Tag Archives: Immigrants

Open Letter to the Immigrant Rights Movement: Our Families Can’t Wait

 

Immigration Reform Leaders Arrested 1

Immigration Reform Leaders Arrested 1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am cross-posting this letter, which was initiated by DRM Action Coalition, and signed by over 80 immigrant youth leaders. You can probably still sign on here in solidarity.

Buzzfeed has the story. I disagree with the false binary setup in the Buzzfeed headline, but the letter is worth a read.

Open Letter to the Immigrant Rights Movement: Our Families Can’t Wait

Dear Friends and Allies in the Immigrant Rights Movement,

We are writing this letter to open a dialogue about the direction and strategy of the immigration reform campaign in the New Year. For us, this is not a question of ideology, but our own and our families’ lives. We hope that this letter will agitate your thinking and that we can move together in a new direction in 2014.

First, we want to recognize the collective work of our movement last year. From lobbying members of Congress, to infiltrating detention centers, to stopping individual deportations, we have each done our part to make this movement stronger and to advance the rights of the immigrant community. We want to thank you, every person and organization, that has dedicated themselves to this cause.

Despite all the hard work that we did last year, we cannot ignore that we did not win a legislative policy change. In the same year we lived through close to 370,000 undocumented immigrants being deported by the Obama administration. We saw toddlers carry signs asking for their parents to be released from detention; we saw families taken in the middle of the night after a simple knock at the door; we saw ICE taking parents while working, and then labeling them as felons. Their only crime was to work to provide food for their family. As leaders, we need to have the humility to reassess our strategy and make changes when something is not working.

How did we get to this point where we haven’t passed immigration reform? Entering 2013, we felt confident. We were all on a high from the 2012 elections. We were sure that the Tea Party’s defeats, including Mitt Romney’s loss due to his “self deportation” stance, would finally move the Republican Party to act on immigration legislation. Like you, we, DREAMers, undocumented youth-led and parent-led organizations, remember feeling confident that we could achieve immigration reform with a path to citizenship for all eleven million undocumented immigrants.

While the Senate immigration bill was not perfect, we were hopeful that its passage meant we were halfway there and that a bipartisan deal was taking shape in Congress. The logic at the time was that passing the Senate Bill would increase momentum to pass it in the House. This, however, did not happen.

Looking for a way to keep the pressure, a number of organizations asked Democrat leadership to introduce H.R. 15 in the House with the hopes that it would pressure Speaker Boehner to allow a vote or introduce his own legislation. While we thank these organizations for doing what they thought was right at the time, unfortunately, it was a miscalculation. Speaker Boehner refused to bring the Senate bill to the floor, and no Republican had the courage to introduce their own bills. Despite all of our efforts, we didn’t have the power to get the Speaker to bring up the Senate bill.

Democrat leadership, meanwhile, has established hard lines like “citizenship or nothing,” making it politically impossible for both parties to come to the table on a real solution. Blaming Republicans for killing CIR became good propaganda for the Democratic Party, and alienated the few Republicans who were interested in moving legislation forward.

At the end of the year, as Congressmen went home for recess, we were left with nothing for our families. What could we tell the people in deportation who kept calling us, even on Christmas Eve? Tens of thousands of parents across the country spent their Christmas behind bars in cold jail cells in detention centers, the hopes of immigration reform fading from their hearts. Tens of thousands of peoples tried to make the best of Christmas, but couldn’t really smile because a loved one was missing. People like the Zuniga family, whose son Joel was deported. Joel’s mom Marypaz said the food didn’t taste the same and she didn’t feel like putting up Christmas lights this year. People like Naira, who’s husband Ardany was deported in the middle of the night the week before Christmas. While a group of us held vigil outside of Florence detention center, ICE snuck Ardany out the back to deport him. Naira was left with her 2 year old son and newborn daughter, fighting back the tears so that the children could enjoy Christmas morning.

Lupita Arreola, Erika’s mother, Mario Montoya, Reyna’s father, Mario Andrade and Hareth’s father are all still in deportation proceedings. How many more will it take before we stop this? How many more families will be torn apart? How many more children traumatized?

