VIDEO: ABC News Exposes Anti-Immigrant Sentiment

For many Americans, the rising anti-immigrant sentiment frustrates their ability to perform everyday tasks, like enjoying an outing to a local diner. When ABC News decided to test how the immigration controversy has escalated into outright xenophobia for Latino day laborers on a simple mission to order a cup of coffee in a New Jersey deli, the result was astonishing. Rather than getting served, the pair of Latino day laborers received a flurry of racial insults at them from the clerk behind the counter.

Fortunately, the scene wasn't real. It was all part of ABC’s "What Would You Do?" experiment designed to find out what action, if any, bystanders would take after watching the men's exchange with the clerk. The picture provided a glimpse into the challenges racism provokes, but also highlighted that for many Americans, the current anti-immigrant sentiment and xenophobia directed at Latinos is simply unacceptable. We applaud ABC News for documenting these acts of anti-immigrant xenophobia and inaction.

Two Latino men acted as day laborers seeking coffee at a local deli in Linden, New Jersey. Dressed in jeans and speaking in Spanish, one day laborer asked for a cup of coffee. The acting cashier, an Anglo man quick to spit out xenophobic remarks, refused to serve them. Instead, he demanded that the men learn English and made declarations such as “We don’t serve your kind,” and “Get back in your pickup truck with the rest of your family.”

Some bystanders lavished in the exchange fraught with anti-immigrant sentiment and outright xenophobia. One bystander asked if “they looked legal,” while another woman shouted out, “speak English.”

However, for many Americans, the rising anti-immigrant sentiment and xenophobia directed against Latinos is unacceptable. One bystander at the coffee shop challenged the xenophobic cashier, declaring that we are a nation of immigrants and the day laborer is just as poised to order a cup of coffee, as our forefathers who came before us were.

Other bystanders moved aside and ignored the commentary. Perhaps they were equally disturbed about the cashier’s xenophobic treatment towards the Latino workers, but any power they may have exuded by speaking out against the cashier was quelled by their silence and inaction. As Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel once stated, "We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormenter, never the tormented."

For more information on the ABC series "What Would You Do?", click here.

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund