible in the phone books; the Anglophone, not. Pouring water into water.


Derek James ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2003, 10:04 AM:

Those that blur the distinction you're pointing out are idiots...about that you're right.

But I seriously doubt this attitude is pervasive. I've lived in Texas my entire life, and everyone can clearly draw the line between illegal immigrants and citizens and legal visitors.

Using your stats, illegal immigrants make up 3% of the Texas population. While it's not anywhere near the figures quoted in the blog you reference, it's clearly unacceptable.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2003, 10:24 AM:

"But I seriously doubt this attitude is pervasive."

Yes, no doubt those Hispanic American citizens are just being anxious for no reason. Why can't they be as comfortable and confident as regular Americans?

"I've lived in Texas my entire life, and everyone can clearly draw the line between illegal immigrants and citizens and legal visitors."

I grew up in Arizona, and with all due respect, I doubt that.

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2003, 11:52 AM:

Derek, if it were only so.

I live in cemtral California, and while not too numerous, there have been enough cases of misidentified US citizens being deported to Mexico by mistake to justify some concern.

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2003, 01:58 PM:

Oh, it's just racism dressed up in a prissy uniform.

My friend Pilar always gets hassled by the border patrol and the stupid north-of-San Diego border patrol, having to speak English and show her drivers license to prove that she was born and raised in LA, same as her parents. Meanwhile, I've met two illegal aliens who had no trouble going through the US-Mexico border crossing and nets of security, because they were British and the border patrol isn't looking for blonds and redheads. Despite the fact that anyone with half a brain should know that Cockney dialect isn't indiginous to the US.

But then again, they're not concerned about illegal aliens. They're concerned about illegal aliens with darker skin.

Stuart Dimond ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2003, 03:11 PM:

The American economy depends on the large quantity of illegal immigrants. Who would build our houses, cook our food in restaurants, and take care of our children if not for the illegals.

When I arrived in Massachusetts I quickly learned that Spanish is the language of the production line, just as it is in Texas.

When they start asking for the benefits of citizenship that's another issue. We don't want to educate their kids, give them health care or make sure they have decent working conditions. This does not speak well for us as a society.

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2003, 04:13 PM:

Depends on the "we" you're speaking of.

My experience as a substitute teacher showed me that school administrators didn't care a jot (one of the few good things I can say about the profession as a whole): So long as it's a kid of the right age who'll boost the "average daily attendance" (and thus funding), who cares? La Migra is double plus unwelcome in the school system. Which is as it should be.

Even the people who don't want to educate their kids do want to keep those kids off the streets, so it's simple and practical to use the same system put in place to keep the rest of the kids off the streets.

Randy Paul ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2003, 07:07 PM:


The Center for Immigration Studies has a more subtly couched (compared to FAIR and Dan Stein) ant-immigration point of view.

Josh ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2003, 08:07 PM:

Carlos: Huh, and here I thought MKK's mother was talking about Henry Cho. (Who, for those who don't know, is a standup comedian whose schtick relies in large part on the fact that he has a very broad Southern accent -- I think he's from Tennessee, but wouldn't swear to it.)

Alec Austin ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2003, 08:21 PM:

MKK wrote:

"My own mother said to me perfectly sincerely that even people of Asian ancestry born in this country, who've lived here all their lives, have accents that make them difficult to understand."

Somehow this strikes me as horribly amusing as well as awful, because when I was growing up in Hawaii, several of my asian friends (I'm half Chinese, myself) spoke with accents. Several of them started out as affectations, and sounded vaguely British, but by the time they graduated from high school, they had become an inescapable part of how they spoke.

I only ever had problems understanding what one of them was saying (very rarely, I might add), and I think that was because her mother would only speak Korean to her at home.

Eliani Torres ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2003, 08:32 PM:

I'll always remember NPR's This American Life when they gave ten minutes of the show to Daniel D. Portado, founder of HALTO (Hispanics against Liberal Takeover), a "self-deportation PAC." Hilarious.

"Immigrants are robbing young American teenagers of character-building activities like picking fruit and cleaning hotel beds. . . ."


Episode 41, about 27 minutes in.

andrew ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2003, 11:07 PM:

As to whether or not this attitude is pervasive - my two cents as a native of TX (20 years, now in California) - Yes, it is.
Sometimes, I think the phenomena is a deliberate blurring of the lines. Much as conservatives use welfare as a code word for blacks (despite statistical realities) they like to use *illegals* as a handy bogeyman, and through apathy or design, others are swept up in the definition.
What did Pat Buchanan's campaign slogan "America for Americans" really mean anyway? Surely, his proposed ten-foot electrified fence from San Diego to Brownsville had a mostly symbolic value, because it is so out of proportion. Is this a real national issue, without the scapegoat opportunity it provides? I often think that the primary appeal of the republican platform is this creation and promotion of the threat from the *other.* And the problem is, that's a really effective strategy. This week is it the feminists, environmentalists, Mexicans, blacks, muslims, Chinese, liberals, pointy-headed intellectual elites, or the media - I can't remember.
Heard this on AM talk radio last week in TX, as a matter of fact. "Most illegals don't immigrate through proper channels because they are criminals and wanted by some government somewhere...and since they are illegal, they should have no rights here...and they really come here to take advantage of our generous welfare system?"

