Go Back to Mexico’

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A group of Tea Party activists in Washington D.C. recently told two Hispanic Texas border congressmen to “Go back to Mexico”  as they were on their way to vote on the House floor. Apparently, even elected officials should be carrying their documents these days. Even when they’re on their way to vote in the U.S. Congress.

Congressman Ruben Hinojosa talked about the incident during a recent Q&A session at the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg, according to the Rio Grande Guardian:

Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, said he and Congressman Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso, were confronted by five Tea Party supporters. “There were five men, all white,” Hinojosa said.

“They first asked Silvestre Reyes, ‘Are you a congressman?’ ‘Yes, I’m from Texas,’ he answered. ‘Are you both congressmen?’ ‘Yes, I am a congressman too,’ Hinojosa replied. ‘Why don’t you go back to Mexico?,’” they said.

The prevailing attitude isn’t much better on the House floor. Like much of America, Congress is also becoming increasingly divisive and reactionary about Latino issues including immigration. Hinojosa told the audience in Edinburg about this exchange with the Tea Partiers after people asked in the audience why the DREAM Act, which would have provided a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrant students, was killed in Congress.

“I am telling you, things are not anywhere near the mindset you think they are in Congress,” Hinojosa said. “Some of them want to kill the Department of Education. You think they would be sensitive to our needs? Absolutely not.”

Hinojosa said the Republicans killed the DREAM Act amendment. “They want to undo our legislation. They debate on the floor; that this is America, English is the official language, so let them (Hispanics) learn how to speak English if they want to live in the United States. Those are common words up there,” Hinojosa said.

Common words in Congress, and common words in America these days.

I remember back in April when Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva had to close his congressional offices in Arizona, because an angry caller threatened to “blow their heads off then go to the border and start shooting Mexicans.” This was because Grijalva had come out strongly against Arizona’s “papers please” law.

I put the blame at the feet of Republican conservatives and some Tea Party candidates like Sharron Angle who are throwing fuel on the fire this mid-term election. They don’t give a damn if they spur racial hatred, just as long as they win their elections. Take Angle for instance. She’s running her poisonous campaign ads that portray Latinos as a terrorist horde slinking along the border fence. Even worse is Georgia Republican state Rep. John Yates who advocates for killing people on sight if they cross the border illegally. Yates, who has served decades in Congress, said during a recent campaign forum that the U.S. government should drop flyers over northern Mexico warning they are going to “shoot to kill,” if anyone crosses the border illegally. Yates thinks killing women and children is a perfectly logical public policy proposal. It’s scary stuff, folks.

The only thing this type of campaign vitriol does is empower ignorant people to say ignorant things. Unfortunately, they’re becoming more empowered every day.

Melissa del Bosque joined The Texas Observer staff in 2008. She specializes in reporting on immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border. Her work has been published in national and international publications including TIME magazine and the Mexico City-based Nexos magazine. She has a master’s in public health from Texas A&M University and a master’s in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin.