As our nation’s presidential candidates campaign for the election in November, immigration reform, especially regarding Hispanics, is a topic that comes up frequently in presidential debates.
In light of the recent immigration debates that have surfaced in the past couple of years, Stephen Balkaran, a lecturer of political science at Fairfield, released his third book in January, titled “Before We Were Called Hispanics.” Balkaran’s book analyzes the issue of Hispanic immigration today, and argues that as a nation, we need to be careful about stereotyping Hispanics and recognize their contributions to the country.
In writing this book, Balkaran said he hoped to “address some of the issues I believe that are very important in our political process right now.”
“In 2016, Hispanic immigration is a big issue,” continued Balkaran, adding that strong feelings Americans have against Hispanics stem from stereotypes that we associate with Hispanics.
According to Balkaran, “We keep saying we’re a nation of immigrants, and rightly so, but for whatever reason, we have this concept of bashing immigrants and putting the blame on immigrants if something goes wrong.”
“We did it to the Jews, we did it to the Italians, the Irish — it’s a historical concept. I think we should learn from our mistakes,” Balkaran added.
Balkaran went on to explain how politicians treatment toward Hispanics based on these stereotypes may have a negative impact for the politician in the long run. According to Balkaran, many of those who are voting are Hispanics. Thus, Balkaran warned that “we have to be very careful about how we speak of them, [we have to speak] in a very sensitive manner.”
“If the Democratic Party helps them, they will vote democrat,” Balkaran said, referencing the way that Donald Trump and other Republican candidates have spoken of Hispanics.
In reference to arguments against Hispanic immigrants that claim Hispanics are taking jobs away from other Americans, Balkaran said, “We have this conceived idea that they’re taking our jobs away, that they’re a drain to the economy, but they’re more beneficial to America than what the media points out.”
One of Balkaran’s hopes in writing this book is that it will inform students of “Hispanic experience in the United States. That’ll make them more well-rounded students,” something that he says Fairfield is all about.
In addition, Balkaran anticipates that his new book will be “a stepping stone for us to have a conversation about race and politics and how we move forward. This is what our university is about.”
Balkaran gained inspiration for writing “Before We Were Called Hispanics” from his area of study, which is civil rights. “I’m passionate about human rights, I’m passionate about civil rights, and I saw this as an opportunity that had to be addressed,” Balkaran said.
Students can purchase a copy of “Before We Were Called Hispanics” this month at the Fairfield University Downtown Bookstore.