Cruising on Military Drive
'Good' Latinos and 'Bad' Latinos in the Age of Homeland Security and Global War
by Roberto Lovato
Not far from the white walls of the Alamo, Mexican and other Latino immigrants are again being cast as the anonymous "bad guys" as they run up against the political, physical, and psychic borders of the U.S. immigration debate. As the Bush Administration and the Republican Party continue their steady spiral downward, they have done what Bill Clinton and other politicians have done in times of crisis: declare war. Viewed from this perspective, the election year focus on immigrants serves the same function as the Iraq war in terms of keeping the populace on war footing, this time against the "invaders" denounced on billboards in San Antonio and across the country.
In what is not so much a coincidence as it is an urgent political necessity, the Bush Administration and the Republican Party have, in their desperation, taken the frame of war and applied it to the issue of immigration. Witness Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) who set the tone of recent hearings of the Subcommittee on International Terrorism and Non-Proliferation by remarking that Homeland Security officials report that "Al-Qaeda has considered crossing our Southwest borders," and "It may already have happened."
But not all is dreary in the Latino Americas. The repressive and assimilationist pressures influencing the identity of "good" Latinos in El Salvador, at the Alamo, and in Iraq are also giving way to another kind of struggle, another kind of Latino: the movimientista. One of the collateral effects of the raids, exploitation, surveillance, and other repressive components of the war on immigrants has been to energize and inform identities of defiance among many Latinos. Because they are arguably those most affected by national security policies and their cultural implications, immigrants have been forced to take their place alongside African Americans, women, Latin American revolutionaries, and others who sought to redefine freedom beyond the usual notions.