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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.
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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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