Chair-Elect Letter to ASA Latina/o Sociology

During the week I write this President Obama has declared a humanitarian crisis in south Texas, as Central American women and children cross the Rio Grande from Mexico into Texas. Unprecedented numbers of migrants are being detained by the Border Patrol in temporary facilities and warehouses. There, women and children sleep on concrete floors, receive inadequate care, some experience abuse while in custody, and are living in overcrowded and squalid conditions, increasing their risk of contracting communicable diseases. In the last eight months 47,000 unaccompanied minors have been detained by the Border Patrol, which as the Washington Post reports, is up “92 percent from the same period in the fiscal year.” In 2013, more than 36,000 mostly Central American migrants have requested asylum along the southwestern border, which is triple the 2012 number (most of which are denied). At this time, FEMA has been charged with responding to this “crisis,” as migrants wait for their date in court. According to the Obama administration and in the best case scenario, FEMA will, within seven days, place detained migrants with family members who reside in the US. Unaccompanied minors without family in the US or who are unable to contact family will likely be placed in foster care. I can’t help but wonder what would have happened to these women and children if that video had not been leaked to the news media.

As that humanitarian crisis continues to unfold, Eric Cantor, the second ranking House republican and House majority leader who has served in congress for 13 years, lost his Virginia primary. If the twitter-verse is to be believed, this is the first time a sitting majority leader has lost since 1899 (when the seat was created, according to Politico). Cantor was defeated by an almost unknown Tea Party challenger, David Brat, who raised only a small fraction of Cantor’s campaign funds (reports from CNN and the Washington Post indicate it was a 25 to 1 difference, or $5,000,000 to $200,000). Ironically, it appears that Cantor’s defeat was due in part to the redrawing of Virginia districts, which made his district even more conservative (and supposedly safer from Democratic challengers). That said according to most pundits and political analysts, his historic defeat can also be traced to Brat’s and his supporter’s depiction of Cantor as an “ally” on immigration. Dave Brat’s anti-immigrant, nativist campaign successfully challenged Cantor, even though Cantor, in a last minute attempt to regain his footing, distributed mailers that indicated he was preventing Democrats from giving “illegal aliens a free ride.” As a consequence of this stunning upset, immigration reform is yet again, likely dead. And it appears that the right is not yet ready to deal with its “Latino Problem.” (This, when all is said and done, may not be that different from the Left’s “Latino Problem.”)

Although rarely mentioned in the news, a growing professional and middle class of Latinas/os is quietly (re)shaping the Latina/o American landscape. Intermarriage rates are on the rise, college enrollments are up, and the dynamic heterogeneity of the Latina/o population is observed in national, ethnic, panethnic, and racial identity formations – which is currently causing quite a challenge to the United States Bureau of the Census as they attempt to introduce a new Latino racial category of identity.

It is in this context that the ASA’s Section on Latina/o Sociology celebrates its X year. Our program activities include [add business meeting date, roundtable date, program session titles and dates] as well as a first-time Mentoring Initiative organized by Elizabeth Vaquera and Cristina Mora, which will bring together senior and junior scholars during the ASA for one-on-one meetings for advice and support. Our program and section activities reflect the heterogeneity of the Latino population in the United States, and the exciting scholarship that attempts to capture this dynamic population. I am honored and grateful for the opportunity to serve as Chair of our section which I believe is one – if not the most – exciting, dynamic, and fun sections at the ASA. I look forward to joining you in San Francisco this August.
Sincerely,
Zulema

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