Report Finds Widespread Discrimination Against Latino Immigrants in South
A new report released today by the Southern Poverty Law Center found that low-income Latino immigrants face increasing hostility as they fill low-wage jobs in the southern United States, which until recently had few Latino immigrants until recently. Based on a survey of 500 low-income Latinos across the South — including legal residents, undocumented immigrants and U.S. citizens — the report concludes that Latinos are frequent victims of theft, workplace discrimination, sexual abuse and violence.
“The assumption is that every Latino possibly is undocumented,” Angeles Ortega-Moore, an immigrant advocate in North Carolina, told the law center’s researchers. So discrimination “has spread over into the legal population.”
The report describes horrific abuses of Latino immigrants, including a young mother arrested and jailed when she asked to be paid for her work in a Tennessee cheese factory; a migrant bean picker whose life savings were confiscated by police during a traffic stop, and a rapist in Georgia going unpunished because his 13-year-old victim is undocumented.
“We’re talking about a matter of basic human rights here,” said SPLC President Richard Cohen in a statement released with the report. “By allowing this cycle of abuse and discrimination to continue, we’re creating an underclass of people who are invisible to justice and undermining our country’s fundamental ideals.”
According to the report, this “civil rights crisis” can best be addressed by comprehensive immigration reform that offers a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Two weeks ago, an Obama administration official said that President Obama plans to introduce just such a plan later this year. Although Latino and immigrant advocacy groups have been pushing for a path to legalization for years and had won some support from President George W. Bush, restrictionist groups and many Republicans argue that legalization will heighten competition for legal U.S. workers already facing high levels of unemployment.
However, supporters of immigration reform, including many economists, argue that legalization in the long run can raise government revenue and boost consumer demand and investment.