>Latinos face abuse in the South

>A report issued today by the Southern Poverty Law Center found that “low-income Latino immigrants in the South are routinely the targets of wage theft, racial profiling and other abuses driven by an anti-immigrant climate that harms all Latinos regardless of their immigration status.”

Some of the outlines in the report:

-41 percent of respondents say they were victims of wage theft where they weren’t paid for their work.

-47 percent knew someone unfairly targeted by law enforcement officials.

-46 percent say they have confident in the police.

-77 percent of Latina women Say sexual harassment is a major problem on the job

-68 percent say they suffer racism in their daily lives.

-46 percent say with court experience, there was no interpreter available for them.

The report compliled by the Center hits home with me. I live in a heavily-populated metro Atlanta area, which has a nearly 20-percent Hispanic population. And, with my occupation, I have “connections” with numerous well-known locals in this community. The county’s surge in population has driven many Latin Americans to our community, who are eager to build the homes and retails the influx of people often demands.

The resentment and hatred for these “Mexicans” runs deep among my neighbors. They are open about their racism, often making jokes and snarky remarks filled with stereotypes that would be chastised if repeated about an African-Americans. There is at least one incident in which day laborers were robbed by local high school students. The thugs would pick up the workers, take them out into the woods, beat and rob them of hundreds of dollars. An excerpt from the aforementioned article:

Mr. Vargas, a 55-year-old Guatemalan legal immigrant, said he was outside a grocery store in Canton, about 35 miles north of Atlanta, when four boys pulled up in a green truck, offering work for $9 an hour. He got in and was driven to a remote area, where the boys told him to empty trash bags out of the back of the truck, Mr. Vargas said.
When he got to work, one of the boys hit him with a large stick as the others watched, he said.
“From the pain I was feeling, I wasn’t able to count how many times I was hit,” said Mr. Vargas, speaking through an interpreter about the February beating. “I was left there half-dead, and I did battle to get to find somebody.”
He said the assailants took $260 from his wallet and pulled a gold chain with a Virgin Mary pendant from his neck. His right forearm is still healing from a minor break, and he hasn’t been able to work.

As a Southerner and as a minority, this type of hostility disturbs me on two fronts. One, whatever happened to Southern hospitality? Two, if people are this spiteful towards Hispanics, I can’t even imagine what they will do to me.

This issue strikes a nerve with me because of what I’ve witnessed happen in this country over the course of a decade. Americans have taken a turn toward anti-immigrant and anti-Hispanic behaviors and attitudes. I have witnessed people who I would have never guessed to have any racist hostility show their disdain for Hispanics and Latin Americans. “They are the ‘you people’,” my racist aunt said once.

What’s more disturbing is how this attitude has become the norm in nearly every fabric in our society: in our schools, governments and places of worship. It’s become acceptable behavior for our children to yell racial epithets. These children, often internalizing what they are seeing and hearing at home, have adapted to what this country has become: intolerant, racist and bigoted.

And, I can only predict it will get worst unless serious reforms are made with our economic, social and criminal system. However, with a shrinking economy and a mounting number of job losses, people in our country will continue to find a scapegoat they believe is the cause of everything from cancer to global warming.