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Opinion: Fernando Espuelas: Test of institutionalized racism heads to the Supreme Court
The Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether Arizona can enforce its controversial immigration law.
December 16th, 2011
01:50 PM ET

Opinion: Fernando Espuelas: Test of institutionalized racism heads to the Supreme Court

Editor’s note: Fernando Espuelas is the host and managing editor of the national talk show "Fernando Espuelas" on Univision Radio. He is also a political analyst on television, print and online. Espuelas is a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute

By Fernando Espuelas, Special to CNN

The Supreme Court's decision this week to review the constitutionality of Arizona's anti-immigrant law is a seminal moment for Americans of Latino descent. This case - like other historic cases before the court at critical moments, cases that redefined America's social compact - will have repercussions beyond whether Arizona gets to keep its racist law on the books. It is a test of whether America legislates racism.

Most Latinos across this country see the immigration laws passed in Arizona, Alabama and Georgia as an attack on Latinos, both Americans and undocumented immigrants.

As a radio talk show host, I speak every day with Americans who feel insulted by the cheap anti-immigrant rhetoric that has bled into our nation's political discourse. These callers are taken aback by the lack of attention given in the mainstream media to the human and economic costs of these new anti-immigrant laws: Children in Alabama being “registered” in schools as undocumented, water service denied to families because of their immigration status, people stopped by the police for looking like an undocumented immigrant. These are the building blocks of a police state.

Yes, the Arizona law and its brethren ostensibly target undocumented immigrants, now rechristened as Orwellian “illegals.” The law charges a peace officer who has a “reasonable suspicion that the person is an alien” to determine the immigration status of that person and process accordingly.

Targeting undocumented people? Latinos are not buying this pretext. What's the basis of this suspicion? Short of seeing that someone is wearing an “I'm an Illegal” T-shirt, some visual discrimination has to take place for the police to act.

Will police stop people of a certain weight or height? Wearing new or old shoes? Of Hispanic descent or not? The answer is obvious.

It is impossible to enforce this law without racial profiling. A law that requires the active identification of people based on a “suspicion” that they may just be undocumented is, on its face, a racist law.

Arizona sheriff faces Justice Department allegations of discrimination

And then there are the people behind the Arizona law. While Arizona Governor Jan Brewer was front and center, ginning up fear - she claimed there was a wave of beheadings perpetrated by illegal immigrants, then withdrew it when she couldn’t provide proof - the real creators are a group of anti-immigrant organizations.

There’s the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has classified as a “nativist hate group,” the Immigration Reform Law Institute and  NumbersUSA. They all have ties to John Tanton, a retired Michigan ophthalmologist and major force in the anti-immigration movement.

Tanton was an environmental conservationist and population growth advocate who founded several groups aimed at reducing U.S. immigration levels, spearheaded efforts to make English the official language of the U.S. government, and founded The Social Contract Press, which publishes materials on the topics of immigration, population, conservation, and the "preservation and promotion of a shared American culture."

The modern immigration law movement is “almost entirely” Tanton's handiwork, the Southern Poverty Law Center says.

As all Americans begin to understand the freakish provenance of the Arizona law - the fruit of the rotten Tanton tree - the ultimate decision made by the Supreme Court will be a proxy for whether America will once again reject the moral failure of hate and racism, and embrace its true nature as the land of liberty and justice for all.

The Supreme Court's decision will electrify the Latino population in America.

If the court rules the law unconstitutional, as it should, we could be on the path of reconciliation, civility and normalcy.

But if the justices decide to uphold Arizona's law, similar laws will be enacted in other states. There will be massive economic dislocation, as has already occurred in Alabama and Georgia, because immigrants - a critical component of the economy - have fled. We will have surrendered our civil liberties by creating a police state in which citizens who look "foreign" will be subjected to an invasive level of scrutiny. Americans will be further divided across ethnic lines throughout an already fractured country.

You can make one bet: If the Arizona law is upheld, Latinos will fully engage the political system once and for all. They’ll vote strategically to deny white supremacists and political puppets the position they need to execute a mission of racial purity.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Fernando Espuelas.

soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. Juan Gonzalvez

    Illegal immigration is not a new problem, Native Americans used to call it 'White People

    December 30, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kelly

      The first White people to come to the Americas were Spaniards.. mmmmm, I wonder why you didn't mention that??

      December 30, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
      • neighborhoodrant

        Kelly,

        Then you are going to deny that people might have entered "america" from other continents? Many historians might dispute your claim and suggest that people from the continent of Asia may have just been the first immigrants to our beloved united 50 states.

        One should not confuse the issue. My point was that either you want to stay in American and you put your allegiance into the country, to be a productive member of society, and not a drain on social services while you send every dollar you can to another nation for free through a corporate thief like Bank of America.

        We cannot keep exporting our GNP and think we will be a thriving society here.

        January 4, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
      • Kelly

        You need to read what your replying too before you reply. Where do I ever deny that people entered the Americas from other continents? I was commenting on Juan Gonzalez's claim that Native Americans would classify White Americans as illegal immigrants. He failed to mention that those first White people he calls illegal immigrants were Spaniards. You have decided to go off into left field and talk about how "humans" got to the Americas. I agree that many anthropologist, not historians, believe that those first "humans" came from asia. What in the world does that have to do with my reply to Mr. Gonzalez? You should try not to "confuse the issue."

        January 4, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
      • neighborhoodrant

        I did read it. My point is that illegal immigration is the problem. It is a drain on social services. Lets just talk on a human level. No one would ever dream that denying medicine and food and shelter to those who have nothing, but now there is nothing left. The pantry is empty. Not since the dust bowl have so many children whose parents paid taxes, who did not break the law have been homeless and hungry.

        One might say, charity starts at home. To have a bickering battle over how or who was here first takes away from the real issue. Kids in the U.S. are being negatively impacted. If you didnt put anything in- you cant take anything out. You cant send every dime back to somewhere else and keep taking and taking. EBT card, housing benefit, emergency room visits, court interpeters. Kelly, how can the middle class keep paying for this? People making over 106K only pay 2% of taxes so perhaps they dont need the social services that our tax revenue provides. The rest of us?

        Simple solution. Passport w dna encription at birth. Repeal the born on US soil automatic citizenship. Give work visas take higher taxes. Charge to send money out of the country.

        January 6, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Kelly

    Mr. Espuelas is looking to blame the Americam people for a problem caused by the governments of Latin countries. Lets take Mexico for example. It is a land filled with hard working an honest people that is full of natural resources. So, why are so many of it's people willing to violate the laws of another nation by sneaking into that nation and working illegaly? Because decade after decade the corrupt and inept Mexican government has made life too hard for them. So does Mr. Espuelas and others like him protest against this Latin government for oppressing Latin people? No, they complain about American people because Americans want their very generous immigration laws enforced. Mr Espuela is the definition of a "hypocrite."

    December 29, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nano Casillas

      Kelly,
      Espuelas is indeed a hypocrite, but he is also profiting from the ignorants that listen to him, that is why he continues playing the victim and racist card with his followers, it means profit for him, at the expense of dividing White/Rich vs. Hispanics/Poor, especially antagonizing Hispanics against Republicans, he portrays them as racist, even though Obama is the one who has deported a record amount of illegals.
      He is a disgrace, he should be thankful to this country that gave him the opportunity.

      December 29, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Stormfront

    well, if the s-p-i-c-s don't like being sent back to Mexico where they belong, there's always the gas chamber, active volcanoes, and other methods of elimination.

    December 28, 2011 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kelly

      you are an idiot..

      December 29, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  4. neighborhoodrant

    Want to see what Illegal immigration does to the school systems? Look no further than LAUSD, one of the largest school systems in the country. Look what they now HAVE to do to help the students who already know English since all the classes are so dumbed down now for the steady stream of illegal people into the "sanctuary" so that African Americans and other students can actually get into college. See how catering to kids who are "english learners" slows down the academic efforts of other minorities in the Urban areas.

