March 31, 2006

Mexican Flags Dominate Protests

As elsewhere across the country, American flags have been outnumbered by Mexican flags in Colorado protests:

Recent immigration rallies in Denver and elsewhere have displayed more green, white and red than red, white and blue.

The prominence of Mexican and other foreign flags at the demonstrations has in turn created a backlash among supporters of tougher immigration laws.

Demonstrators say they carry flags from their native countries to show pride in their heritage and unity with fellow immigrants.

But those calling for a crackdown on illegal immigrants see the flags as a symbol of aggression and evidence supporting their claim that foreigners are taking over the country.
Many in Denver are familiar with the gratuitous display of Mexican flags every Cinco De Mayo. It is one thing to celebrate one's heritage, as other ethnic groups do, but most of them fly the American flag simultaneously, and in the appropriate primary position.

State Rep. Dave Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs, a vocal proponent of deporting illegal immigrants, called the use of Mexican flags at the demonstrations "disrespectful to our country."

"It angers me and it makes me more resolved to fight this issue," he said. "I don't like in-your-face rebellion.

"We're not Mexico and we don't fly Mexican flags in this country. We fly American flags."
The story points out that among the protesters, some believe opposition to Mexican flags stems from racism, while others note that America deserves respect and understand why the flying of foreign flags rankles the average American:

Disc jockeys at local Spanish-language radio stations, including La Buena Onda (1150 AM), encouraged listeners to wear white as a symbol of peace and to bring a U.S. flag along with their native country banners.

"We need to respect this country," said Yeshabet Quesada.

Station owner Heberto Limas-Villers said, "We want Hispanics to become integral members of this society. We don't want to create two Americas."
This statements sums up the feeling of many of those Americans who view the flying of Mexican flags with contempt:

Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a Washington, D.C., group that advocates reduced immigration, said his organization has received a large number of e-mails and phone calls from people angered by the foreign flags.

"Americans want people to come to this country as immigrants . . . to love this country . . . and to have exclusive allegiance," Stein said. "They're not into this idea that Mexico apparently believes that they send people here, who become U.S. citizens and keep allegiance to Mexico."
It is not contempt for the national origin of immigrants, their religious affiliation, their native language, or the standard ad hominem attack of racism that is at the basis of American opposition to illegal immigration in general, or the flying of Mexican flags in particular. It offends because if we accept the argument that most immigrants are here with only good intentions to work and make a life for themselves, they should buy into the system that creates the jobs and embrace the culture of the country they make their new home.

If by "ownership society" one means that new immigrants take possession of the American ideal, support the Constitution, and participate in America as a political entity, then most Americans have no problem making room for the newest members of the American family. However, shunning American culture by refusing to learn at least basic English, maintaining allegiance to a country that has obviously failed them economically, while insisting on being given jobs, receiving benefits in the form of healthcare, housing, and education and still prominently displaying the flag of another country, is deeply offensive. This would be true if the immigrants were flying the flag of any other country as well. This is not an attack on Mexico, as not all illegal immigrants are even from that country.

Of course, some groups have an entirely different agenda altogether.

As always, Michael Ramirez's brilliant cartoon says it all:


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