“If you kick every Latino out of this country, then who is going to be cleaning your toilet, Donald Trump?” Kelly Osbourne made this comment in 2015 on The View regarding a new immigration policy that would limit immigration from South America. Despite the initial backlash, this comment showcased a common perspective in many Americans. I decided to write this article following one of the harshest anti-immigration laws that went into effect in Florida on July 1, 2023. This law prevented many undocumented immigrants from returning to work, which quickly put a strain on many industries, one of the most notable being construction. For weeks following this law, I saw several TikToks comparing how quickly construction jobs were finished with Mexican crews compared to shoddy workmanship completed by crews of Floridians.
To be clear, I understand that this law and all other laws restricting immigration affects every immigrant, regardless of race or nationality. However, this article focuses on the stereotypes that specifically fall onto Mexican immigrants because I cannot speak to stereotypes of other races and nationalities from a personal perspective like I can with Mexican stereotypes.
The stereotype of the hardworking Mexican laborer has been a part of the national consciousness for decades. In popular media, Mexican people are often portrayed as landscapers, construction workers and maids. Many Mexican immigrants, especially older generations, work in laborious jobs like these because it doesn’t require a degree, and they can be paid under the table. The stereotype that Mexican people are hard workers stems from the fact that they work demanding jobs that most US citizens don’t want. It is also due in large part to the Mexican identity being family-oriented. A big point of pride for a lot of Mexican people is to be able to provide for their families, meaning that they will withstand backbreaking labor at lower wages as a means to provide. The reason many undocumented Mexican immigrants stay in low-paying jobs where they overwork is due to pride and fear that they won’t be able to find other jobs with an undocumented status.
Reading this, you may ask yourself why this is such a big deal, considering that the stereotype isn’t a negative one. Stereotypes, harmful or not, still place blanket expectations on an entire group of people. The reason the stereotype of hard-working Mexican people is an issue is because we should not be fighting for immigration reform as a means for a reliable labor force. Why do we value Mexican people only for their labor? Why are we comfortable knowing they are underpaid, seeing how hard they work?
Another issue that emerges from this stereotype is a type of model minority myth. The term “model minority” refers to a minority group who is perceived to outperform other minorities. We often find this term in relation to Asian-Americans who are perceived to be smarter and better educated than other minorities. In this instance, Mexican people are being perceived as more dedicated than other minorities. This is detrimental to other racial minority groups because it creates a need to compare. Are Mexican people hard working? Yes, but so are people who are a part of any race. We shouldn’t be placing any groups on a pedestal to compare others to. The narrative should not be that because Mexican people are hardworking, other minorities are not. This stereotype is a big part of this line of thinking.
People, immigrants or not, laborers or not, Mexican or not, have inherent value as a person. This is not dependent on how much they can benefit others.
I agree that Mexican people work hard; I’ve witnessed first hand how willing my family is to work and support themselves for the sake of our family. However, Mexican people should not have to work hard to be valued.
By: Liese Devine, Features Editor