My Experience with Mexican Immigrants
As a young assistant professor of management, my first position was at the University of Texas at San Antonio. The University was in its infancy, having just moved to its campus home. As a freshly minted PhD this was an ideal job, senior professors were almost nonexistent and as a result the tasks of curriculum building and policy making fell to us junior members of the faculty.
I was also a gringo from the north, having completed my doctorate at Michigan State University. San Antonio, at least at that time, was a multicultural city with Mexican Americans making up about 50% of the city’s population. Ten percent were African American, leaving 40% for the Anglo population. It was my first experience at being in the minority in my community. Spanish was heard in the streets frequently and many of the natives began a sentence in Spanish and finished it in English or the opposite. My acclimation to the area required some mentoring which was generously offered to me. After a time I could phonetically address my Hispanic friends surnamed Rodriguez and Gutierrez with ease and competence.
Another issue for me was that my business background was in manufacturing. But my newly acquired city at the time was not a manufacturing mecca. Indeed, it tended more toward tourism and government operations. But as previously mentioned, there was an abundance of Mexican Americans. As in most universities, I was faced with the challenge of publish or perish. Having a wife and three elementary school aged children I rapidly concluded that perishing was not a viable option. So, my research topic became Mexican Americans. More specifically, Mexican American college graduates. I chose to examine Mexican American college graduate characteristics and success rates as compared to Anglo American college graduates. I will not go into the details of this research, but will point out that the stereotypes, many that appeared in the popular literature, simply did not hold true.
Further, in confidential interviews with my subjects, many told stories of their parents entering the country illegally, working two or more marginal jobs, to provide for their families of four or more kids, sending them to private Catholic schools, and preparing them for lives with better futures than their own. This is the common immigrant family story and the reason America has been the utopia for the economically and politically oppressed peoples of the world. The falsehood that immigrants, legal or otherwise, are economic drains on our country is simply not true. Far more often they contribute immensely to the future of our great nation. Denigrating them as criminals and economic drains for political gain is unconscionable and below the dignity of what I believe being an American is supposed to be about.