ONTD Political

Kids today, huh? Beats me where they get these ideas from.

2:43 pm - 10/22/2011
Hispanic Kids Being Bullied in Wake of Alabama Immigration Law

It was just another schoolyard basketball game until a group of Hispanic seventh-graders defeated a group of boys from Alabama.

The reaction was immediate, according to the Mexican mother of one of the winners, and rooted in the state’s new law on illegal immigration.

“They told them, ‘You shouldn’t be winning. You should go back to Mexico,’” said the woman, who spoke through a translator last week and didn’t want her name used. She and her son are in the country illegally.

Spanish-speaking parents say their children are facing more bullying and taunts at school since Alabama’s tough crackdown on illegal immigration took effect last month. Many blame the name-calling on fallout from the law, which has been widely covered in the news, discussed in some classrooms and debated around dinner tables.

Justice Department officials are monitoring for bullying incidents linked to the law.

“We’re hearing a number of reports about increases in bullying that we’re studying,” the head of the agency’s civil rights division, Thomas Perez, said during a stop in Birmingham.

The Justice Department has established a bilingual telephone hotline and special email account for residents to report any violence or threats based on racial or ethnic background that could be linked to the law. Officials would not provide a breakdown on the types of complaints being received.

Yet the Alabama Department of Education hasn’t received any reports of bullying linked to the law, said spokeswoman Malissa Valdes, and it isn’t tracking the issue to determine whether there could be a problem. Any parents who call the state with complaints would be referred to their child’s principal, she said.

Federal officials say some parents — particularly illegal immigrants — may not report bullying to teachers and principals because they fear coming into contact with government officials.

Supporters of the law — which is being challenged by the Obama administration, individuals and private groups — contend it’s vital to reducing the cost of state and local government by getting illegal immigrants off public assistance. They also argue the measure will create jobs for legal residents by opening up positions that had been held by people living in the country illegally. However, Americans so far have shown little interest in the backbreaking, low-paying jobs at farms and poultry factories that were usually held by illegal immigrants.

Opponents contend the law is creating a climate of fear and mistrust in the state that’s unsettling for immigrants who are both legal and illegal. Immigrants tell of dirty looks in grocery stores, and online forums are full of angry, anonymous comments and from both supporters and opponents of the law.

Machine shop manager Hector Conde said his family has seen the problem firsthand. Conde, whose family lives in Autauga County north of Montgomery, was appalled when his 12-year-old daughter, Monica Torres, told him a schoolmate called her a “damn Mexican” during a school bus ride.

“She is a citizen. She doesn’t even speak Spanish,” said Conde, a U.S. citizen originally from Puerto Rico. “The culture being created (by the law) is that this sort of thing is OK.”

A Hispanic woman said her 13-year-old niece was called a “stupid Mexican” and told to “go back to Mexico” by a classmate in Walker County.

“She said, ‘If you’re not going I’m going to punch you,’”
said the woman, who spoke through a translator and didn’t want her name used.

Courts have struck down sections of the law, including a provision that required public schools to verify the citizenship status of students. Other parts remain in effect, including a part that lets police check a person’s immigration status during a traffic stop. Courts also can’t enforce contracts involving illegal immigrants, such as leases, and it’s still a felony for an illegal immigrant to do business with the state for basic things like getting a driver’s license.

In Shelby County, where hundreds of Hispanic children are enrolled in schools in Birmingham’s southern suburbs, officials say they’ve had few reports of conflicts between Hispanic students and others.

“That isn’t to say that it hasn’t happened, but if it has they haven’t been reporting it to school officials,” said Cindy Warner, a spokeswoman for the system.

U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, the lead federal prosecutor for north Alabama, said many Hispanic parents may be afraid to report bullying for fear of coming in contact with government officials. Under the law, authorities are supposed to detain suspected illegal immigrants found living in the state and hold them for federal immigration authorities.

Parents may be afraid to go to even school teachers and principals, she said. “It seems likely to me that people are trying to keep their heads down and stay out of trouble,” said Vance.

Charles Warren is school superintendent DeKalb County, where about 18 percent of the 8,900 students enrolled in public schools are Hispanic. He doesn’t see much tension between Hispanic students and others — Crossville High School has had a Hispanic homecoming queen the last two years, he said.

“The kids get along great, it’s the adults who are the problem,” Warren said. “There are a lot of similarities to what went on back in the ’50s and ’60s with the civil rights movement. A lot of people are out of work now and they want to blame someone. I think the Hispanic people are catching a lot of that.”

Warren is right about at least one thing: The taunting extends to the grown-up world. Supporters of the law have filled Steve Dubrinsky’s email account with critical messages and peppered online message boards with negative reviews of his popular restaurant, Max’s Delicatessen, after a talk radio show mistakenly said he employs illegal immigrants at his business in suburban Birmingham.

