Immigrant Song

On June 3, Chicano rock band Los Lobos announced that they would join the list of businesses boycotting Arizona in protest of the new immigration law there by canceling their June 10 concert in Scottsdale. The San Diego City Council and the San Diego Unified School District joined the growing list of municipalities protesting what has been called the strictest anti-illegal immigration measure in decades. In June, Chula Vista’s city council passed a resolution in opposition of the law, SB 1070.

Chicano representatives from local bands the Velvetones, the Shelltown Horns, and Los Alacranes met at the Barrio Station neighborhood center near Chicano Park to sound off on the Los Lobos boycott and to air out their own views on the Arizona situation.

Lambchops plays trumpet in the Shelltown Horns. He says that a boycott, especially by a band like Los Lobos, hurts everybody. Immigration crackdown or not, he says, the boycott has a dark side. “The bottom line is it’s the little people, the ones that come to see us, that are suffering.”

Chunky Sanchez is one of the founding members of Balboa Park’s Centro Cultural de la Raza. “We’ve always relied on the Mexican people,” he says, “the Chicano people.” Sanchez thinks that fear of undue attention from la migra will keep them out of Arizona nightclubs. “We may check IDs at the door,” he says, “but we don’t check green cards. The only thing green we care about is money.”

A second-generation Texan and a Korean War vet, Sonny Matta says he would be offended if asked to show proof of citizenship. “If they stop me and ask for my credentials,” he says, “that’s stereotyping.”

Rachel Ortiz agrees. She says the new law will have no impact on Caucasian immigrants. “This is in no way gonna affect their lives because they’re not people of color. Look at me.” She points out her Hispanic features. “I could be stopped. As a performer, I would not go [to Arizona] to sing for anybody. I don’t care. I would not set foot into Arizona.” She invokes the Ku Klux Klan. “This is social lynching. The same hatred is coming out of the woodwork.”

“It seems that has never really changed,” says Rene Redondo. He recalls childhood stories of relatives crossing over from Mexico to visit family in the States and being pulled over.

Sleepy Flores thinks that there is more to the Los Lobos boycott than meets the eye. He suspects that it may be management-driven. Protest, or gig in Arizona? “Speaking for myself, I’d rather play.”

Later, Flores will say that he thinks Latino people are generally frightened. “They’re scared of what’s going to happen. And the politicians, you know, do they really care? I can’t even recognize this country anymore. We’re changing. I’m an American citizen,” he says, “but I don’t even recognize my own country.”

Barring federal intervention, SB 1070 is expected to go into effect July 29.

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