Andrew Northrup ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2003, 10:54 AM:

I don't know if there is any official policy about this, but here in Texas they talk of "Chicano" - American of Mexican descent, and "Tejano" - American of Hispanic Texan descent, those who split off from Mexico when Texas became an independant country. These are subsets of "Hispanic", but I don't think the other subsets (Columbian immigrants, for example) get special names. It's kind of a fuzzy distinction, because there is a lot of cross-over and people with families on both sides of the border and so on, but there are some cultural differences. It's kind of ironic that Tejanos could be called "immigrants", because they were Americans for as long as any Texan, and probably have ancestors who have more claim to the land that anyone.

And speaking of using the proper national-ethnic terminology, may I point out that not all pale-skinned people are Angles? Many of us with Pictish ancestry consider the term "Anglo" incredibly demeaning. It's bad enough what the Scots did to us; now we are to be treated as non-entities because those bastard Angles and their Saxon flunkies brutally repressed us for the past 1500 years. And I know the Visigoths out there feel the same way. I move that we all adopt the inclusive, non-judgemental term "Gringo".

Ulrika O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2003, 11:51 AM:

I often think that the primary appeal of the republican platform is this creation and promotion of the threat from the *other.* And the problem is, that's a really effective strategy.

It's a strategy that can backfire. In California, the Republicans did serious damage to their Latino appeal by pushing hard for a highly xenophobic anti-imigration initiative. They took a population that largely agrees with their platform on some big talking points: abortion, family values, getting tough on crime, strong military, etc., and drove them into the arms of the Democrats. It's still a question whether the Republicans have noticed that was how they flubbed it, and how big, and equally a question whether they can court the Latino segment back into the fold. That's an important question, because Latinos now constitute a significant voter base; an outright majority in some counties and a significant plurality in many.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2003, 12:33 PM:

We Cornish have been oppressed even more than those privileged Pictish and Visigothic wankers, I'll have Andrew Northrup know. While you were lolling about in your furs and your mud (Mud! You had mud! Weren't you the grand ones?), we were being forced by the Romans to dig for tin with our noses. Also, those game hens? Don't even ask.

Joe Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2003, 12:54 PM:

My apologies for causing this much ado. I meant no offense. My only excuse is that the Globalist site, in the text you quote, poses the question, "Which U.S. states do Mexican immigrants prefer to live in?" It then answers that question by saying that 24.3% of Texas's population is "Mexican." To my mind, this implies rather heavily that this means "Mexican immigrants," just as stated in the question. As you say, though, the Globalist is being highly misleading, and I thank you for the correction.

Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2003, 12:59 PM:

Consider that Texas is a part of the country that needs words like "quatroon." (You get to some really unpleasant web sites fast by googling that word, by the way.)

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2003, 01:17 PM:

Listen you guys. (You guys being Patrick and Andrew.) I'm a Celt, you don't get much more oppressed and discriminated against. Why we originated far to the east of Europe and Asia Minor and were systematically driven out over and over again until we had nothing left but that small island in the far northwest. Hmmph. And they take all our sacred relics, yes, and even the bodies of our dead, and put them on display in museums! No wonder we drink so much.

MKK---tongue firmly in cheek because she's the usual American polyglot, which in this case includes Cherokee, German and English as well

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2003, 01:32 PM:

Ahem, Mary Kay: the Cornish are Celts, cousins to the Welsh and the Bretons. They're just Celts who had the sense to get finished with that being-conquered-by-the-English thing well in advance of 1066, so as to be all ready for the Later Middle Ages. (This was a Good Thing.)

Of course you have Cherokee in your family. It's right there in the American Constitution, that every single pasty-white American family shall claim to have "a little bit of Cherokee blood." Only the Cherokee, too; you almost never hear anyone winking about "a touch of Nez Pierce" or "rumors of a Papago great-aunt." All I can say is, those Cherokee must have really got around.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2003, 01:56 PM:

Andrew: Oh, that's right. There are some of you still around. Sorry about that. You aren't going to get all miffy about Drogheda again, are you...?

Okay, okay. The real reason I used "Anglos" is that it's the term I've heard the Hispanics use. Their relatives back home are so careless as to use the word "Yanqui" to refer to people born well south of the Mason-Dixon Line. And someone I knew back in Seattle said she'd heard her Ladino former in-laws refer to the Oppressive Majority as "bastardos Francos" ("those Frankish bastards").

Joe: Emphatically, not your fault. You got that impression because the Globalist website meant for you to get it. That's why I said they were an unreliable source, instead of just saying they'd made a mistake.

The page uses a Q&A format. The question -- phrased, you'll notice, in the present tense -- was "Which U.S. states do Mexican immigrants prefer to live in?" It was entirely natural for you to assume that when the answer said "Mexican", it referred to first-generation Mexican immigration. You have to ignore every contextual cue on the page to correctly read "As of 2001, 25% of California's population is Mexican. It's 24.3% in Texas, 20.8% in Arizona ? and 10.5% in Colorado." as a separate and unrelated statement.

If English meant what it means on a purely sentence-by-sentence basis, that construction might be defensible; but it doesn't, and it isn't.

Kathryn: "Need" is not the term I'd use. Most of Texas is further from the Mexican border than the town where I grew up, and we never used words like "quatroon" or "quadroon". I don't recall anything more racially precise than "His mother was one of the Acostas" or "The Ishi twins are the same Ishikawas as Zedo" -- which was how we talked about everybody, including our own relatives.

The most racist language I recall is my grandfather's occasional use of the n-word, which quietly scandalized us, and the older generation's habit of infallibly mentioning the color of miscreants and malefactors who happened to be colored. But I grew up in the absolute certainty that if I'd ever been caught making a rude or racist remark, I'd have been up on the carpet for it so fast my head would spin. Besides, nothing my grandparents' generation ever said about blacks, Hispanics, or Indians came close to the pungency of their remarks about the branch of the family that had turned heretical and invented their own False Religion. One had to keep a sense of perspective about these things.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2003, 02:15 PM:

Obviously, Andrew, the Picts are the Chosen People.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2003, 02:16 PM:

Patrick: Unless the ancestor in question really was Cherokee, as in Beth Meacham's family, it can be taken to mean the person was either a member of one of the Five Civilized Tribes, or that nobody's sure what tribe he/she belonged to, or that while he or she was known to have been a person of color, nobody wants to delve any deeper into the question.

Seth Ellis ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2003, 02:40 PM:

Being, on my father's side, a mixture of Welsh, Scots-Irish, and Anglo-Saxon, I get into fistfights with myself all the time. I keep telling myself that the Anglo-Saxons were oppressed too, by the dastardly Normans, just look at Robin Hood; Anglo-Saxons can be cool too, we're all on the same side here. But I just don't want to listen.

Actually, I must comment on myself:

I said: Scots-Irish

Or as the Irish would say, Scottish.

The Cherokee did get around at least a little bit: some went on the Trail of Tears, some stayed behind and hid. Since the left-behinds often wouldn't admit in public to being Cherokee, it's quite easy for modern folks of all descriptions to lay claim to a soupcon of Cherokee. More generally, though, my understanding follows Teresa's that "Cherokee" is a code word for racial mixing in general. Several families I know from North Carolina have some colors in their background they would prefer not to discuss, and some of them have made it clear in conversation that Cherokee is the non-white race they're prepared to admit to.

Derek James ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2003, 03:02 PM:

andrew writes: "Much as conservatives use welfare as a code word for blacks (despite statistical realities) they like to use *illegals* as a handy bogeyman, and through apathy or design, others are swept up in the definition."

Gee, don't generalize or anything.

Some might invoke illegal immigration as a bogeyman. Others, myself included, see it as a legitimate problem.

Two miles from where I work, Bank One has a huge banner on the front. It reads "Matriculas". For those who don't know, this means that instead of using a valid form of U.S. identification, such as a driver's license or a Social Security card, to open an account, you can use your matriculas consulares, a form of ID issued by the Mexican government. Why? Because they want to make more money. But the sign essentially means "Checking Accounts for Illegal Immigrants!"

When the market is big enough so that businesses begin targetting the illegal population with advertising...it's not a bogeyman.

It's a very real problem.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2003, 03:21 PM:

Derek, in my neighborhood there's a storefront business with a sign that says "CHECK CASHED". That means that if you can't cash your checks the normal way, they'll cash them for you -- less a set percentage. That is, the poor and the helpless pay more for their checking, proportionately and perhaps in absolute terms, than anyone else. Compared to that, "Matriculas Consulares" doesn't bother me a bit.

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2003, 04:22 PM:


Is it more than a "claim" to have a Cherokee ancestor if you actually know their name?

