What’s the real problem? Unexamined assumptions

Friday, August 05, 2011

This week’s blog carnival as a part of NLIRH’s Latina Week of Action for ReproductiveJustice has sparked conversation around the scapegoating of immigrant women begging the question, what’s the REAL problem?
The scapegoating of immigrant women can be largely attributed to unexamined assumptions about the existence of immigrant life in America. Assuming something about any demographic of people and not investigating leaves so much room for error which can be not only damaging but dangerous. 

Assumptions are often defined as something taken for granted or the act of supposing but another, less discussed definition is the act of taking possession of something. Through demonizing language, xenophobia and accusatory judgments we’ve taken possession of the livelihoods of immigrant women.  

The assumption that immigrant women are not experts in their own immigration experience often leaves them out of conversations around policy that directly affects them and their family. It is also easy to point blaming fingers at low-income, immigrant women of color in difficult economic and social times like these, assuming they have nothing to lose.

Over the last year, ACRJ initiated a story collection process as a part of our Strong Families initiative where stories from families of color who put women at the center and identify as immigrant families are highlighted. In these stories you can hear the lived experiences of people whose immigrant mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, grandmothers and friends have been strengthened despite the unexamined assumptions made about their lives.

Assumption: Immigrant women are draining the government of resources that should be given to American citizens

FACT: Aside from some rare exceptions, only immigrants who have been legally residing in the country for five years can access public benefits like Medicaid and TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families)

Assumption: Immigrant women come here to have their babies in the hopes that they will become citizens.

FACT: Having a baby won't do much to help an immigrant mom become a U.S. citizen. Citizen children cannot sponsor their parents for citizenship until they turn 21 and if the parents were ever undocumented, they would have to return home for 10 years before applying to enter the country. Having a baby to secure citizenship is an extremely long, uncertain process.

Assumption: Immigrant women and other immigrants are taking jobs away from American citizens.

FACT: This is one of the most well assumed fallacies about immigrants. According to the ACLU, experts note that immigrants are blamed for unemployment because Americans can see the jobs immigrants fill but not the jobs they create through productivity, capital formation and demand for goods and services. Immigrants pay more than $90 billion in taxes every year. Without their contributions to the public treasury, the economy would suffer enormous losses. 

Making illegitimate and unfair assumptions about how immigrant women live can and has lead to dangerous political, social and behavioral outcomes. Immigrant women are being scapegoated under the pretext of budget cuts, job security, resource allocation and other social and political epidemics that current and past leaders refuse to take responsibility for.

Shifting our hearts and minds to assess the REAL ways in which immigrant women exist in this country will benefit everyone in the long run.

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