    Where's UNIVISION or Proctor n Gamble with the tutoring monies for these Illegal kids so they can stay after school and catch up? Hey Catholic Church who encourages Illegal Immigration- how are you Stepping up????

    Where's the outrage for our kids? Will McDonalds and every other illegal employer pay the bill for extra tutoring? No? And you wonder why our country's kids cant compete in the global marketplace. Spanish my behind. The official language of the U.N is English. Lets give all the kids the same chance. Im all for inclusion, but who is paying for all the Hospital, Education and Social costs of illegal Immigration? You can be sure its NOT big business who benefits the most.

    The Middle Class cannot afford to be the social saviour of people who send EVERY DIME back to the place of Origin. Yes, my family arrived in the US after slavery and NO money made here ever went back to the County that we left to become Americans. Can most Illegal Immigrants say the same? Can Bank of America tell why its ok to send money to Mexico for free, but I cant get a fee reversed why they are stealing from me?

    Just wondering?

    December 20, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  5. SEC

    ...Fernando Espuelas???Worth to read…This is greatest ponzi scheme of all time!!!

    http://www.sec.gov/litigation/complaints/comp19627.pdf

    December 20, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Alma

    It is unfortunate that we do not respect the civil rights of people. If indeed the government wants to kill all those illegal immigrants who do evil for the U.S. economy has one of the best armies to do so, but in the end is not the government that wants to end this, but ourselves as citizens we are destroying it. All in one way or another are immigrants in this country, not just Latinos.

    December 20, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • SEC

      Almita...read it...$$$$... Worth to read…This is greatest ponzi scheme of all time!!!

      http://www.sec.gov/litigation/complaints/comp19627.pdf

      December 20, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  7. RN

    This article tells many truths, it hurts them and resent. Especially those who have their thoughts focused on the Nazi era.

    December 20, 2011 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
    • SEC

      Truth?
      Worth to read…This is greatest ponzi scheme of all time!!!

      http://www.sec.gov/litigation/complaints/comp19627.pdf

      December 20, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Agm

    WHEN POLICE OFFICERS AT ARIZONA LOOK A CANADIAN CITIZEN WITH AN EXPIRED PERMIT TO STAY IN USA AND A LATINO-AMERICAN BORN IN THE USA WHO DO YOU THINK THEY WILL STOP? THE LATINO OR THE CANADIAN. OF COURSE THE LATINO AND THAT'S PROFILING AND THAT'S RACISM. STOP SAYING THAT ARIZONA ANTI-IMMIGRANT LAW IS TO PROTECT THE USA.

    December 19, 2011 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Nano Casillas

    Espuelas hates USA big time, he is always pitting White vs. Hispanic, rich vs. poor people, calling racist the people who are against illegals being rewarded with some type of amnesty. He lies on his radio show, which is nothing else but an arm of the Democrat party propaganda, after all, his is catering to his audience for profit.
    I wonder if CNN knows that Espuelas was involved in a major fraud case worth millions of dollars with one of his enterprises?

    December 19, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Agm

      Man you should read a lot more about Fernando and stop saying stuped things about him.

      December 19, 2011 at 10:39 pm | Report abuse |
      • Nano Casillas

        AGM, I followed your advise and read about Espuelas, and what a learned is not good, he was involved in a big fraudulent deal!
        Did you read the link on SEC post?

        December 20, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Nano Casillas

    Espuelas hates USA big time, he is always pitting White vs. Hispanic, rich vs. poor people, calling racist the people who are against illegals being rewarded with some type of amnesty. He lies on his radio show, which is nothing else but an arm of the Democrat party propaganda, after all, his is catering to his audience for profit.
    I wonder if CNN knows that Espuelas was involved in a major fraud case worth millions of dollars with one of enterprises?