We don’t know what’s going to happen in 2014, but we know that the status quo is unbearable. We cannot stand by and watch another 2 million people get deported while we try to pass an ideal immigration reform.

As people who are directly affected, we ask you to revisit your strategy:

1. Focus on a practical legislative solution for immediate relief for families, even if it doesn’t include a special path to citizenship. Our families and communities need relief now, not ideological hard lines.
2. Allow bills that are already amenable to citizenship for Dreamers and legalization for parents without blocking existing citizenship channels. We will not accept a proposal that blocks, bans or bars citizenship.
3. Use our power and political capital to call on Democrats and the President to expand administrative relief and stop unjust deportations. NDLON has already laid out what this could look like http://goo.gl/DZjaeN
4. Focus on advancing substantive policy this year, not on advancing the electoral efforts of the Democratic Party. Let go of HR 15 and SB 744 and focus on winnable pieces of legislation in the House. No, we will not take ‘just anything.’ We want to see the Republicans proposals on the table and then we will decide if its good for our community or not.

As undocumented advocates, we do want citizenship rights. We believe that this is our country, and our family’s home. We do want to be able to vote and voice our opinions. We cannot, however, wait for that to happen while our families are being persecuted. Walking away with nothing is not an option for us; “citizenship-or-nothing” is not an option. We can’t ask our communities to wait for “citizenship” while we see our mothers, our fathers and our children being taken from our homes by immigration. We can’t wait while we see our families being taken into detention centers for months and even years while our children are being traumatized.

Through this letter we are asking that you stand with us. Fight with us for immediate relief for our families. Let’s together hold President Obama accountable for every deported parent. Let’s find a way to work with both parties to find an immediate solution, even if it’s a solution that doesn’t include a “special” pathway to citizenship.

Together lets achieve a level of peace for our families and our communities, a peace that will allow us to live free from persecution, that will allow us to live, work, travel like a human being. We want our mothers to see their parents, to be able to hug them and not arrive to visit their grave. We want to be able to drive without the panic of seeing a police officer in our rearview mirror. We want to be able to live knowing that we will come home and see our children at the end of the day.

Once we achieve this level of relief/stability, there is no question that we will keep fighting for more- for what rightly belongs to our families. Our families are not conformist. Our mothers crossed borders, risked their lives for something better. We need to survive but will never settle, we will always fight for the betterment of our families.

