<i>San Diego Union-Times</i> syndicated columnist Ruben Navarette Jr. addresses students and faculty at the Sept. 19 Social Justice Speaker Series.
During the first week of Latino Heritage Month, syndicated San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Ruben Navarette Jr. told a Social Justice Speaker Series audience that Latino immigration is having a positive and enduring effect on American society.

"This is the Hispanic century," Navarette proclaimed to a crowd of more than 100 students and faculty gathered in Ferroggiaro Quad for his Sept. 19 address. "Hispanic influence is having an impact on everything from politics to economics, everywhere from Main Street to Wall Street."

Citing demographic and marketing data documenting Latinos' growing presence in the United States, Navarette maintained that the country is enriched by the millions of immigrants willing to assimilate and work hard in pursuit of the American Dream.

"There are lessons we can learn from immigrants," he said. "They seek out opportunity, sacrifice to help sustain their families and never give up."

Navarette, a third-generation Mexican-American whose twice-weekly column appears in more than 175 newspapers, also discussed the role immigration and Latino political issues are playing in the 2008 presidential election. He noted that all Democratic candidates participated in this month's Univision debates for Spanish-language audiences, while all Republican candidates declined.

"I guess they were afraid they'd have to explain to their mostly white, mostly conservative base why they were in Miami speaking Spanish."

Navarette's analysis of Latino issues in U.S. politics did not fall along conventional partisan lines, as he criticized Bill Clinton for viewing race in American politics through an exclusively "black-white paradigm" and praised George W. Bush for doing more to incorporate Latinos into American political life.

"Whatever else you think about his politics and the Iraq war, George W. Bush has put Latinos into the mix. He was the first to appoint a Latino attorney general and he's the first to pursue comprehensive immigration reform."

Navarette called for a "more nuanced and honest" approach to immigration law, backing both stronger border enforcement and a "long and difficult" path to legalization for the more than 12 million undocumented immigrants now in the U.S.

One in four Americans will be Latino by as early as 2030, Navarette noted. He said that the country will benefit from this trend if U.S. citizens overcome cultural anxieties and what he called "schizophrenia" in American attitudes toward immigration.

"America has two signs on the Mexican border: ‘Keep Out' and ‘Help Wanted.' "

-- John Grennan
Office of College Communications
Photo by Gabi Diaz '11

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