How our immigration policies hurt families--and all of us

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

[This post, which excerpts an RH Reality Check piece, is part of a Mama’s Day Series by The Strong Families Initiative. To follow all of the Mama's Day events, visit us on Facebook and Twitter.]

By Christine Soyong Harley

On March 24th, the Associated Press broke a story about the discovery of a maternity ward for women from China being operated in the San Gabriel Valley in California. The AP article described the upscale, luxury townhomes, part of a quiet residential condo development, that had been converted into a maternity ward for middle- and upper-income Chinese women to deliver American-born children in the hopes that U.S. citizenship would provide greater opportunities for their children within China. However, subsequent articles painted a different, more nefarious picture about a seedy Chinese American man being fined for running an illegal business (rather than for building code violations for removing some interior walls to create separate living quarters for the women), converted kitchens crammed with bassinets, pamphlets and baby formula, and neighbors complaining of the scent of “cheap canola oil” in the air.

This story has had additional leverage in helping anti-immigrant advocates assert a new “baby boom” among “millions” of “birth tourists” who come to the US in order to have themselves an American baby. Although the statistics indicate that less than one percent of all births in the US are to foreigners visiting on tourist visas, that didn’t stop Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) from making claims of a long-term plot by pregnant foreign women to hatch “terror babies” so that “one day, 20, 30 years down the road, they can be sent in to help destroy our way of life."

Really? As absurd as this sounds, this leap from reality is being used to justify harsh anti-immigrant policies that have had devastating and dangerous impacts on the lives of immigrant mothers and their children. As immigration debates have increasingly cast immigrant women as “unfit” and “undesirable,” reproductive rights and the ability of immigrant women to make healthy decisions for themselves and their families has been increasingly undermined. Attacks on the 14th Amendment and efforts to strip the right to citizenship from American-born children of immigrant mothers are just the most glaring examples of efforts to restrict the reproductive rights of immigrant women and control the growth of non-White families.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

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