    December 19, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Kathleen

    What is wrong with CNN to let this guy write this article for them. What a pathetic piece of La Raza propaganda . It's why I don't watch CNN or use them for news. I say we adopt Mexicos immigration laws only fair, isn't it ?

    December 19, 2011 at 8:07 am | Report abuse |
    • lisa

      Excellent idea

      December 20, 2011 at 6:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Darth Cheney

      How did you manage to come across this article, then?

      December 20, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Showmeyerpapers

    Uh one more time , its not about race , its about nationality , say it with me nationality okay try it again nationality o nevermind primates

    December 18, 2011 at 4:47 am | Report abuse |
  13. Showmeyerpapers

    Still got my vote Mr Cain. Herman my man, my main man,the "hermanator" got the nwo scared to death . The man will allow the states to enforce the dadgum law against mehicos invasion of our lives! That would ruin everything for the nwo. Illegals must have murdered at least 250 000 americans in the last 50 years. Cant you hear their blood scream for justice from their graves? Our american brothers and sisters victims of federal ethnic cleansing! Sometimes at night i can hear a car horn stuck on as if in an accident,then another and another and so on when one goes silent the tune is carried on by others till they fill the night with the constant blare,the horrific ane sickening symphony of americans getting wiped out by illegal "hispanic" drivers, theyre wiping out entire families daily. Too bad we didnt guard our southern border like wehico guards theirs. Get lost take your worthless names and cursed culture and disappear!

    December 18, 2011 at 4:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Darth Cheney

      Sieg hiel, Adolf.

      December 20, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Showmeyerpapers

    What about all the areas of our country where the standard of living is govt aid, where the american society has been utterly destroyed and unrecognizable. We once had the greatest nation on earth, now in so many places all we have is "the streets" depressed mehican varios or barrios as they are so proud to say. My once quiet street is now a mexexpressway . The clovis were here long before any mehicans or indians ever existed and they were WHITE. I say deport them all every single one of them, if theyve married americans send them along. Its time to go home and fix their rathole country and stop sucking us dry and preying on innocent americans!

    December 18, 2011 at 4:33 am | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC

      I'M A HISPANIC GUY --I SUPPORT STRONG IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT.--I SUPPORT WHAT ARIZONA AND WHAT ALABAMA DID.-I ALSO SUPPORT THE SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO OF ARIZONA...I SEND ARIZONA A CONTRIBUTION TO HELP FINISH BUILDING THE WALL...YOU ARE WONDERING , WHY IS A HISPANIC GUY SUPPORTING WHAT 75 % OF HISPANIC HATE THE MOST ? WELL I BELIEVE THAT IF WE DO NOT ENFORCE THE IMMIGRATION LAWS THAT AMERICA WILL BE OVER RUN BY MEXICANS AND OTHER LATIN COUNTRIES POOR...WE HAVE WAY TOO MANY PEOPLE NOW, WE DON'T NEED ANYMORE....IF WE DON'T GET TOUGH ON IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT ? AMERICA WILL BECOME A THIRD WORLD COUNTRY.

      December 18, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
      • Agm

        I feel sorry for people like you, people who does not understand that latinos has done way more better for the economy of the USA than bad.

        December 19, 2011 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Showmeyerpapers

    Not only have illegal invaders slit the throats of the working man they are responsible for 75% of the crime here in denver radioreference dot com monitor police and ems frequencies for yourself they must have killed 250000Americans in the last 50 years look at lapd online all most wanted 95% spanic. I knew newt was the s samich. I dont care if an illegal sailed with washington , REMOVE THEM! The states want the laws ENFORCED PERIOD! Theyll bankrupt EVERY STATE! LOOK AT CALIFORNIA FOR GOD SAKE! Mehico is a cultural catastrophe and our govt has helped them spread their societal ills across our great nation. We would have the highest standard of living on earth if it wasnt for the constant stranglehold on our economy due to the invasion and occupation of our soverign land. Look noone wants to break up families just be sure to get them all on the same bus with the anchor offspring seated up front. What about all the american families torn apart by the federal invasion policy in effect. The

    December 18, 2011 at 4:31 am | Report abuse |
  16. charlie avila

    It is time for all americans to recognize, that the usa is a country for legal immigrants,not illegals. If the supreme court rule in favor of illegals, the people from all around the planet, will enter illegally the usa, and it will be a total disaster. Arizona is warning the usa, about a possible over population of illegal immigrants in the country. One of those illegals could be president of the usa, rulling against americans, and supporting latinos, instead. The usa will not be anymore, belong to americans!!!...

