WALLSAND MIRRORS REVIEW
Immigrationhas today becomes an issue of public discussion with the legalimmigrants, and illegal immigrants roles come into scrutinyespecially in the wake of President Trump administration. Uponsigning of the immigration laws and the proposal to construct theMexico -U.S border wall, writer David Gutierrez provides us with ananalysis of the issues which surround immigration from a differentangle. Gutierrez delves in the debate analyzing the Mexican Americansociety and gives an in-depth insight into numerous touchy issuessuch as the historical links of immigration, civil rights andethnicity, and how the immigrants perceive themselves and their rolein the U.S society. As a historian, Gutierrez provides a historicalbackground of the U.S and Mexico border, focusing on the changes thatoccurred over time in the social and political aspects. The importantaspects Gutierrez tries to bring to the limelight is the resourcesand status of America`s racial minorities, theories of minoritygroups in politics, political ideology, and the internal colonialismframework.
DavidG. Gutierrez, a prolific writer, and historian present the thornyissue of immigration in his book Walland Mirrors.The book delves into about one hundred years of the American historywhere it examines how the consistent immigration from Mexicoimmigrants helped in and continued to shape the political, social andcultural setting of the American Southwest. Gutierrez alsohighlights ways of about a century of continuous immigration fromMexico and how this helped in shaping politics based on ethnicityespecially in California and Texas which are two largest BorderStates. Using assorted document collections, government documents,organizational records, and newspapers as well as immigrationstudies, Gutierrez managed not to collect such new information topresent it in a new context. However, drawing on an extensivecollection of primary and secondary sources, Gutierrez focused on thecompound ways that the immigration pattern influenced the MexicanAmericans sense of social and cultural identity and subsequentlyshaping their politics. The book challenges the debate on the U.Simmigration policy arguing that contrary to the alleged alieninvasion, the United States government and regional businessinterests have actively been recruiting Mexicans and other foreignworkers for almost a century. As a result, it been providing a leewayin establishing and perpetuating an influx of immigrants getting intothe U. S. Business interests have always been supportive ofimmigration as it was viewed as a source of additional labor thoughsome organized labor unions saw migrants as threats1.
Atthe same time, Gutierrez gives a new perspective on the debate onassimilation and multiculturalism in the American society. Goingagainst the notion of the melting pot, Gutierrez explains how ethnicMexicans have refused to be assimilated and instead have fought tocreate a cultural space for themselves in the in diverse communitiesin the Southwestern states. This could have been set up by the beliefof Mexicans that California and Southwest rightly belong to themaccording to Zogby poll. Thus the Mexicans have resorted to ethnicpatriotism hence imposing their culture to have influence in theregion2.Theyimmigrants further believe that they do not have to assimilate fullyor relinquish their traditions or customs from their ancestors originjust in order to be an American. This has brought a differencebetween Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants though some scholarshave been treating these two groups as one. Gutierrez, however, setout a study in examining the differences dividing the two groups andthe commonalities that bound them together. Gutierrez acknowledgesMexican Americans who participated in the political organization andhow their endeavors, efforts, and approaches are still significant intoday`s America as most immigrants are familiar with the severestruggle back in their home countries and to that effect they tend tocommit themselves to be hardworking in this country. At the same timethe Mexican immigrants posses strong family values. Gutierrez in hisbook recognize the importance of the political organizations formedas they were prominent in the provision of a voice for the MexicanAmerican community. Gutierrez further states the war involving Mexicoand the U.S in the mid-19th century significantly helped in the inthe shaping of the Mexican-Americans and the immigrant`s relations,and so is the Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848) Treaty which gave a right tocitizenship to the Mexican Americans but no way of practicing thoserights was given out. Therefore, they faced inequity, hostility, andsocio-eco-political oppression which resulted to the Mexicans todevelop a distinctive ethnic character as they felt alienated fromthe rest hence this became a commonality which the author refer it asthe mirror.
Asa result, ethnic division and an ethnic dispute arose which helped indefining the relationship between Mexican-Americans andAnglo-Americans a relationship which in the past had been vague.Also, Mexican immigration significantly increased from 1890 andbeyond which could have been contributed to the formation ofindustries in the Southwest3and it influenced intra-ethnic relations. However, it was until the1920s and 1930s when polarized views on Mexican immigrants emerged.The Mexican Americans divided into two camps, one who sympathizedwith the immigrants and was characterized by working class members,long-term Mexican inhabitants of the U.S and saw the commonalitiesother than the differences. The other group primarily regardedthemselves as Americans and disregarded the influx of immigrants asthey feared they would end up taking up their jobs. However, withthe great depression of 1930 and the events of the 1940s it led to anincrease in immigrants leading to internal strife within the MexicanAmerican communities and Mexican immigrants. World War II and theCold War also affected the Mexican American and Mexican immigrants’ties as it renewed ethnic aggression and increased immigrant influxin the U.S. This resulted in American organization to champion formore stringent immigration rules and the termination of the BraceroProgram4a lucrative program which had saw thousands of Mexico workers workingin contract in the U.S with some seizing the opportunity to becomeundocumented immigrants. This incident however shaped sympatheticattitude towards immigrants and this was exhibited during the massivedeportation named Wetback Operation when some organizations which hadearlier on been against immigrants started talks on immigrant rights.
Wallsand Mirrorsis an incredible work by Gutierrez in which step by step analysis theimmigration history in the 20th century. The book carefully analyzesthe immigrant`s patterns, and the author comes to realize that we arethe authors of our own misfortunes. The U.S politicians as witnessedby President Trump remarks during the campaign period, blaming theundocumented immigrants to be the ones who have created problems suchas high crime rate and drug trafficking Gutierrez terms this as afundamental flaw as we as Americans are the ones to blame ourselves.His citing of protracted cooperation between businesspeople and theU.S government which aided the flow of immigrants workers with thesole purpose of benefitting American businesses and consumers is themistake which needs to be blamed on but not undocumented immigrants.Therefore, Gutierrez calls for Americans to take full responsibilityfor the same and look for appropriate measures in tackling theimmigrant`s issue as measures such as setting immigration laws andborder walls will not solve the menace. Instead Gutierrez in his bookadvocates for the embracing of multiculturalism instead of the U.Sassimilation given the status of the U.S in which we pride ourselvesof promoting equality and tolerance to each other. The fact that forone to find acceptance in the U.S he or she has to assimilate to aparticular Anglo-American culture may be the root cause as describedby Gutierrez on how the immigrants have become troublesome asperceived by some politicians including the President himself. Fromthe historical background given in the book, the U.S has a longhistory of being a multicultural society and thus there is need tonurture this instead of the assimilative policy which threatens someheritage of the immigrants hence resulting to the growth of ethnicityas exhibited by the Mexican immigrants.
Zolberg,Aristide. A Nation by Design: ImmigrationPolicy in the Fashioning of America,Havard University Press, 2006
DukeSelwyn, American Thinker: WhyThey Won`t Assimilate,2007
Steinhauer,John. TheHistory of Mexican Immigration to the U.S in the Early 20th Century,2015
Hines,Sarah. TheBracero Program:1942-1964, 2006
Gutierrez,David. Walls and Mirrors: MexicanAmericans, Mexican Immigrants, and the Politics of Ethnicity,1995
Badkar,Mamta. Business Insider: Thereis the Real Economic Impact of Mexican Immigrants on the U.S,Jul 29, 2012
1Zolberg, Aristide. A Nation by Design: Immigration Policy in the Fashioning of America, Havard University Press, 2006
2Duke Selwyn, American Thinker: Why They Won`t Assimilate, 2007
3Steinhart, John. The History of Mexican Immigration to the U.S in the Early 20th Century, 2015
4Hines, Sarah. The Bracero Program: 1942-1964, 2006