Sincerely,

Jose Patiño, Dreamer, Dream is Now
Erika Andiola, Dreamer & Co-Director, Dream Action Coalition
Cesar Vargas, Dreamer & Co-Director, Dream Action Coalition
Yadira Garcia, Dreamer & Co-Founder of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition
Reyna Montoya, Dreamer, Father is in deportation
Maria Castro, Fighting for Undocumented Mother
Ola Kaso, Dreamer, The Dream is Now
Alejandro Morales, DREAMer, The Dream is Now
Dulce Matuz, President/Chair of Arizona DREAM Act Coalition
Prerna Lal, Board Director, Immigration Equality
Tania Unzueta, Undocumented Organizer
Giancarlo Tello, DREAMer, New Jersey Dream Act Coalition
Marco A. Malagon, President/Co-Founder, North Texas Dream Team
Jesus Iñiguez, Undocumented & Unafraid, DreamersAdrift.com
Sagar Patagundi, Undocumented & Co-Founder Kentucky Dream Coalition
Irvin Camacho, Executive Director, Arkansas Natural Dreamers
Juan Deoses, Undocumented Organizer, New Mexico Dreamers In Action
Julio Zuniga, Dreamer, deported Dreamer brother
Hareth Andrade, Virginia Dreamer, Father in Deportation Proceedings
Lucy Allain
Guadalupe Arreola, Undocumented Mother, President – Arizona Original Dreamers
Alejandra Saucedo, DREAMers’ Moms National Network
Rosario Reyes, Undocumented Parent, Arizona Original Dreamers
Raul Leon, Undocumented Father in deportation, Arizona Original Dreamers
Mario Montoya, AZ Dreamer Dad, Parents and Youth in Action
Juana Torres Paura, Original Dreamers Moms
Rocio Andiola, Undocumented Parent, Arizona Orginal Dreamers
Diana Duran, Undocumented Mother, Arizona Original Dreamers
Maria de los Angeles Diaz Ochoa, Undocumented Parent, Arizona Original Dreamers
Alma Vega, Arizona Original Dreamers
Yanet Rodriguez, Dreamer, Arizona Original Dreamers
Fatima Ramirez, Dreamer, Arizona Original Dreamers
Rossy Sandoval, AZ Dreamer Mom, Parents and Youth in Action
Rocio Duran, Undocumented Mother, Arizona Original Dreamers
Claudia Rodriguez, Undocumented Mother, Arizona Original Dreamers
Carmen Irene, Padres y Jóvenes en Acción
Eva Maria, DREAMers’ Moms Virginia
Delia Patiño, Dreamer Mom
Maria Campos, DREAMers Moms USA
Carolina Canizales, Undocumented Dreamer
Celso Mireles, DACAmented Dreamer & Co-Founder of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition
Ileana Salinas, DACAmented & AZ Worker Rights Center
Sigifredo Pizana, Dreamer
Lily Marín
William Palacios, Arizona DREAM Act Coalition
Nora Hernandez, Undocumented Community Organizer, El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos
Alan Salinas, Operations Manager, Arizona DREAM Act Coalition
Isaias Vasquez, Dreamer
Excy Guardado, University Student, Dreamers of Virginia
Ivan Godinez Reyes, Dream Act OK Tulsa
Lizardo Buleje, DACAmented
Belen Sisa, Dreamer
Pedro Gutierrez Santaman
Juana Pinyol, Undocumented/Board Member, Hudson Valley Community Coalition
Adriana Garcia, DREAMer & Community Organizer, Team Awesome
Hina Naveed, Dreamer, Staten Island DREAM Coalition
Francisco Luna, UndocuQueer, Arizona Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project
Erick Garcia, Undocumented & Technology Director, DREAM Action Coalition
Bibiana Vazquez, DREAMer, Arizona Dream Act Coalition
Viridiana Hernandez, Undocumented Community Organizer/Co-Founder of Team Awesome Arizona
Ignacio Frias, DACAmented
Ana Aguayo, Dreamer/Interim Executive Director, Northwest Arkansas Workers’ Justice Center
Ana Patiño, Dreamer
Camila Quariwarmi Munayki, Writer, Artist Painter, Activist
Alex Aldana, Movement Organizer and Jota Strategist, East Bay Immigrant Youth Coalition, San Francisco Undocuworkforce
Ramiro Luna, DREAMer & Veteran Activist, North Texas DREAM Team
Jessica Rubio, Undocumented Community Organizer, Team Awesome
Yovany Diaz, Activist, Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance
Carla Chavarria, Dreamer/Business Owner, IDREAM
Ernestor De La Rosa, DREAMer & Community Organizer, Sunflower Community Action
Francisco Salcido, DREAMer & Community Organizer
Lilly Romo, Undocumented, Phoenix DREAMers
Alina Cortes, Military DREAMer, DREAM Army
Aldo Gonzalez, Organizer, Team Awesome
Cairo Mendes, Organizer/Dreamer, Student Immigrant Movement
Carlos Vargas, DREAMer, Staten Island Dream Coalition
Yajaira Saavedra, New York City
Maxima Guerrero, AZ Dreamer
Abraham Ponce, Online Coordinator, NTDT
Jesus Gutierrez, Voces of Norristown
Alfredo Garcia, President, Council for Minority Student Affairs
Lenka Mendoza, Coordinadora, Dreamers Families in Aciton & Dreamers Moms USA
Carlos Zuniga, DACAmented
Ruben Castilla Herrera, Organizer, Ohio Action Circle
Jenny Derksen from Ohio
Yuridia Arreola, Volunteer, Team Awesome
Ainee Athar, Undocumented Youth
Jorge Salazar, Dreamer Organizer
The Arizona DREAM Act Coalition
The Arkansas Natural DREAMers
DREAM Army
DREAM Bar Association
Peter Lin-Marcus, Supporter/Ally
Ang Sherpa, friend is in deportation
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ATTN: Queer Undocumented Immigrants

This is a shameless plug for a queer undocumented friend of mine who is doing research on queer immigrants and sentiments of belonging. I hope that everyone can take the time to participate and support Marco in his endeavor because he is one of us.

Mi nombre es marco antonio flores. I am currently an Undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley working with Professor Mel Chen and Evelyn Nakano Glenn, in the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies.

I have been offered to take part in a research program that has enabled me to attain funding for undergraduate research with self-identified queer undocumented immigrants. By drawing from personal narratives I hope to engage my piece, with how queer undocumented immigrants experience home – exploring a theoretical framework that allows for the body as a site of home. This work concerns how queer undocumented immigrants come to experience their undocumented status in relation to their queer identity.

I would like to invite anyone who is interested.

Through this piece, I hope to engage in discussing experiences of displacement and (be)longing by conducing one-on-one interviews with queer undocumented immigrants. It is important for me to share that all the information I am given by those interested in being part of this project will be kept confidential.

For those who are interested in participating, please feel free to contact me via email at marcoflores06@gmail.com. In return for your time, I will be able to provide a $20.00 gift card for a place of your choice.

In addition, here’s this — http://sentimentsofbelonging.tumblr.com/

Please take the time out to get in touch with Marco for his research project. As a queer-identifying undocumented immigrant, I feel like we are a hot commodity, especially in the academic world. Academics, artists and film-makers are salivating over us and trying to gain access to our communities. And most of the time, they characterize us erroneously. It thoroughly annoys me because we have our own academics and intellectuals who are confined in limbo but who could also do a better job of writing about us. We don’t need a “We Are Americans” or a “Papers” because we can research, write and produce our own work. Besides, it is glaringly erroneous: not all undocumented immigrants identify as “American” and not all undocumented immigrants are without papers.

I would much rather support and elevate individuals who are part of our communities and don’t try to fit our bodies in particular categories and their own notions of how and where we belong.

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Fasting for Immigrant Rights – Sign this pledge

I am fasting officially starting tomorrow. Since I am ill already, lets see how long I hold up. The gym hours may be reduced but I am allowed to drink water. The Diwali sweets may have to wait. Going for 3 days for now.

For everyone who enjoys my writing ranging from fiction to non-fiction, please take a moment to sign this pledge and support immigrant rights, support me. We desperately need to stop the ICE raids, the deportations that tear apart families and destroy the futures of so many hard-working people who have committed no crimes. We need Comprehensive Immigration Reform and the DREAM Act to bring millions out of the shadows. And if it takes a ‘fast’ to get this movement going, so be it.

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Assimilation makes you fat and other facts – Reject "Assimilation" Part 2

In the study, researchers examined information on more than 13,000 New Yorkers from all five of the city’s boroughs, who voluntarily had their height and weight measured. The data, collected at community-based health centers and hospitals between January 2000 and December 2002, was used to calculate each person’s BMI.

For Hispanics, whether the neighborhood is largely English speaking or not is an important predictor of body size. The less English spoken in a neighborhood, the less weight gain occurs, according to researchers, whose findings appear in a recent issue of the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

“Simply put: the longer an immigrant lives in the U.S., the heavier that immigrant becomes. Scholars theorize this weight gain as due, in part, to acculturation ­ the adoption of U.S. diet and physical activity habits,” said Park. “Although in the popular imagination, acculturation is thought to be a positive factor for immigrants, in many arenas of health, acculturation has been shown to have a negative effect.”

The new study supports earlier research that found that weight gain is most consistent and significant among Hispanic immigrants to the U.S., who face a particularly high risk of obesity and attendant health problems even when socioeconomic status is taken into consideration.

The link to the study can be found here. I wish journalists would clearly cite the actual source of study because oftentimes it takes a while to search and find it and only the most interested users bother to go to the source of information.

