Legal vs. illegal |

Legal vs. illegal

Brady McCombs
AP Photo/Eric GayA group of illegal immigrants from Brazil sit together after they were detained near Harlingen, Texas in April.

In Colorado, where the majority of illegal immigrants are from Latin American countries, Latinos are sometimes mistakenly lumped into criticisms with illegal immigrants. When a Latino commits a crime, the general population assumes he or she is an illegal immigrant, said Penny Gonzales-Soto, an immigration attorney with Catholic Charities Northern in Greeley.

“What does the general population do: Hispanic face front page and what is that attributed to: immigrants,” Gonzales-Soto said. “I mean it just all comes together: brown face, Hispanic equals immigrant. So, that’s an injustice, throwing everybody into the same pot.”This reasoning was behind one of the criticisms of a proposed resolution in support of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office in Greeley being considered by the city council.Latinos Unidos, a group born from their opposition to the idea, said blaming illegal immigrants for methamphetamine, violent crimes and drug problems would cause stereotyping of all Latinos.

Perhaps for this reason, U.S.-born Latinos tend to be less supportive of illegal immigrants. According to a 2005 study by the Pew Hispanic Center, 76 percent of foreign-born Latinos believe illegal immigrants help the economy by providing low-cost labor rather than hurting the economy by driving wages down. In contrast, 55 percent of U.S.-born Latinos believe that statement. When asked in this same survey if they favor laws that deny illegal immigrants drivers licenses, 60 percent of U.S.-born Latinos said yes while 29 percent of foreign-born Latinos said yes. Gonzales-Soto also said school districts need to be careful not to assume every Spanish-speaking child is an illegal immigrant.

“Because a child speaks only Spanish when they enter kindergarten or first grade doesn’t mean they’re not a U.S. citizen,” Gonzales-Soto said. “It just means their parents don’t speak English, and that’s the language they learned at home.”

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