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.
TEXT SIZE - +
— 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

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid