Raise the Torch: The RBB Study of Undocumented Immigrants

Click to download full report.

Click to download full report.


America is a nation of immigrants. We’ve heard that refrain time and again since our childhood. As a country we take pride in our history of welcoming newcomers from around the world, and putting them to work in building our great nation. Nothing can be more emblematic of this aspect of American culture than the Statue of Liberty, its torch held high to welcome immigrants onto our shores while also lighting the way to freedom and opportunity.

So what happened to that promise and ideal? Today, massive workplace raids root out undocumented immigrants. Technological advancements tighten the noose around them and the businesses that depend on their labor to survive and grow. Detained immigrants waste away in tent cities. Thousands of families are torn apart, American children kept from their undocumented immigrant parents. Border fences rise and the Border Patrol balloons as human beings seeking a better life die in deserts striving to elude them. And despite promises from politicians on both sides of the aisle, immigration reform remains a distant hope typically dangled before Latino voters only as elections near. How did we get to this point of policy failure and political intransigence so severe that it calls our own humanity and conscience as a nation into question? And how can we break the gridlock and forge a viable solution that upholds our ideals as a nation?

As Red Brown and Blue (RBB) pondered the problem and sought to contribute to that solution, we arrived at this hypothesis:

• Immigrants have always been – and continue to be – beneficial to America’s vitality and growth, but our immigration laws are outdated and must be reformed to legitimize the millions living here and contributing from the shadows. However, unfounded fears, misperceptions, and myths dominate public perception of undocumented immigrants and their impact on the American economy, culture, and society, forming daunting obstacles to immigration reform.

With this in mind, we devised Raise the Torch: the RBB Study of Undocumented Latino Immigrants. Our vision was to help light the way towards progress based on truths and facts, to inject new and accurate information into a dim and stagnant debate with the hope of:

• Helping to break the gridlock by illuminating new areas of shared understanding and potential consensus with regards to the intentions, attitudes, socioeconomic contributions, cultural characteristics, and longterm outlook of undocumented Latino immigrants

• Informing public policy with data-driven insights that might help policymakers craft legislative proposals which are not only palatable politically but are also highly feasible in implementation and compliance

• Empowering Americans to base their perceptions and opinions of undocumented immigrants, and their corresponding positions on immigration reform, on facts and improved understanding of this group, rather than on unfounded fears, myths, and misperceptions

The study illuminates a fascinating portrait of undocumented Latino immigrants in America. It captures the motivations, resilience, and hopes of a community in search of opportunity. The study depicts a population primed to blossom into patriotic and productive citizens if afforded the opportunity to contribute legitimately to our society and economy. At the same time, the findings cast a stark light on the harsh realities of immigrant life as well as the threats and challenges faced by this largely disenfranchised population vulnerable to discrimination, abuse, and hate crimes.

Opening our minds and evolving our positions in the face of new information is essential to our learning and growth both as human beings and as American citizens. A willingness to reevaluate complex issues based on a richer perspective is vital to constructive civil discourse. It is my belief that the information within this study can help voters, influencers, and policymakers more accurately understand undocumented Latino immigrants in order to craft well-informed, humane, just, and feasible bipartisan decisions on immigration reform.

In the end, should we not know a person or a group before we pass judgment upon them and determine their fate? At the very least, this study can help serve that purpose. And at its best, it might not only inform – but also inspire – Americans to prove that we can still raise the torch.

The opinions expressed in this post and throughout RedBrownandBlue.com are intended to encourage civil discussion and invite well-reasoned alternatives. You can participate in the conversation by finding us on Facebook or Twitter.

Rudy Ruiz has been hailed as a cultural visionary. A published author and multicultural advocate, Ruiz is an acclaimed multicultural communications entrepreneur. He founded Red Brown and Blue as well as Interlex, one of the nation’s leading advocacy marketing agencies ranked by Ad Age as one of the Top US Agencies across all disciplines. Prior to that, Ruiz earned his BA in Government at Harvard College and his Masters in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Comes the Mcssiah?

If we keep sacrificing our health and our values for fleeting moments of vacuous satisfaction, there will be no saving us.

People – and many organizations that advocate for them – have been entranced by the calculated contrivances of Fast Food and Big Soda. Sugarcoated, overly cosmeticized, pristinely lit, and airbrushed to romanticized perfection, the products hawked by these prophets of perdition are all style and no substance, poison pills of accessible pleasure at the root of America’s obesity epidemic. (more…)

Why Can’t We All Get Along?

Rudy RuizNo, this is not a piece about Rodney King, the person I’m paraphrasing. But sadly, it is about someone who’s taking a beating and is in dire need of a more constructive approach: our nation.

Why is it that time and again over the past couple of years, the inability of elected leaders in Washington to work together to forge sensible compromises, real solutions, and major changes has pushed the country closer and closer towards paralysis and decline?

If you’re interested in politics you likely watch and read the news. And as you witness the spokespeople of the two parties, including the President and the Speaker of the House, relentlessly argue over every major issue – from healthcare reform to the debt ceiling crisis – it appears that they are not really dialoguing or conversing but rather engaging in obstinate and ineffective intersecting monologues.

Have you ever been in one of those crowded rooms with your family over a tension-filled holiday where everybody is talking but no one is communicating? Everyone has his or her own story to tell and nobody is listening? I have found myself in those interesting and often amusing situations. And in those moments, I’ve smiled and remarked, “This isn’t a conversation; it’s a set of intersecting monologues.” Ironically, nobody has ever really picked up on my comment so I just add to the cognitive dissonance.

