New York University Public Law and Legal Theory Working Papers

Document Type



Harvard Latino Law Review, Vol. 11, No. 247, 2008


In this symposium essay, I consider whether Latinos should embrace or resist the close correlation of Latino political identity with the immigration question. Do Latinos qua Latinos define themselves as perpetual outsiders and elide more important community interests when they highlight immigration as a core Latino concern, or is this focus required to secure the status of Latinos in the American political community? I conclude that the general public's tendency to draw a strong correlation between Latinos and immigrants is inescapable, whether individual Latinos prefer to divorce themselves from their immigrant ancestry, or from the immigration circumstances of Latinos with national origins distinct from their own. The immigration issue must be embraced as a Latino issue, because the interests of U.S. Latinos and Latin American immigrants are intertwined. The value of promoting Latino group solidarity and advancing new civil rights agendas also could be invoked to support Latino focus on the immigration debate. But even for those who are not exercised by such objectives, self interest requires engaging the immigration question. Accordingly, Latinos and their allies must approach immigration-related politics from a perspective that prioritizes immigrant integration and what I call the "normalization" of immigrant identity into mainstream American political identity.

Date of Authorship for this Version

July 2008