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Congressman Says He’s Sorry for Calling Latinos “Wetbacks” After All
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According to ThinkProgress.org, Congressman Don Young of Alaska did not apologize for calling Latinos “Wetbacks” as of Thursday, but he ended up making a full apology on Friday.

The Republican Young this past Thursday evening stood by his use of a derogatory term to describe Latinos. “Wetback” is a racial slur. It usually applies to a Mexican citizen or non-American foreigner, especially someone who is not a legal immigrant.

  
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The term “wetback” was originally created to designate Mexicans who entered Texas by crossing the Rio Grande, a river located at the Mexican border. Supposedly, the individuals would swim across to the United States illegally, and got wet in the process.

“Wetback” was used by John Steinbeck in Sweet Thursday to describe the activities of illegal immigrants:  “How did he get in the wet-back business?” In 1978, Thomas Sanchez’s Hollywoodland, used the term as a verb:  “to gain illegal entry into the United States by swimming the Rio Grande”.

The Congressman said he “meant no disrespect,” according to ThinkProgress.org. He used the term when he told an Alaska radio interviewer: “We used to hire 50 to 60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes.”

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As of Thursday, Congressman Young did not apologize for use of the word:  “During a sit down interview with Ketchikan Public Radio this week, I used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in Central California,” according to ThinkProgress.org.

Alaska Daily News also noted the Republican did not say he was sorry on Thursday: “I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect.”



The president of the Hispanic Affairs Council of Alaska said she feels the Congressman’s use of the term was a problem:  “He didn’t even pause. It’s like that’s just what he calls migrant farm workers,” according to ThinkProgress.org.

On immigration concerns, Congressman Young concentrates on preventing illegal border crossings. He has opposed birthright citizenship.

The Congressman’s use of the derogatory term follows a Republican National Committee announcement to work hard to favor diversity. The first mention of “wetback” was in The New York Times on June 20, 1920. In 1954, there was a project, Operation Wetback, involving mass deportation of illegal Mexican immigrants.

On March 29, 2013, the Congressman made a press release the following statement regarding an interview on Ketchikan radio earlier this week:

“I apologize for the insensitive term I used during an interview in Ketchikan, Alaska.  There was no malice in my heart or intent to offend; it was a poor choice of words. That word, and the negative attitudes that come with it, should be left in the 20th century, and I’m sorry that this has shifted our focus away from comprehensive immigration reform.”



 

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