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University Lectures | NPR journalist speaks about Latino rights

Andrew Feldman
The Daily Orange
Sep 28, 2011

Renowned in the field of journalism for various projects involving female and Latino rights, NPR journalist Maria Hinojosa spoke Tuesday night on the lack of rights given to Latino immigrants.

"How do you complain if — for all intents and purposes — you are invisible?" Hinojosa said.

Hinojosa spoke on the discrimination and loss of rights experienced by the Latino community in the United States. She gave the first of this year's University Lectures in Hendricks Chapel. The lecture, "Making the Invisible Visible," was presented in conjunction with the Wednesday opening of the La Casita Cultural Center, an art exhibition featuring the work of six Latin American artists.

Hinojosa was the first Latina journalist for NPR. She has also worked for CNN and as a senior correspondent for PBS. Much of her discussion was focused on her upcoming HBO documentary, "The Latino List," which profiles various Latinos across the country and the effects they have had on their community.

"For every three steps forward, we take two steps back," Hinojosa said.

Throughout her lecture, Hinojosa discussed the mistreatment Hispanic immigrants face across the United States; a mistreatment that often makes Latinos seem invisible. While this problem directly involves immigrants, Hinojosa discussed the need for every American to stand up for immigrant rights.

"There are two sets of laws in our country, one that applies to you if you are a citizen, and one if you are an immigrant," Hinojosa said.

She told several anecdotes that epitomized her experience with the lack of rights given to Hispanic immigrants. Hinojosa introduced the lecture with the story of her mother having to argue with an airport immigration officer to bring a young Hinojosa into the country.

Hinojosa also spoke of her visit to Arizona last year, soon after the state's immigration laws were passed. She talked of the broad concern felt by many longtime Arizona residents, who could be asked to provide identification of their citizenship whenever they left their homes.

Immigrants who cannot present valid paperwork are arrested and sent to detainment centers. Hinojosa described these centers as having extremely poor conditions. She also described situations in which people lose their rights, both of which she contributed to their loss of voice and visibility.

"They are housed in the equivalent of prisons, with prison uniforms, but with none of the same rights," she said.

Hinojosa said these were major concerns of immigrants. She also argued that they are the concerns of the entire country.

"To understand true diversity and multiculturalism means to see yourself in the person most unlike you," Hinojosa said.

Hinojosa ended her lecture talking about the effect the Latino invisibility would have on the future generation.

"The little boy who once dreamed of becoming a police officer now looks at police officers with hate and distrust," she said.

The crowded chapel seemed to agree with her opinion, oftentimes breaking out into applause.

Senior public relations major Brittnee Anderson said, "She had some valid points, she really opened my eyes to a lot of new things. The United States violates so many human rights ... We don't practice what we preach."

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