Let’s make one thing clear: Sebastien de la Cruz is an American. He was born in San Antonio, Texas. He is the son of Juan, a Navy veteran, and Stacy, a PE teacher. Sebastien has an amazing singing voice, one that’s landed him on America’s Got Talent and allowed him to share the stage with the San Antonio Symphony. To his fans and supporters, he is known as “El Charro De Oro” (the golden mariachi).
The Spurs, currently battling the Miami Heat for the 2013 NBA title, needed a singer for last Tuesday’s game in San Antonio. When the original singer — former Hootie & the Blowfish frontman Darius Rucker — couldn’t make it, the Spurs turned to a native son.
Wearing his trademark mariachi suit, the Mexican-American Sebastien belted out the National Anthem. Not long after, however, online trolls took to social media. “This kid is Mexican why is he singing the national anthem #yournotamerican #gohome,” was how one Twitter poster phrased it. Many others followed suit in a shameful display of ignorance and intolerance.
To their credit, the Spurs invited de la Cruz back for the following game’s National Anthem, and this time he was accompanied by San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who, like de la Cruz, is part of the 63 percent of the city’s population that is Hispanic.
Which brings us to Census Bureau data released last week. The report found a slight decline in the U.S. non-Hispanic white population and an increase in births to mothers who are Hispanic, Asian or black. Demographers predict these trends will only expand over the course of the 21st century.
The face of America is changing, just as it has over the past 250 years as waves of immigrants have made their home here. In other words, a little boy dressed in a mariachi suit is as American as a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Boston.
However, an acknowledgement of our immigrant history as well as the nation’s changing demographics is what’s missing from the rhetoric of immigration reform’s foes.
Reform’s most vocal opponents seek to characterize the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants as freeloaders, as an undeserving rabble looking for a handout. They are a menacing “other,” seeking to overrun the nation.
Reform’s proponents, Republicans and Democrats alike, are imperfectly yet steadily trying to find a solution to a problem that won’t and can’t be solved through cruelty. To say some Republicans see this as a way to save their political skins in a changing climate is accurate. To say Democrats see it as a way of winning the favor of future Hispanic voters is also accurate.
Yet, there’s more here than politics. There’s a great country and a great people who have never been afraid to tackle big challenges.