History of Racism Against Mexican-Americans Clouds Texas Immigration Law

SAN ANTONIO — When Texas leaders approved a tough new immigration enforcement law known as SB4, they did so in a state that has had a long, continuing and sometimes unacknowledged struggle for equity by the state’s residents of Mexican descent.

That struggle has existed since before Texas became a state and has ranged from mob violence and massacres — some perpetrated by the Texas Rangers — to voting and employment discrimination and school and housing segregation. More recently, courts have declared the state’s voter ID law and redistricting maps discriminatory.

Supporters of SB4 balk at suggestions the immigration enforcement law may foster racism or encourage discrimination, but as they try to enact it on Sept. 1, it will be impossible to ignore the state’s history of racism and the current challenges for Texans of Mexican descent.

Consider that, during the period from 1848 to 1928, at least 232 people of Mexican descent were killed by mob violence or lynchings in Texas — some committed at the hands of Texas Rangers, according to research by William D. Carrigan and Clive Webb, authors of “Forgotten Dead: Mob Violence Against Mexicans in the United States.” Texas led 12 states in killings of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, the authors solidly documented.

In addition, the effort to place Texas under the anti-discrimination provisions of the Voting Rights Act was the genesis of the 1975 expansion of the act to extend its protections of voting rights of Latinos and other people who were then called “language minorities.”

More recently, Texas’ voter ID law, enacted in 2013, has been struck down in a series of court decisions that found it discriminatory.

Also, Texas’ education board only added Mexican-American studies as an elective course to its public school curriculum in 2014.

By Suzanne Gamboa for NBC News
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