Will Latin American migrants bring with them the tradition of the “mordida,” the lack of involvement in public affairs, etc.? … ‘Gobernar es poblar’ … Can ‘homo contraceptivus’ compete with ‘homo progenetiva’ if borders aren't controlled?.…perhaps this is the first instance in which those with their pants up are going to get caught by those with their pants down!…
(John Tanton, founder of the interest groups FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform), U.S. English, and ZPG (Zero Population Growth), 1988)
Clearly, Latino population growth has made its presence known among those who concern themselves with U.S. political culture. With half of the Latino population boom attributable to international migration, the Latino foreign-born have come under particular fire. John Tanton, a Michigan opthamologist and outspoken policy activist, served as the 1980s prelude to equally-heated debates throughout the 1990s—debates that engaged far more formidable political and policy figures, from the immigration restrictionism of California governor Pete Wilson and economist George Borjas to the immigration advocacy of National Council of La Raza director Raul Yzaguirre and economist Julian Simon.
At the core of Tanton's “warnings” in the 1980s are a provocative mix of half-truths. It is a fact that Latino population growth has outstripped that of non-Hispanic whites since 1980—by a factor of nine, to be precise. By the turn of the 21st century, one in ten U.S. residents will be Latino-origin (Baker 1996). It is a fallacy, however, that this burgeoning population growth presages a new millenium in which “lack of involvement in public affairs” will characterize the Latino contribution to politics in America. That fallacy is revealed most succinctly in the slogan of the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project, launched in 1974 in San Antonio, Texas: “Su voto es su voz” (Your vote is your voice). The operational result of that principle, backed up by decades of diligent voter registration training in towns and cities across the United States, has been the registration of over 2 million Latino voters and consistent increases in both registration and turnout over time, relative to African-American and non-Hispanic white voting patterns (Southwest Voter Research Institute 1996).