I can actually attest to this sparingly, since the study only seems to hold true among Hispanic immigrants and I am not. I gained about 40 pounds since I started residing in the United States without any changes to my height or level of physical activity. I have shed about 15 of those down to 115 in the past year after getting more health conscious, but the point is that Americans do consume foods with higher calories. And the more we “assimilate,” the more we tend to consume “American foods” on the go instead of ethnic, home-cooked meals which are generally and broadly-speaking, healthier. I don’t think the morale of the story is that we should hide out in our own ethnic enclaves–but that mirroring American consumerism and diet is the wrong way to go.

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Supporters of cultural assimilation beware–Encouraging and pushing for assimilation i.e. “English-only” can be contradictory. According to the research of Tomás Jiménez, an assistant professor of sociology at UC San Diego:

That efforts by opponents of illegal immigration to stamp out the ethnic identity of immigrants and their descendents, and to emphasize assimilation, backfire… Nonimmigrant Mexican-Americans who were already largely assimilated feel a closer connection to their Mexican identity when they see it as under attack.

“People who feel the country is fractured by ethnicity may be doing more than anyone to harden ethnic identity,” he said.

The study holds up when compared to conflict theory. When a minority culture faces attack from the dominant culture, it resists or pushes back.

While we are on the topic of assimilation and “illegal immigration,” is it not strange that the biggest proponents of assimilation are also the ones that prevent avenues for immigrant assimilation–Studies show that being undocumented is a barrier to assimilating.

As Duke University economist Jacob Vigdor explained in The Washington Post: “If you’re in the country illegally, a lot of the avenues of assimilation are cut off to you. There are a lot of jobs you can’t get, and you can’t become a citizen.”

Therefore, if we want our immigrants to assimilate, should we not ensure that they have the necessary institutional support to do so? Otherwise, it is ridiculous to expect migrant workers to speak American-English.

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One last note. Americans DO NOT speak English but a bastardized version of it. Over the past decade, my English has actually deteriorated. I used to be a spelling bee champion and nowadays I let the Firefox browser correct my spelling. Same goes for my grammar. It is not correct to say “Who are you going to the movies with?” but rather “With whom are you going to the cinema?” Besides the error of ending in prepositions, I use way more passive language than I used to — we used to be graded down for “passive usage.” Most Americans have no idea as to what that means! Anyway, I am no fan or supporter of any “pure language” theories so the deterioration of English does not bother me. What does bother me is this:

http://www.bradblog.com/Images/Protestor_EnglishOfficalLanguage.jpg

Lets learn to speak English first, eh?

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Immigration Buzzword – Reject "Assimilation"

+++++I hail from the Fiji Islands; My favorite food is Chinese; I root for Italy and Juventus when it comes to football; I am disappointed when India loses a major cricket tournament; I love Pakistani music with Jal as my most favorite band; L-word star Jennifer Beals is my idol while I think Indian soapstar Anita Hassanandani is the most beautiful woman in the world; my best friend lives in Australia; ‘God Bless Fiji’ is the only national anthem I can recite, barely; the Bay Area is my home and Chicago is my favorite city. My likes and dislikes know neither borders nor boundaries+++++

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During my incredibly short time as a pro-migrant blogger, I have seen many articles on calls for new immigrants to assimilate, deriding the more recent wave of transnational identities, and studies that show immigrant assimilation rates, just to name a few.

From a personal perspective, as someone who was born and brought up in the Fiji Islands, I was taught that we must not expect or encourage “assimilation.” In fact, the word has negative connotations in my country of origin, helped by a social studies curriculum that puts plularism over assimilationist integration from an early age. So it is baffling to me, when “assimilation” is seen in a positive light in the United States, almost uncomfortable in fact. Assimilation is synonymous to losing cultural identity, which I find completely unacceptable, especially when it is touted as a prerequisite for U.S. citizenship.

Sociologist Robert Parks maintained that assimilation was inevitable in a democratic and industrial society after undergoing the “race relations cycle” (contact, conquest…assimilation, fusion). Park has been criticized for not giving a timeline as to when assimilation is complete. We have absolutely no way of ascertaining when assimilation has occurred if we go by Park’s theories.