Well, maybe it’s manageable to survive such a communication conundrum for a long weekend stuffed with turkey and apple pie or a monotonous yearend week disrupted only by furtive escapes to linger beneath the mistletoe. But in the world of American politics and the economy, it seems that remaining in such a discombobulated state for perpetuity is unsustainable. If we continue along this path of polarized intransigence, our nation’s persistent decline as a global leader in economic might and social right will be as certain as the inevitable indigestion and headache following that dysfunctional holiday feast.

As our leaders engage on these difficult and complex issues that face our nation – from the massive debt to how to care for our aging and increasingly sick population, from our lack of competitiveness in manufacturing products for exportation and the failure of our educational system to compensate by churning out more highly skilled generations of thinkers and workers to drive our new economy – they must commit to practicing a more honest and earnest brand of civil discourse in order to arrive at actionable and impactful solutions palatable to a majority of our overall population, not to a majority of each representative’s own narrow base of constituents.

What is civil discourse, some might ask given it’s marked absence from our world today? Well, it’s basically talking and listening to each other in a civilized manner with the shared goal of achieving a better understanding of each other’s views and, perhaps in the best of all worlds, come to an agreement or compromise that allows us to move forward together.

That’s not the Webster’s definition; I’m sure you can look that up too. That’s just how I see it.

All it takes is three things: listening with an open mind, speaking up respectfully of the opposing perspective and its conveyor, and being willing to change one’s mind in light of new information.

Blogger Rob Mars offered up Seven Rules for Civil Discourse at OpenSalon.com that seem right on the money. I’ve abridged them here:

Rule 1: Shun name-calling and personal attacks.

Rule 2: Avoid ad hominem arguments, instead focus on evidence and fact.

Rule 3: Listen. By which is not meant simply giving “ear time” to the other person, but paying enough attention that you actually understand his or her point.

Rule 4: Avoid common fallacies. We’ve talked about ad hominem already. Some other common fallacies: begging the question, appeal to emotion, false dilemma, and argument by authority; but there are more.

Rule 5: Appreciate nuance.

Rule 6: Use reason but shun scientism and hyper-rationality.

Rule 7: Respect. The other person is just that, a person. He or she is your brother or sister, no matter how much you may differ in your views.

The rules seem simple and straightforward enough, elementary even. But perhaps if more people used them our society would benefit from fewer intersecting monologues and more constructive conversations.

It’s hard to live, think, write, and comment in a world where you sometimes feel all too lonely in striving to elevate that conversation. Or, if not alone, at least greatly outnumbered and underappreciated. In fact, I stopped writing over a year ago because I felt I was engaged in one of those intersecting monologues, one of those where there’s no one sitting at the other end of the line. So all this time, instead of yelling at the talking heads on TV and writing out loud via machine gun-fire computer keyboard abuse, I’ve been quietly listening. And I’m committed to continue listening.

But now, it’s also time to speak up again. Please join me. But this time, let’s connect. If more and more people start doing that, then little by little we all might just learn how to get along.

The opinions expressed in this post and throughout RedBrownandBlue.com are intended to encourage civil discussion and invite well-reasoned alternatives. To join in, please visit our Contact Us page and drop us a line. Your contribution may be highlighted as a selected response and posted to the site at a later date.

Rudy Ruiz has been hailed as a cultural visionary. A published author and multicultural advocate, Ruiz is an acclaimed multicultural communications entrepreneur. He founded Red Brown and Blue as well as Interlex, one of the nation’s leading advocacy marketing agencies ranked by Ad Age as one of the Top US Agencies across all disciplines. Prior to that, Ruiz earned his BA in Government at Harvard College and his Masters in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Manhattan Mosque A Matter of Principle

Does it seem insensitive for a mosque to be built near Ground Zero? Sure it does. I imagine for those who lost loved ones that September 11th, it must certainly seem callous, and defiant in the face of the resulting outcry. On the other hand, should we respect the right of a New York Muslim congregation to build a place of worship in Lower Manhattan? Of course, we should. This is America. And the principle of religious freedom and tolerance is at the core of our founding vision.

So why the big hoopla?


Arizona Reminiscent of Palmetto

As a kid growing up on the US-Mexico border in Brownsville, Texas, I was fascinated by a piece of local history about the Battle of Palmetto Hill. Considered the last battle of the Civil War, it actually took place after the War had officially ended because news of surrender had not yet reached the hinterlands. Ironically, even though the Civil War ended 145 years ago, the news has apparently still not reached all remote areas of our nation, like Arizona.

In that state, whose population is 30% Latino, the government seeks to broaden police powers to identify and apprehend undocumented immigrants, in effect legalizing racial profiling of Latinos, trampling on federal jurisdiction over immigration policy and enforcement, and undermining the ongoing efforts of the US Census to accurately count undocumented immigrants.

Just as the Civil War was largely about race and the balance of power between states and the federal government, Arizona’s bold – and reckless – move echoes an inglorious chapter from our nation’s past.


A Step Backwards in Time

When I was an undergraduate at Harvard, I heard horror stories at the dinner table from a number of my African American friends and classmates, particularly males, about negative and completely unwarranted experiences with police officers. Of course, Latinos weren’t completely immune to that type of discrimination either, but our situation did not seem nearly as difficult and pervasive. Now all of that may be changing. Just as we take one step forward, we may be taking two steps back. Not long after our first African American president hosted the legendary beer summit to assuage the ruffled feathers over the race-driven flap between a Cambridge police officer and Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Arizona legislature is de facto legalizing racial profiling of Latinos as it broadens the powers of police to identify and apprehend undocumented immigrants.

According to the New York Times, “Passage of the law, which would, among other things, allow the authorities to demand proof of legal entry into the United States from anyone suspected of being in the country illegally, testified to the relative lack of political power of Arizona Latinos, and to the hardened views toward illegal immigration among Republican politicians both here and nationally.”