Dubrinsky’s wife is a legal immigrant from Mexico, and he said all nine of his immigrant workers have proper papers. But he is still worried about the future of his business amid the onslaught.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this before,” said Dubrinsky. “Those reviews were just plain and simple out to get me over this.”

jiaren_shadow 22nd-Oct-2011 08:20 pm (UTC)
“The kids get along great, it’s the adults who are the problem,”

I mean, I'm side-eyeing the first half of that statement (I can see it having a grain of truth, but since the article emphasizes that a lot of anti-Hispanic bullying goes unreported because both kids and parents, especially those who are undocumented, fear going to authorities about the problem or feel like the higher-ups won't do shit about it, I have a feeling he's either oblivious or glossing it over), but that second half is true. We're seeing these racist, xenophobic attitudes accepted unquestioningly; when a kid sees that their parents, teachers, and even presidential candidates can use terms like "illegals" (which I personally think is an incredibly dehumanizing, demeaning thing to call someone) without getting called out, they learn that it's OK to pick on the Hispanic kid, that Hispanic people "don't belong here". The attitude adjustment has to start with adults.
romp 22nd-Oct-2011 09:22 pm (UTC)
alicedear 22nd-Oct-2011 08:39 pm (UTC)
I definitely remember racism among my class as early as 3rd grade; it's not surprising that kids pick up on their parents bigotry. It needs to be specifically addressed in schools but it looks like as long as people are too afraid to report they'll just keep letting it slide.
quizzicalsphinx 22nd-Oct-2011 08:59 pm (UTC)
There is a widespread problem of parents who don't understand the nuances of the new law (I think I posted an article last week about how many parents simply pulled their kids from school after the law went out, while the schools tried to get the message across that they would not allow a child to be taken from school). There are several grassroots groups right now trying to spread information to Latino residents about their rights under the new law so that if nothing else, they can feel a little safer about reporting.

Right now, AFAIK, the only people who actually want this law in place are the people who are in no way benefiting from it--those who are xenophobic on principle and the politicians who pander to them. Everyone else thinks it's racist and useless, the local cops are reluctant to enforce it, and a lot of the lower-level politicians think it's a waste of resources in the face of the larger economic crisis we're facing.

sephirajo 22nd-Oct-2011 08:41 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad none of my fully Latino relatives live in Alabama or Arizona. o.o This is just horrible.
doe_witch 22nd-Oct-2011 08:45 pm (UTC)
Oh good jesus christ.
kangofu 22nd-Oct-2011 09:16 pm (UTC)
Supporters of the law have filled Steve Dubrinsky’s email account with critical messages and peppered online message boards with negative reviews of his popular restaurant, Max’s Delicatessen, after a talk radio show mistakenly said he employs illegal immigrants at his business in suburban Birmingham.

Can he sue that show? Isn't that slander? Untrue verbal claim of breaking the law based on the there being non-whites operating the store?

God, I want to punch something...
bestdaywelived 22nd-Oct-2011 10:24 pm (UTC)
He probably could, and should.
365reasonswhy 22nd-Oct-2011 10:48 pm (UTC)
He should totally sue.
yamamanama 22nd-Oct-2011 10:22 pm (UTC)
“She is a citizen. She doesn’t even speak Spanish,” said Conde, a U.S. citizen originally from Puerto Rico. “The culture being created (by the law) is that this sort of thing is OK.”

Mexican (n, adj, barely literate troglodytese): Anyone with ancestry south of the Rio Grande, from Tijuana to Ushuaia.

(if anyone's wondering where my previous post went, it's because I butchered the html)
365reasonswhy 22nd-Oct-2011 10:40 pm (UTC)
The owner of Max's Delicatessan should sue that radio show. I hadn't heard about that but OMG, I'm going to go eat there tomorrow to support his business, even if it does mean driving out 280.

I see people have fought back on Google reviews to give this place good reviews to counteract the negative ones.

This bullying shit sounds like the backlash against Arab-American and even Indian kids after 9/11. My cousin got more than her share of racist taunts in school back then.
booksforlunch Completely OT, but ...22nd-Oct-2011 10:50 pm (UTC)
OMFG, IS THAT A BUNNICULA ICON?!?!?!?!? <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
365reasonswhy Re: Completely OT, but ...22nd-Oct-2011 10:58 pm (UTC)
You know it!

Happy Halloween!
quizzicalsphinx 22nd-Oct-2011 10:54 pm (UTC)
You need to be going to eat at Max's tomorrow because it exists, omg. But solidarity is also a good reason.
365reasonswhy 22nd-Oct-2011 11:02 pm (UTC)
I had no idea it existed before this either!

I'm thinking the spinich, feta and mushroom quesadilla. Or maybe a salad and the Matzo Ball soup depending on my mood tomorrow.

quizzicalsphinx 22nd-Oct-2011 11:06 pm (UTC)
Oh man, Max's is an institution. Any other deli food is a lie you are telling your mouth, I promise you.
365reasonswhy 22nd-Oct-2011 11:09 pm (UTC)
I just moved here, so forgive me for not knowing of the heaven that awaits me. :)
browneyedguuurl 23rd-Oct-2011 01:46 am (UTC)
I love the anecdote by the PRican man and by love I mean it makes me so
fucking mad! Because here speaking Spanish=MEXICAN! I can't with the ignorance in the country and the actual PRIDE I have seen from people here about it.
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