On the other hand, Milton Gordon has a seven-part subprocesses of assimilation theory, going from cultural acculturation to structural assimilation (integration) to marital assimilation. By no means is this theory solid–individuals and groups can jump around the subprocesses and not follow it in any certain order.
Sociologists think that contemporary immigrants would undergo segmented assimilation. See this for more.

Unlike what Parks or Gordon let on, the process of assimilation in itself, is not LINEAR, which is a very important point to take into account. When different cultures inter-mingle, they borrow characteristics from one another–If the United States was a case of an “assimilationist society,” we would all have the traditional English breakfast of bacon and eggs and scones for snacks. But we enjoy our various ethnic foods, different dressing styles, and the ability to curse in several different languages.

We must seek PLURALISM not assimilation.

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http://www.apnaonline.ca/images/Edpic/notes/fiji2b.GIF

On this $2 note from Fiji that I carry around in my wallet, we can see from left to right: a young Muslim boy, an older Chinese man, an indigenous Fijian, a Rotuman woman–probably representative of other Pacific Islands as well, and an Indian woman.

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Feminization of Migrant Labor – Situating Migrant Women in a more Global Context

There is no doubt that women bear the brunt of the toughest and lowest-paying jobs (not to mention UNPAID housework). From sewing garments in sweltering factories to changing dirty diapers to wiping counters to doing the dishes to serving as “sex slaves” — the overwhelming majority of workers in these occupations are women.

img79/9025/311xinlinegallerycm4.jpg

Take a look at the recent ICE raid at the Houston Action Rags USA plant–in effect a sweatshop rag factory where migrant workers–mostly women–would sort through used clothes that would later by exported to “Third World” countries. ICE officials said of the 166 workers they detained, 130 were females, including 10 who were pregnant.

The Houston Chronicle picked up on the gender disparity here:

Juana Maria Olvera, 35, was one of those detained at Action Rags USA and released because she is expecting a child.

”There are a lot of undocumented women working here, and a lot are single women who are working to support their families,” said Olvera. ”What is happening is a lot of the men come here and don’t go back to Mexico. They either bring their women, or find someone here.”

When ICE cracks down on migrant women workers, they devastate the mainstay of the family unit. But we need to situate the random detention of migrant women workers by the ICE in a more global context, as a global oppression of women. It is ironic that these migrant women were working in a “First World” rag-factory to produce clothes for “Third World” countries–countries that they have fled due to “First World” (neo-liberal) policies. For the most part, they would probably do the same jobs at home if the multi-national corporations came to them. Capital will go where it can seek the most profits–and what is more profitable than earning millions on the backs of women who have very little institutional support? Multi-national corporations like DKNY, Levi Strauss, Jessica McClintock to name just a few, have a mutable gendered labor workforce.

In coming to the United States, there is no hunt for the ‘American dream’ but sheer desperation for dollars. As Cynthia Enloe eloquently states in her seminal work Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics, women who travel are not creatures of comfort or privileged. These migrant female underclass of workers do not get institutional support, work in increasingly deplorable conditions and are more susceptible to sexual harassment and abuse. Just take a look at this story about an Ecuadorean family suing a bakery over working conditions–

Antonio DiBenedetto [the employer] groped the female immigrants and pushed one woman into an office where he tried to take off her clothes and sexually assault her, but the woman escaped by calling for the help of a co-worker, the lawsuit alleges.

DiBenedetto also forced female employees to watch him undress and walked around naked in front of them, the lawsuit alleges. He was also accused of telling the female employees that he would loan them money or not charge them rent if they engaged in sex.

This is a rare example of an undocumented immigrant family coming out of the shadows to jot down abuses in the workplace. For the most part, women who are sexually abused, harassed or treated inhumanely, simply stay quiet and stay in the shadows. Sometimes they are compelled to do so in order to protect their families and keep nurturing their young, no matter what the costs. And with the ICE, IMF, World Bank, workforce and exportation laws, it is harder for female workers to unite and unionize.

What is the main point of this blog post? Any movement for the advancement of women’s rights or gender equality, MUST address the needs of women who are victims of neo-liberal globalization.