    December 17, 2011 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC

      I DISAGREE WITH YOU. AMERICA CAN'T NO LONGER ALLOW ANY MORE PEOPLE IN OUR COUNTRY. WE DON'T HAVE THE JOBS ANYMORE.. SO STOP SAYING THAT LEGAL IMMIGRATION IS O.K. YOU BEEN BRAIN WASH TO SAY THAT AND TO BELIEVE IN THAT.. AMERICA ICAN'T NO LONGER BE THE LAND OF IMMIGRANTS, IS OVER...THE FREE RIDE IS OVER.. AMERICA IS OVER POPULATED WITH ILLEGALS.....WE DO NOT NEED ANY MORE PEOPLE LEGAL–OR–ILLEGAL.. I'M A HISPANIC GUY.

      December 18, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  17. ten

    Maybe Latinos need to stop listen to people like this who are using them for political points.

    December 17, 2011 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Kelly

    WOW, the only commentator CNN could find to present their case that Arizona's law should be overturned is someone who's sole arguement is "if you disagree with me you are racist." This gentlemen works for "Univision," so I guess CNN got exactly what they were looking for.

    December 17, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC

      I'M A HISPANIC GUY, I HOPE THE SUPREME COURT RULE IN FAVOR OF ARIZONA....I PREDICT THAT THEY WILL...IF THE SUPREME COURT RULE AGAINST ARIZONA ???AMERICA IS DOOMED. AMERICA WILL BECOME A THIRD WORLD COUNTRY LIKE MEXICO..MY HOME TOWN, IS 75 % MEXICAN, THEY TOOK OVER THE TOWN....I LIVE IN WAUKEGAN , ILLINOIS, THE TOWN LOOKS LIKE JUARES MEXICO, THE MEXICAN TOWN WHERE THE DRAG DEALERS ARE KILLING SO MANY PEOPLE.. GOOGLE THE TOWN. WAUKEGAN, ILLINOIS 60087

      December 18, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
      • Kyle Overboard

        Jose,
        Lose-o el capslock-o. Gracias.

        December 18, 2011 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |
  19. MV

    Liberals have taken discrimination to a new level. I guess this is why we scan old ladies at the airport, because they dont want to look for the ones that actually committed the crimes. Most of the illegals in this country are hispanic, this is a fact. So I guess we should pull over mostly whites, blacks, and asians in an effort to find illegals.

    December 17, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC

      ASKING FOR THE IMMIGRATION LAWS TO BE ENFORCE IS NOT DISCRIMINATION...MEXICANS ARE USING RACE AS THEIR ONLY DEFENSE ...THEY ARE HERE ILLEGALLY AND THEY SHOULD BE DEPORTED IS WHAT THE LAWS REQUIRE YOU TO DO. SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO IS DOING HIS JOB..I SUPPORT HIM, I'M A HISPANIC GUY , CAN'T CALL ME A BIGOT.

      December 18, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  20. sean green

    This article couldn't be more misleading.

    December 17, 2011 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  21. harjinder singh bhatia

    national diploma in comuting

    December 17, 2011 at 2:41 am | Report abuse |
  22. Gwen

    "Visual discrimination" is primarily the cause of having anti-discrimination laws to begin with. Race/color, nationality, age, gender, disability, religion are all protected classes. How anyone would think that processing someone for illegal status simply because of race/color/nationality is ludicrous.

    December 16, 2011 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |