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Dear Editor:

In your Editor's Comments of Januiary 30, 2002, you wrote, "Congress may well resort to treating the issues (sic. On immigration) in its traditional manner of lots of talk and little action". It may be that Congress is all talk and no action on the immigration solution but it does appear that Democrats in Congress are becoming aware of the importance that the Hispanic American vote will have in the upcoming elections. (See Daschle, Gephardt Lend Ear to Hispanic Caucus as reported under Immigration in the Press.) The Hispanic American vote may well help decide who will be in the next Congress, and the candidates' commitments on the immigration problem may help determine who will get these votes.

In the 1990 census, Hispanic Americans, i.e. citizens of the United States who trace their ancestry to countries in the western hemisphere where the Spanish language is spoken, number over 22.3 million and it is predicted they will number more than 50 million by the year 2025. The largest sub-group is the Mexican American, 17 million. Next are the Puerto Rican voters in this country, 2.7 million (Puerto Rico's 3.2 million island residents are American citizens, too, but non-voting). The third sub-group of Hispanic American citizens is the Cuban, numbering over 1 million; and there are some 2 million other Hispanic American voters from different Central and South American countries. Together they constitute the largest ethnic voting minority in this country. They are the Hispanic Americans and they are increasingly becoming more unified in their Hispanic identity. Like some sleeping giant they may be just awaking to an awareness of their political power if they vote and vote together. (Note: The U.S. 2000 census quotes much higher numbers than the above.)

The first Mexican Americans were Mexican citizens who lived in the northern territories of their country. They were granted American citizenship when this country annexed one third of Mexico after the Mexican war. Most contemporary Mexican Americans, however, trace their roots to the poor, uneducated "Campesinos" from rural Mexico who came to the United States during the 20th century. (The undocumented Mexican workers now in this country are a continuation of this immigration. They are the "compadres" of our Mexican American citizens.) The Puerto Ricans were granted citizenship after the Spanish-American war. Most of those who migrated to this country cameduring the 1960s. The Cubans came as refugees after the Cuban revolution in 1959.

The undocumented Mexican immigrants in this country at first settled in the southwestern states but have been moving in increasing numbers to all parts of the country. Here in the city of Columbus, OH, it is estimated there are over 64,000 of these workers and their numbers are growing rapidly. The Hispanic Americans appear to be destined to become the ethnic majority group in this country and some day a native-born son or daughter of today's undocumented immigrants may become president of the United States.

(References: Statistics and other information are from the article Hispanic Americans, I to VII, contributed by Ilan Stavans, and found in Microsoft ENCARTA Encyclopedia 2000, History, North America, Hispanic Americans.)

Richard E. Baer, D.V.M.

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