Dear editor:

We begin with one fact: on Friday, March 10, the Chicago Police Department estimated that it was ready to deal with 10,000 proimmigrant demonstrators along Jackson Boulevard. In actuality, more than 100,000 protesters showed up, essentially to repudiate the Hastert/Sensenbrenner “Border Security” Bill (HR 4437) that proposes, among other things, the criminalization of every undocumented immigrant. At the same time, in Grant Park, there was another demonstration in support of tightening local and federal laws to curb illegal immigration in the U.S. The organizers of this second demonstration were part of the Illinois Minuteman Project. It is worth noting that there were three times more journalists than protesters in Grant Park. Only five Minuteman members showed up.

How odd and coincidental that on the same day that the largest proimmigrant demonstration in the history of the United States was held, the Chicago Reader chose to publish an apologetic front-cover article about the leader of the Illinois Minuteman Project, Rosanna Pulido. Ms. Pulido’s view is that all undocumented workers are criminals, since they are breaking the law–that much is predictable from the leader of an anti-immigrant group. What is disturbing, though, is to find that Zak Mucha agrees with her, as evidenced by the title of his article, “Kick ‘Em Out and Keep ‘Em Out.” In fact, the article reads as if everything Ms. Pulido says against immigrants is true. Mr. Mucha, in order to support the anti-immigrant position, even quotes a figure given by the Center for Immigration Studies that evidently is not true: “Services provided to undocumented immigrants in Illinois cost the state $150 billion in 1994.” If this were true, the state would have been in bankruptcy. And if it were true, then how would you explain the presence of many elected officials who came and spoke at the rally that took place at the Federal Building plaza right after the march? Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich and the Mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley, were there and thanked immigrants for the many contributions they have made to the state and the city. Mr. Blagojevich even announced in Spanish: “Ustedes no son criminales, son trabajadores” (You are not criminals, you are workers).

In his article Mr. Mucha seems oblivious to the fact that Rosanna Pulido is yet another victim of discrimination. The Pulido family was rejected by the Anglo society. That’s why Ms. Pulido’s father wanted her to speak only English and without an accent. And now she wants to prove to Anglos that she loves this country by rejecting everything related to her ancestors. But Ms. Pulido has been obliged to hide something that cannot be hidden: her identity.

What’s wrong with speaking English with an accent? Furthermore, what’s wrong with speaking Spanish (or any other language)? The effect of racism and discrimination is so subtle, so cruel, that it still persuades people that being able to speak one language is somehow better than being able to speak two.

Last Friday the overriding feeling was clearly a love of this country. The flag most often waved had 13 bars and 50 stars. More than 100,000 people were singing and demanding recognition of their presence and rights in Spanish and sometimes in English. They feel already part of this city, this state, and this country. These people came here 5 to 20 or more years ago for the same reason that Ms. Pulido’s grandparents did and for the same reason that Mr. Mucha’s (and perhaps everyone working at the Reader) ancestors did: to find a better life.

Raul Dorantes

Febronio Zatarain

Editorial board members of Contratiempo magazine

Zak Mucha replies:

Reporting on an organization and its assertions is not the same as endorsing those views.