To bring awareness about Latinx people immigrating to the United States, Chicano/La Raza studies department Chairperson Agustín Palacios led a special lecture as part of Contra Costa College’s Undocumented Student Week of Action.
Dr. Palacios called the lecture “Latinx (IM)Migration to the United States” where he presented the historical, social and political context of Latino American immigration to the U.S.
The event was held on Thursday from 1-2 p.m. in GE-225. Palacios said this lecture was open to all community members, but he offered extra credit to any of his attending students from his current La Raza 113 and La Raza 127 classes.
African American studies and liberal arts major Regina Alexander said she attended the lecture because she is interested in ethnic studies and wanted to learn more about Latino immigration in the U.S.
Throughout the lecture, Palacios focused on the European versus Latino immigrant experience, the U.S. dependence on immigrant labor and why Latinx people come to the U.S.
Art major Miguel Valdez said he came to the lecture because he was curious as to what the lecture would go into detail about and wanted to know more about the history of Latinos coming to the U.S.
In the late 19th century, large numbers of Latino immigrants started coming to the U.S.
Up until the Immigration Act of 1924, European immigrants could come to the U.S. without needing permission and they couldn’t be deported if they stayed in the U.S. for over five years.
At this time, European and Latinx people were able to become citizens through a similar process to which we have today, but Asian people were not able to become citizens at all.
The Border Patrol was also created in 1924, which made crossing the border more difficult.
In 1965, the Immigration and Nationality Act passed and this was the first time Latinx people weren’t allowed in the U.S.
By the 1970s, the number of Mexican citizens migrating to the U.S. rose to over one million people.
As Palacios continued going through the lecture, he said, “We (Mexicans) have the distinction of being the group with the oldest population within the country.”
He explained that people who are now known as Mexicans have physically been in U.S. territory the longest — they were here before Europeans conquered the Americas and they are still here today.
He spoke about indigenous tribes and how Latinx people today carry the blood of those indigenous peoples but are now known as different ethnicities, such as Mexican or Central American.
He continued to talk about Latinx people coming to the U.S. and noted how children are brought to the U.S. at a young age — so young that they don’t remember living or being from anywhere else except the U.S. However, they are still immigrants and, in some cases, still undocumented.
“That’s the narrative that sometimes gets lost,” Palacios said.
Prior to the 1980s, most Latinx immigrants were Mexican, but U.S. involvement in Central American countries forced many Central American people north.
Palacios then started discussing how many Latinx immigrants come to the U.S. and work in agriculture, but instead of being referred to as immigrants, they are referred to as workers — implying they are not as valued and are essentially dispensable.
He said agriculture has made California rich for more than 100 years, and the sacrifices of those immigrants have made the state successful.
He ended his lecture with a photograph of the California fires of 2018, the dangerous air filling an agricultural field full of “workers.”
He noted that classes were canceled here at CCC, but the owners of that land thought, “Let them (the workers) get sick. They’re workers, they’re expendable.”