Mine was Etta Snooks, who decided to marry a Dutch alcoholic (Mr. Snooks) rather than do the whole Trail of Tears thing. My grandfather was talking about her only yesterday, his grandmother's grandmother, and how you could really see the ancestry in photographs of his grandmother (who was 1/4 Cherokee if you do the math).

Admittedly, that makes me 1/64th Cherokee (and 1/64th Dutch for that matter), which isn't enough to claim benefits, but ancestry is ancestry. And a marriage two hundred years ago is going to have a lot more descendants than one just a hundred or fifty years ago. Hence the number of folk with a bit of Cherokee.

It may also be a west coast thing, but my girlfriend in college was 1/4 Blackfoot and I have friends who are part Sioux and Nez Pierce, and even a full-blooded Navaho.

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2003, 07:08 PM:

Teresa, I want to hear more about the branch of the family that invented their own false religion.

--k. ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2003, 08:03 PM:

The market's devalued a bit; used to be, the coded claim was you had "a Cherokee princess" in your family tree.

But a good deal of mixing-up did go on in the Appalachians (and elsewhere) back then, a lot of it later swept under whatever rug was handy. (Google up Melungeon if you haven't already.) --If the notion of being "purely" white ever meant anything, then the deeper your roots went in the American South, the more difficult it would be to claim it.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2003, 08:14 PM:

Patrick: I am wounded to the core. Pasty white? When I've referred to your swarthy good looks on every occasion? I am not pasty white. I'm very pink actually. You have never met my mother and sister in whom the Native American blood can be plainly seen. (In fact, someone looking at the wedding pictures from my first marriage wanted to know who the Indian girl was. My sister.)

I know what the Cornish *claim* of course, but no true Celt would have given up so easily. (Tongue still firmly in cheek).

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2003, 03:39 AM:

Oh, and I nearly forgot. You're assuming a pasty white family based on how I look. The Cherokee is on my mother's mother's side and they tend to be dark haired, olive skinned people. I really really don't look like the rest of the family. And of course it's Cherokee -- I'm from Oklahoma. It's against the law in Oklahoma not to be part Cherokee. (I also have an uncle who's a Creek full-blood and a second cousin by marriage who's a Choctaw full-blood, but they both married in.)

MKK--for those who want to check out my pasty whiteness see www.livejournal.com/users/marykaykare

Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2003, 10:29 AM:

In the better late than never department, I'll offer a couple of comments:

I can't speak to the accuracy of the numbers you googled, Patrick, but they don't sound *wrong* to me. One point I'd like to add is that if you check out the State Department Visa Bulletin, you see that the priority date for family immigration for Mexico goes back pretty far. That's because a lot of Mexicans who come here are trying to immigrate legally. (All the employment preferences are now current, which doesn't surprise me one bit.)

The CIS is definitely anti-immigration, although as Randy points out, they're subtle compared to FAIR.

Anybody who says they can tell who's legal and who's not by looking is blowing smoke or ignorant. Outward signs such as the appearance of poverty are no indication of legal status. The only way to tell who's legal is by looking at documents, and even then someone not in the field may not know. (Unless you understand the difference between authorized period of stay and the expiration date of a visa, and know how these dates appear on assorted immigration documents, *you* couldn't tell.)

And anyone who lives in Texas and thinks that unethical politicians and racists don't play on exactly the slippery slope of assumptions you describe all the damned time is living a sheltered life.

[And, while we're on the subject, I too have Cherokee blood, but since it comes from Texas, I count it as believable. Also, it's within time whereof my family's memory runneth, which is to say my father's grandmother, but that goes a long way when your father was born in 1917.]

Helen ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2003, 01:42 PM:

Melungeons.com has published, The Melungeon DNA Surname Project. The project is an ongoing project.

Helen Campbell

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2003, 08:20 PM:

David, I can't be sure who in my exceedingly extended family does and doesn't have a computer, so all I'll say is that is that while the other branches of the family were referred to as (f.i.) the Crandalls, the Allens, the Phelpses, that one was always "those [Johndoe]s."

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2003, 11:00 PM:




Mercers? (I'm finally reading Dick -- as opposed to reading dick, which I've done all along. Or not, depending on how you look at it.)



(No, I don't expect you to tell us. I'm just having fun making up scenarios.)

xian ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2003, 12:13 AM:

going back a ways there, I'd like to note that Scots-Irish is a term coined by Protestant (usually southern) Americans of Irish descent to distinguish themselves from the unwelcome influx of Irish Catholics. It's a way of alluding to their deeper ancestry as Protestant planters in the north of Ireland before they came over to the U.S.

Today it probably also gets applied to people of mixed Scottish and Irish ancestry (like myself), but its origin is different.