Meanwhile, civil wars in Central America in the 1980s and 1990s, and subsequent neoliberal reforms and violence, as well as the impact similar neoliberal reforms and the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, had on Mexico's economy in those same decades led to significant increases in authorized and unauthorized immigration. As a result, there was a significant increase in the U.S. Latino population -- as citizens, legal permanent residents, temporary legal residents, and unauthorized residents. But the longstanding national sentiment that Donald Trump is now mobilizing, the belief that somehow Mexicans are alien to the nature of the United States, continues, as does a sub rosa desire for a whiter America.
Something else of interest happened to Mexican and Central American migration during these years. As in the United States, indigenous people in these countries have tended to be the poorest, most marginalized, most exploited sectors of the population. As a result, the violence and the socio-economic changes of the 1980s and 1990s disproportionately afflicted them, which meant ever more indigenous people from those countries entering the migrant stream.
By 2010, 174,494 people chose "Mexican American Indian" as their tribal affiliation on the U.S. census, making them the fourth largest group of Native Americans, after the Navajo, the Cherokee, and the Choctaw. It's not clear from the census data how many of these were recent immigrants rather than long-term residents, and how many were undocumented. But as the website ThinkMexican commented, "It directly challenges Manifest Destiny, the white supremacist narrative used to justify Western expansion, and the genocide of Native Peoples. The message is clear: This land is still Native." And another message is clear too: the United States is still deporting native people.
Aviva Chomsky is professor of history and coordinator of Latin American studies at Salem State University in Massachusetts and a TomDispatch regular. Her most recent book is Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal.
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Copyright 2016 Aviva Chomsky
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