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Undocumented Immigrants and Crime – Dispelling Myths

Kyle asked via email whether there are any studies which show that undocumented immigrants commit less crimes than American citizens. The one study we should be familiar with is the one from IPC last year, which is here. This was the summary of their research:

  • At the same time that immigration—especially undocumented immigration—has reached or surpassed historic highs, crime rates have declined, notably in cities with large numbers of undocumented immigrants, including border cities like El Paso and San Diego.
  • Incarceration rate for native-born men in the 18-39 age group was five times higher than for foreign-born men in the same age group.
  • Data from the census and other sources show that for every ethnic group, incarceration rates among young men are lowest for immigrants, even those who are least educated and least acculturated.

There is also one from this year (2008) –
Immigrants and Crime: Setting the Record Straight <http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/index.php?content=fc080313a> (Immigration Policy Center – March 2008) – Dispels myths about immigrants and criminality.

Washington-based nonprofit Immigration Policy Center, found that on the national level, U.S.-born men ages 18-39 are five times more likely to be incarcerated than are their foreign-born peers. And, while the number of illegal immigrants in the country doubled between 1994 and 2005, violent crime declined by nearly 35% and property crimes by 26% over the same period.

One 2005 study conducted by researchers from Harvard University and the University of Michigan found that immigrants actually commit fewer crimes than native-born citizens.

Another study, which examined data from the U.S. Census Bureau, found that among men aged 18 to 39, the incarceration rate for native-born citizens is five times higher than for the foreign-born individuals. This held true within ethnic and national-origin groups; native-born Latinos, for example, were more likely to be incarcerated than foreign-born Latinos.

A more recent study by the Public Policy Institute of California  is limited to California but also focused on all immigrants. The report summary follows:

Immigrants are far less likely than the average U.S. native to commit crime in California, according to this issue of California Counts. For example, among men ages 18-40 – the age group most likely to commit crime – the U.S.-born are 10 times more likely than the foreign-born to be in jail or prison. Even among noncitizen men from Mexico ages 18-40 – a group disproportionately likely to have entered the United States illegally – the authors find very low rates of institutionalization. Such findings suggest that longstanding fears of immigration as a threat to public safety are unjustified.

The PPIC even determined that on average, between 2000 and 2005, cities such as Los Angeles that took in a higher share of recent immigrants saw their crime rates fall further than cities with a lower influx of illegals.

While we can win the arguments using the data sets from the studies above, the bigger problem is media and public perception of “illegal immigrant.” Usage of “illegal” as a noun functions as prima facie evidence of “criminality” for most people. We have to counter the false perception that “illegal presence” in this country is a crime–it is NOT.

Secondly, even if there are high rates of institutionalization amongst undocumented immigrants, we can turn to sociological premises and studies. A great analogy can be drawn with the case of African American males — just because they make up the majority of our prison populations, does not mean that African Americans are bound to be “criminal.” Rather, it points to the racism in our criminal justice system, socio-economic conditions such as poverty and lack of opportunity.

Similar conditions apply to Hispanic populations in prisons. Here is another great sociological paper countering the mythology of Hispanic immigration and crime. It is almost a decade old but the premises of the study still hold.

The USA also has the highest rates of incarceration in this country and with the rise of the migrant-prison complex (increased crackdowns on undocumented immigrants, detentions, border security), the focus is indeed on jailing immigrants for profit.

The following is from http://thepoliticsofimmigration.org/ referring to the incarceration of undocumented immigrants:

1. The government doesn’t keep statistics on the breakdown of
documented and undocumented immigrants.

2. The 270,000 number is probably an estimate. If so, it’s probably an
estimate of the number of undocumented immigrant prisoners *during the
course of the year.* The 2.1 million figure is the prison population
on a give date, like 12/31/05. You can’t compare the two numbers.

See these links for more:

http://thepoliticsofimmigration.blogspot.com/2008/04/undocumented-com…

http://thepoliticsofimmigration.blogspot.com/2008/05/so-what-about-th…

If I find any other relevant studies, I will update this post.

More resources

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