Tag Archives: immigration policies

Anti-immigrant policies encourage bad policing and create toxic environments

28 Mar

Source: Center for American Progress

Featured article: Life as an Undocumented Immigrant: report finds that driving and walking are top two concerns among study participants, Center for American Progress, 3.26.12

The negative impacts of anti-immigration policies on public health are not always obvious.  The Center for American Progress has released a study looking at how anti-immigrant policies affect the everyday lives of undocumented immigrants and their communities. The study focuses on migrants in North County, California, near San Diego. One of the key findings is that anti-immigrant policies, such as  Arizona’s SB 1070,  Alabama’s HB 56 and Secure Communities, in practice transform local law enforcement into immigration agents and result in racial profiling. In fact, 43% of immigrants in the study reported feeling negatively targeted by police, contrasted with 8% of whites reporting in another poll. This, in turn, creates a deep distrust and fear of local police that pushes undocumented immigrants — and their relatives and friends–  to avoid contact with the police. Because of this, driving and walking in public were the top two activities of concern reported among the study participants. The consequences of people fearing local police affect entire communities. As the authors explain, “…when unauthorized immigrants fear interacting with law enforcement, it makes us all less safe — whether we are documented or not.”

From a public health perspective, this report highlights how policies generate unhealthy and toxic social environments by creating a mixture of distrust, fear and hostility between different segments of a community, in this case undocumented immigrants and their loved ones versus local police. If people don’t even feel safe enough to walk in their neighborhoods or to call the police when faced with a dangerous situation, such as domestic violence, how are we supposed to build healthier environments?

For example, there is a lot of attention around addressing the obesity epidemic in the Latino communities by increasing access to fresh foods and parks where people can exercise and walk to daily activities. But these health promotion efforts will fail if anti-immigration policies destroy a basic sense of community safety, such as feeling free to walk the streets or drive to the supermarket without fear of arrest for “looking suspicious” or having a broken tail-light.  Unfortunately, as demonstrated by this study, under Secure Communities, these examples are legitimate threats to immigrants. Anti-immigrant policies undercut our public health work by building oppressive and toxic social environments. It is time that public health insert itself into the immigration debate and draw the links between anti-immigrant policies and poor public health outcomes. Otherwise, we risk the health and lives of our communities.

In the News

Iraqi Immigrants in California Town Fear a Hate Crime in a Woman’s Killing, New York Times, 3.27.12
A community fears that hate crime and racism against Iraqi immigrants resulted in the brutal murder of an Iraqi woman.

Georgia’s anti-immigrant bill seeks to deny access to water, school and passports as IDs, Wall Street Journal, 3.26.12
Georgia’s SB 458, sponsored by Senator Barry Loudermilk, is translating to a bill that would deny basic rights such as access to public water and sewage services, education, and most recently allowing foreign passports as acceptable ID.

Another report highlights deep problems with detention centers and New Jersey is the newest example, Washington Post, 3.23.12
Despite the Obama administration’s emphasis on reforming the civil detention system, centers like New Jersey have been found to deny basic services such as healthcare, food and legal assistance.

Immigration’s loose rule of detention, Los Angeles Times, 3.18.12
In this editorial, the LA Times holds the Obama administration accountable and demands that it ensure that detention centers treat immigrants fairly and humanely.


Immigration policies are inhumane, ineffective and unhealthy, 2.20 – 2.27

28 Feb

Staying Put but Still in the Shadows, Center for American Progress, 2.23.12

The Center for American Progress has launched a new series to highlight the stories of undocumented immigrants and describe how our immigration policies affect all of us. The first report, Staying Put but Still in the Shadows, asks the question: “Have anti-immigration bills led to an exodus of unauthorized migrants from the US as restrictionists have promised?” The study authors find that:

  • Most undocumented immigrants decide to stay in the country.
  • Anti-immigrant laws push immigrants from one area to another and displace them from their homes and neighborhoods.
  • State efforts to force undocumented immigrants out of the country are expensive: Arizona’s SB 1070 cost the state at least $14 million; Georgia’s HB 87 cost between $300 million and $1 billion; Alabama’s law could cost as high as $10.8 billion.

As highlighted in this report, harsh policies that attempt to make life unbearable for undocumented immigrants are not only inhumane, but ineffective and costly. Recently, we have seen Republican Presidential candidates shamelessly promote similar policies in the GOP debates: for instance, Mitt Romney called Arizona’s SB 1070 a “model policy” and has advocated for “self-deportation” – a tactic that, as explained in a New York Times editorial, is based on making life so miserable for undocumented immigrants that they “choose” to self-deport.

From a public health perspective, these policies create unacceptable social and economic inequities that lead to poor health among immigrants. To work to improve health, public health professionals investigate the “root causes” of poor health. When looking at immigrant health, we need to look at how xenophobia and discrimination shape policies that push our communities into the shadows. If we are to build healthier communities, we need to ensure that we have fair policies that provide access and rights to all, not just to a few. We should not have a society built on policies that aim to make life unbearable for particular communities.

In the News

Aging Migrant Workers Face Perilous Future in Salinas, New America Media, 2.20.12
In this commentary piece, Joaquin Magon exposes the injustices that aging migrant workers face. He comments that “the reality is this: Capital is valued above humanity, and those that cannot produce capital have no room in this world.”

National gathering in L.A. spotlights plight of day laborers, Los Angeles Times, 2.21.12
Hundreds of day laborers and former day laborers gathered in downtown Los Angeles for a week-long conference “to measure their progress since day laborers began a concerted effort to organize themselves two decades ago.” The program also covered immigration issues.

Georgia Immigration Law: Senate Bill 458 Would Ban Undocumented Immigrants From Public Colleges, Huffington Post, 2.23.12
Georgia Senate Committee passes SB 458 in an attempt to further marginalize undocumented students by banning them from public schools. The bill now moves to the full Senate.

Arizona to Create an “Armed Militia” Along its Border, News Taco, 2.24.12
Arizona is at it again: a new bill aims to place an “armed militia” on the national border between Arizona and Mexico.