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Ostrich In-Depth: Primary Pandering: The GOP Primary Immigration Debate

20 Jan

By Paul Andres Young

You may have noticed a few months ago that a new season of US political game shows was upon us. It crept up earlier than usual with its manufactured pageantry that hearkened back to a simpler time when America was strong, moral, and mostly White. Of course, I’m talking about the Republican Presidential Primary, which I like to refer to as the Anyone but Mitt Show (hereafter referred to as The ABM Show).

Starting in May, The ABM Show roared to life with its first debate. New episodes came almost as quickly as the contestants rose and fell in the polls. The quick pace provided a much needed respite from the frustratingly anemic Congress. With its odd ball cast, plenty of plot twists, and a good helping of mudslinging, The ABM Show was probably the best (and scariest) reality TV show of the year. Now, with several contestants eliminated, it looks like Mitt will be the winner of Anyone but Mitt. With the show nearing the end, the editors of The Curious Ostrich invited me to do a brief overview of what this spectacle has revealed about and what it portends for immigration policy debate in this country.

While immigration played a notable role in The ABM Show, the plot lines have been unfortunately predictable. Against a backdrop of policies that are doing real and immediate harm to the health of immigrants, The ABM Show warded off a substantive discussion with slogans:“Build a fence! E-verify! Troops on the border!” That’s not to say there weren’t any twists, just not many worth noting. In fact, I can only think of two:

Rick Perry said that people who do not want to educate undocumented children “Do not have a heart.”

Newt Gingrich suggested a system that would give some undocumented immigrants legal status, but not citizenship and the rights that go with it.

In these two episodes, both Gingrich and Perry lost points for their defense of minor rights for undocumented individuals. In both cases, Mitt took a hard right stance and accused the two contestants of creating magnets to draw immigrants into the country.

The terms of the immigration debate were made clear when Perry lost as many points for calling opponents heartless as for defending affordable education for the undocumented. The ABM Show contestants and their fans, who are usually keen to use the rhetoric of morality, suddenly decided that with immigration policy, they’d rather not worry about right and wrong.

So what can we expect in the future? Congress has also been steadfast in its refusal to seriously address the immigration debate. Both Red Team and Blue Team are too entrenched in their alliances to make any real progress. They may throw it in there every now and then, but it will mostly be fan service, nothing that will affect the overall plot.

The future of Congress will depend on who wins this season of General Election. If Romney wins The ABM Show, as it looks like he will, then he will have some trouble with this issue as he prepares for the biggest political show of the year. A recent Pew Research Center poll on immigration found that sixty-seven percent of respondents supported a way for undocumented immigrants to become citizens. This is a sharp contrast to Romney’s far right stance on immigration, calling for strict border enforcement, the E-verify system, and no path to citizenship. With public opposition to this stance and the importance of the Latino vote, it is hard to see how Romney can appeal to the general electorate.

Some commentators believe Romney will pull one of his legendary flip flops to get around this issue. I, however, am not so sure about that. The flip flopping reputation has been Romney’s biggest obstacle so far. He has struggled time and again to prove his conservative credentials.  Because immigration is one area where he has relatively little history, he will likely continue to use it to prove just how conservative he can be and hope that voters are too distracted by other issues to notice.

To sum it all up, we can expect another year of contestants posturing to score points in their games. Let’s hope that they consider the real effects that political games can have on the lives and health of immigrants.


Ostrich In-depth: 11 Immigration and Health Issues of 2011

30 Dec

By Daniel Madrigal, Maria-Elena Young, Naomi Beyeler and Priscilla Gonzalez

Almost a year after the US Congress failed to pass the DREAM Act, Joaquin Lunatook his own life. An 18-year old with a dream of becoming a civil engineer, his last note to his family and the conversations he’d had with friends in his final days suggest that one of the factors that fed his depression and desperation were the limited opportunities he faced in the US because of his immigration status. This story has a particularly tragic end, but the reality that Joaquin faced is all too common in the US today. Immigrants, regardless of legal status, are regularly excluded from the rights and protections of citizenship and are subjected to xenophobia from individuals and society at large.

Source: Center for American Progress

This exclusion is no accident. Our state and federal policies systematically deny immigrants, their families and communities opportunities for education, economic security and other resources. Xenophobia is perpetuated through political rhetoric, media and popular opinion.

The result? Our existing immigration system and our nation’s attitudes towards immigrants extend beyond material consequences to the physical and emotional health of individuals. As is sometimes said, inequality can “get under the skin.”

We are all complicit in the immigration system and attitudes against immigrants – from benefiting from the low-cost labor of immigrants to failing to take a stand against xenophobic language or sentiment in our communities and workplaces.  This means that we all have a responsibility to change it. Over the course of 2011, The Curious Ostrich has drawn the link between immigration policy, attitudes towards immigrants and the health of immigrants.  Below is our assessment of the most important political, economic and social issues of 2011 related to immigration and health. By “keeping our heads up” our hope is to demonstrate the human costs of our immigration system and identify opportunities for action to ensure everyone in the US has the opportunity to be healthy. As we enter 2012, we will keep our heads up.  We hope you do, too.

Source: Center for Investigative Reporting

1. Immigrants dying to cross a militarized border – When even moderate politicians are clamoring for a “secure border,” what that actually turns into is a militarized border. Higher fences, more border patrol, the use of drones and other human-tracking technology all result in more extreme and dangerous paths of entry. In what is perhaps the clearest example of the life and death consequences of immigration policy, we see many migrants risking this militarized border to seek economic opportunities in the United States. Unfortunately, many do not survive the journey. The Arizona human rights organization No More Deaths interviewed immigrants arrested by Border Patrol agents and found that 86% needed, but were denied, emergency medical treatment, and another 10% were subject to abuse. For more info about the health impacts of a militarized border, see the full report.


2. SComm and detention centers lead to fear and criminalization – Secure Communities (SComm) and immigrant detention centers are examples of how a lack of accountability, combined with discriminatory policies, perpetuate a system of abuse that has severe physical and psychological consequences. These systems and policies, like Alabama’s HB 56, instill so much fear that undocumented immigrants are forced to hide and endure violations, which ultimately have a deleterious impact on health.


Source: Family and Society

3. State laws codify racism – In 2011, following Arizona’s lead, states across the country passed broad anti-immigration policies. This trend is best highlighted by Alabama’s H.B. 56 – which requires a person to show proof of legal status for any “businesstransaction” with the state. What activities are considered “business transactions”? Registering in school, signing up for trash collection and water services, getting vaccinated, and being employed. These far-reaching immigration policies, which prevent people from accessing the opportunities and resources needed to be healthy, perpetuate the deep racial and health inequities in our country.

4. Racist and xenophobic rhetoric becoming increasingly acceptable – Underlying these discriminatory policies is deep-seated racism and xenophobia. Political leaders at the highest levels are advocating for and acting on policies that explicitly discriminate against immi

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

grants – from Republican candidates Bachman and Romney campaigning on the deportation of all undocumented immigrants, to Arizona’s Sheriff Arpaio basing policing and detention work on racial profiling. While the Justice Department finally started to hold Sheriff Arpaio accountable, releasing a report earlier this month stating that Arpaio led his Sheriff’s Office in “a pervasive culture of discriminatory bias against Latinos,” the growing displays of overt racism among our country’s leaders is troubling.

5. Local economies hurt by xenophobic state laws
The economic impact of state anti-immigration laws are far reaching– small business owners have lost customers, farmers have lost profit and

Source: Immigration Impact

local governments are losing tax revenue.   Under the already weak economy these communities are facing further economic downturn as a result of the effort to scapegoat immigrants. This means fewer resources for all residents in these states to promote their general well-being, from tax revenues for education to funding for health care programs.

6. Congress and the President continue attack on immigrant workers –

Source: New America Media

Although Congress failed in its attempt to make it mandatory, the Obama administration has continued to push employers to voluntarily adopt the greatly-flawed E-Verify worker database.  Immigrants face the threat of being barred from the opportunity to gain dignity and economic security for themselves and their families.

7. Anti-immigration laws further impoverish immigrant families –

Source: Community Service Society

Anti-immigration laws, poor working and living conditions and deportations all leave immigrant families economically vulnerable.  Family economic stability is critical for good health – poverty not only limits families access to health-promoting resources, from health care to healthy food, but creates stress that can lead to poor health.

Source: ABC News

8. Impact on the most vulnerable, the children –   Immigration policies, and the resulting personal consequences, can severely effect the healthy growth and development of children in several ways: 1) causing undue stress in families 2) promoting barriers to essential services and 3) maintaining a lower class status of immigration families that deny access to essential resources needed for healthy development. In the report from ARC, Shattered Families, we see that 5,100 children are in the child welfare system because their parents have been removed through deportation. Families are being split up, and the number of orphans created by ICE is expected to go up to 15,000 if this current trajectory continues. Even President Obama is recognizing that his 400,000 deportee quota is causing serious problems.

9. Students denied the right to an education, but some states pushed back –  Despite the clear benefits, undocumented immigrants and their families are denied the right to education because Source: San Francisco Bay Area Indymediaof discriminatory policies.Education is one of the strongest predictors of health and well-being. Individuals who receive an education are more likely to be healthier, have better jobs and gain more financial security, which translates into benefits for our society as a whole. We saw the failure to pass the National DREAM Act  in 2010 and its delay in 2011 (introduced in May) and the effects of Alabama’s HB 56 on Latino children who, despite being documented, were fearful of going to school because their parents were undocumented.  However, on a more positive note, some states, like California and Illinois, took the initiative to pass their own version of the DREAM Act, though they excluded a pathway for citizenship.

10. Double discrimination for LGBT immigrants – If the hateful rhetoric and institutionalized discrimination against unauthorized immigrants in the US were not


sufficient, LGBT immigrants are exposed to a second layer of discrimination. LGBT immigrants are denied the opportunity to gain citizenship through marriage. LGBT immigrants may face homophobic cultures in their home countries that can make return a question of personal safety. A report by the Williams Institute of UCLAdemonstrates that 12% of the 650,000 same-sex partnerships in the US have at least one immigrant partner means that this is an issue impacting affecting a significant portion of our population.

11. Immigration policies deny immigrants the right to health care access – In June 2011, the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research released a study estimating that 220,000 children in California alone will not receive health care coverage because of their or their parents’ immigration status. Immigration policies repeatedly deny immigrants the right to accessSource: nursing behind the wall health care, including treatment and primary care services for mental health, chronic diseases and acute care. Some policies directly exclude undocumented immigrants, as in the national health care reform law which prohibits undocumented immigrants from participating in the health care exchanges or access federal programs. Others, as in Alabama’s HB 56, go so far as to limit doctors’ rights to practice medicine.

Ostrich In-depth: Overepresented and undervalued, immigrants in prison

30 Sep

Dear readers – We are excited to share with you the second installment of the Ostrich Egg, the guest contributor section of The Curious Ostrich. Despite regular coverage of immigration laws and issues, rarely does the media discuss how immigration, immigration-related policies or xenophobia affect the health of immigrants and our nation. Keep your head up on these important issues through The Ostrich Egg. 

Barbed Wire with Prison in the background

Photo by Dana Gonzales

By Amanda Gatewood

Latinos are targeted by law enforcement and ICE officers, and the effects of this targeting write themselves large in the health experiences of Latinos generally and Latino immigrants especially.  While immigrants from all racial and ethnic backgrounds face difficulties in the U.S. due to discrimination, Latino immigrants are today are at the forefront of U.S. immigration battles.

Many Americans believe that simply living in a country in which one was not born without legal permissions is a crime, and the Obama administration appears to agree.  Under President Obama, the number of deportations of Latino immigrants has risen by 10% when compared to the number of deportations under President Bush.  There are numerous reports of immigrants being harassed by police, even in their own homes, and the impact of surveillance and intimidation has led to a culture of fear that makes many undocumented immigrants unable to call the police, even when they are the victims of serious crimes.   The disproportionate number of incarcerated Latinos subjects them and their families to the indignities of prisons: substandard health care, police violence, constant surveillance, disruption of their relationships with their families and communities. Continue reading

Ostrich In-depth: All Mothers Deserve a Healthy Pregnancy, All Children Deserve a Healthy Start

9 Sep

Dear readers – We are excited to launch The Ostrich Egg, the guest contributor section of The Curious Ostrich.  Despite regular coverage of immigration laws and issues, rarely does the media discuss how immigration, immigration-related policies or xenophobia affect the health of immigrants and our nation.  Keep your head up on these important issues through The Ostrich Egg. 

By Pamela Mejía

An undocumented Nebraska woman recently sued the state for medical care for her unborn child, arguing that her immigration status shouldn’t affect her child’s right to care. Though the case has important implications for abortion rights activists on both sides of the debate, public health advocates are also concerned about the implications for public health policy and practice.

Our policy makers seem to understand the need for good nutrition and health care during infancy and early childhood to shape the health of the next generation — for example, the Obama administration has encouraged American women to breastfeed their children, among other initiatives. But prenatal care is also critical for ensuring good birth outcomes for all children. Nebraska is just one state that has eliminated prenatal coverage for undocumented immigrants, resulting in increased rates of in utero death compared to years past. This policy, and the anti-immigrant sentiment it exemplifies, has more insidious effects that don’t receive media attention. For example, what fear and anxiety must undocumented women struggle with when they are forced to choose between the health of their unborn child and revealing their immigration status? How can the public health community even begin to imagine the long term effects of this anxiety on these women, and their children?

Continue reading