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Latino Youths Have Their Say on Arizona and SB1070

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Students should be focused on getting back to school right now, not worrying about whether their parents will be targeted because they look Latino. Policies that target immigrants and their families have left Latino youth feeling anxious and frustrated, yet motivated to defend traditional American values such as fairness, freedom, and respect for diversity.

Today, NCLR released A Wake-Up Call: Latino Youth Speak Out About Arizona SB 1070, the findings from a forum held in July with 150 Latino youth leaders about Arizona's anti-immigrant law, SB 1070, which is under temporary injunction but has been widely criticized by civil rights groups for attempting to legitimize and legalize racial profiling. Young people are our future leaders, workers, and voters. Raising them in an environment where Latinos are vilified and face discrimination is detrimental to our nation.

SB 1070 took effect as of July 29, but a U.S. District Court judge enjoined some of the most controversial elements of the law, including those that would have legitimized racial profiling and preempted federal authority over immigration laws.

The temporary injunction is expected to be reviewed by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on November 2. Despite concerns over the constitutionality and consequences of this law, similar legislation has been floated in 22 other states. NCLR is among leading civil rights, labor, and faith organizations that have organized to boycott Arizona until the law is permanently repealed, overturned by the courts, or superseded by federal comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

NCLR researchers spoke with the Hispanic teenagers--most of whom are college students and second-generation Americans from across the nation--at its youth leadership convening, the Líderes Summit, during the 2010 NCLR Annual Conference in San Antonio in July. Their comments reveal the impact that anti-immigrant rhetoric, policies, and sentiment have on the everyday lives of Latino youth. One participant said that discrimination "is unjust and makes me as a Latino feel like less of a person."

The youth spoke about their worries for family and friends, their alarm over racial profiling and discrimination, and growing concern over the disintegration of equality and respect for diversity. They expressed concern about the current collapse of American values, with one student saying: "It makes people lose hope for justice being served in the U.S.A." They also spoke about their resolve to overcome these challenges by taking action and getting more engaged in their communities.

We will see more and more young Hispanics registering to vote and playing a larger role in determining our country's political landscape. Rather than bashing immigrants and Latinos, politicians should focus on educating this next generation of leaders so they can in turn strengthen our economy and champion cherished American values such as fairness and justice.

Latino youth represent 22% of the U.S. population under the age of 18, and 92% are U.S. citizens. They are a potentially powerful voting bloc. According to Democracia U.S.A.'s analysis of U.S. Census data, 500,000 Hispanics will turn 18--making them eligible to vote-- every year for the next 20 years. It would not be smart for our leaders to continue to ignore injustices against the Hispanic community. Now, more than ever, legislators must turn a deaf ear to the loud, divisive rhetoric of the immigration debate and work to find real solutions. Now, more than ever, Americans must take action and voice their disgust with SB1070. Make a personal pledge to boycott intolerance and send a message that enough is enough.