News / USA

US Lawmaker Apologizes for Calling Latinos 'Wetbacks'

U.S. Representative Don Young addresses a Choose Respect rally in front of the Alaska state capitol on March 28, 2013, in Juneau. While drawing criticism for calling Hispanics "wetbacks," he also faces a separate ethics investigation.
U.S. Representative Don Young addresses a Choose Respect rally in front of the Alaska state capitol on March 28, 2013, in Juneau. While drawing criticism for calling Hispanics "wetbacks," he also faces a separate ethics investigation.
A U.S. lawmaker has apologized for using the derogatory term “wetbacks” to describe Latinos, after coming under fire from rights group and his own political party for his choice of words.

Republican Don Young, who represents the far northern U.S. state of Alaska in the House of Representatives, issued a full apology Friday.

"I apologize for the insensitive term I used during an interview in Ketchikan, Alaska,” he said in a statement. “There was no malice in my heart or intent to offend; it was a poor choice of words. That word, and the negative attitudes that come with it, should be left in the 20th century, and I’m sorry that this has shifted our focus away from comprehensive immigration reform."

Young used the word “wetbacks” in an interview with local radio station KRBD.

“My father had a ranch. We used to hire 50 or 60 wetbacks and — to pick tomatoes,” the 79-year-old said, describing his days growing up on a farm in central California. “You know, it takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine.”

The word “wetback” was used years ago to describe Mexicans who illegally entered the United States. It evolved from the practice of crossing the waters of the Rio Grande River, which forms part of the border between the U.S. and Mexico.

Political backlash

Members of Congress are grappling with how to shape new immigration legislation that will affect 11 million undocumented foreigners in the U.S.

Young’s Republican Party, which is aggressively courting Latino votes after flailing in the last election, sharply criticized Young for his comment.

Republican Senator John Coryn of Texas was just one of the politicians who took a stand.

“Migrant workers come to America looking for opportunity and a way to provide a better life for their families,” Cornyn said in a statement. “They do not come to this country to hear ethnic slurs and derogatory language from elected officials. The comments used by Rep. Young do nothing to elevate our party, political discourse or the millions who come here looking for economic opportunity.”

Power of language

Immigration has been a sensitive issue in the U.S. for a long time, and language used in the immigration debates has had long-term effects on social policies, according to a new study published this week in The American Sociological Review.

The study compares the policies and rhetoric used in the U.S. states of Arizona and California during the 1990s and shows that the tone of the debates affected welfare reform battles later.

At the time, policymakers in Arizona and California, home to 40 percent of the Hispanic population, were arguing that providing generous welfare benefits would draw illegal Hispanic immigrants across the border from Mexico.

Hana Brown, the author of the study, says policymakers and anti-immigration activists in Arizona and California successfully restricted the rights of undocumented immigrants, but the language each used had different impacts on welfare.

She says Arizona framed the debate in racial terms, calling undocumented foreigners “Mexicans” and “Latinos,” while California framed it in legal terms, calling non-citizens “illegal immigrants.”

In time, Arizona ended up adopting much stricter welfare policies than California, although they both faced similar immigration challenges.

Looking ahead

Brown says although race has largely been removed from the current immigration debate because of the strength of Latino voters, members of Congress may begin to use more divisive language when it comes to deciding who deserves benefits.

“It’s those linguistic distinctions, those ways of framing the debate, that can continue to have repercussions even after we have passed a comprehensive immigration reform,” she said.

You May Like

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid