The Trump administration has gone to great extents to limit immigration to the United States. For instance, it has significantly increased militarization in the US-Mexico border, limited immigrant’s appeals in order to speed up deportations, and cut the number of available visas for refugees in half (Quinn, Hopkins and Bedolla 707). However, more than 25% of the U.S. population are either immigrants or children of immigrants who experience severe disadvantages and human rights violations in their everyday lives (Quinn, Hopkins and Bedolla 709). Thus, the narrative regarding immigration in the United States should instead focus on understanding the marginalization of this group of people and promoting humanitarian solutions.
The majority of the undocumented immigrants in the United States are Latino, poor and with little education (Schmid 694). This “lack of formal citizenship affects private life, including family and interpersonal relations” (Schmid 694). Undocumented immigrant children and adolescents are highly affected by their immigration status. Even though public schools cannot deny education to undocumented children, external factors such as fear might intervene with the quality of their education (Schmid 694). For instance, ICE’s raids in Las Cruces, New Mexico led to high rates of absences from undocumented immigrant students (Quinn, Hopkins and Bedolla 708). In other words, parents were keeping their children from school because they were afraid ICE would go to the schools and take them away.
Barriers for undocumented students are also present when trying to pursue higher education learning. In many states, undocumented students cannot receive financial aid or in-state tuition (Schmidt 694). Around 40 percent of undocumented families live in poverty, which means that it is almost impossible for them to send their children to pursue a college degree without any economic aid (Schmidt 697). Some exceptions are Texas, which provides undocumented students with in-state tuition, and California which allows them to access some state scholarships (Schmidt 699). However, there are many requirements to gain these privileges, which reduces the number of undocumented immigrant students that get to benefit from these opportunities (Schmidt 699).
Furthermore, no state in the United States provides a long-term solution that could provide a path of citizenship for undocumented students (Schmidt 699). For instance, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is a renowned policy that temporarily aids undocumented immigrant children from deportation (Levin). However, children under DACA live with uncertainty regarding their future opportunities to stay, study and work in the United States since it only lasts two years (Levin). This lack of legal status holds them back since their “lives are at the mercy of state and federal administration policies” (Schmidt 703).
Inefficient and discriminative policy is not the only factor that negatively affects immigrants’ lives. A study that analyzed the impact of discrimination and legal stress on Asian American immigrants demonstrated that these factors can cause severe depression in immigrants (Singh, Schulz, Neighbors and Griffith 644). This type of discrimination occurs when immigrants feel ashamed for their accent while seeking employment and therefore feel inferior. On the other hand, legal stress comes from the anxiety of being undocumented and having an uncertain future. The depressive episodes are most commonly seen in children (Singh, Schulz, Neighbors and Griffith 644). Additionally, most undocumented immigrants do not seek mental health care to relieve their symptoms due to legal stress (Singh, Schulz, Neighbors and Griffith 639). In other words, their fear of being reported to ICE furthers the negative state of their mental health.
There are other marginalizing factors that prevent immigrants from access to health care. Over the last decade, policy changes have created many barriers that restrict undocumented immigrants’ access to public health insurance (Blewett, Johnson and Mach 13). Due to this factor, “immigrants and their children account for 71% of the increase in the uninsured from 1989 to 2007” (Blewett, Johnson and Mach 14). Consequently, twice more immigrant children than native children lack health care (Blewett, Johnson and Mach 13). Usually, the immigrants from Mexico and Central America are the ones less likely to have health insurance (Blewett, Johnson and Mach 28). Children with one or both parents employed are more likely to be uninsured due to the fact that they do not qualify for public aid since they win ‘too much money’ (Blewett, Johnson and Mach 28). Thus, policies that are meant to help are keeping low income families from social mobility and health security. Additionally, these policies that limit health insurance to children will have a long run effect on the health of the future adult population (Blewett, Johnson and Mach 29).
The system and norms of U.S. society not only keep undocumented immigrants from gaining an education, having social mobility, and health care, but it also criminalizes them. Immigration is constantly associated with the rise of gangs in the United States. However, it is actually economic disadvantage, and a desire to protect each other, that act as key components to gang formation (Decker, van Germert and Pyrooz 398). In other words, gangs are a direct repercussion of states’ segregation, lack of economic opportunities and discrimination against minority groups. Usually youths that are “marginalized by poverty, poor schools, inadequate parenting, and racism will form and join gangs” (Decker, van Germert and Pyrooz 401). The media also influences this erroneous idea that gangs are an immigrant problem by the way they publicize it. However, it is not an immigration problem, but rather the state’s problem, due to their marginalizing policies.
Undocumented immigrants are not only perceived as criminals by being associated with gangs, but they are constantly treated like criminals by the United States Government. For instance, they are inherently criminalized by constantly being referred to as ‘illegal,’ which problematically connotes that they should have less rights. Additionally, criminalization occurs when the undocumented immigrants are detained. The detention system highly discriminates this group of people, since “non-citizens in general and undocumented immigrants in particular are more likely to be incarcerated pre-trial and receive longer criminal sentences than U.S. citizens” (Patler and Branic 18). Additionally, since 2009, Congress has mandated that ICE fills thirty-four thousand beds daily (Patler and Branic 19). Many detention centers and jails today are privately owned (DuVernay 13th). Therefore, they are utilizing prisoners as bed fillers in order to make a profit (DuVernay 13th). Among those prisoners, many are detained immigrants.
After being detained, undocumented immigrants spend months or even years held in detention before being deported (Patler and Branic 19). Since they are non-citizens, their detention process is not supposed to be punitive (Dow 536). Therefore, there are few constitutional laws that prevent the abusive holding of immigrants in detention centers (Dow 543). They do not have the “right-to-counsel provisions or other due process guarantees” because of not being citizens (Patler and Branic 21). Since they are being held as criminals and prisoners for indefinite time, it should be a punitive process in which they can have legal representation and human rights (Dow 534). They cannot even ask for a “waiver of deportation from an immigration judge” (Dow 535). Sometimes, immigrants that do have government approved documents are treated with the same abuse (Dow 538). For example, the prisoner Barbara P. had entered the United States with a legal visa when she was sentenced for shoplifting in Florida (Dow 538). However, since her original country did not want her back after the sentence, they decided to keep her detained as long as they desired (Dow 538).
Detention not only has a grave effect on the people being held, but on their families. Usually, it is logistically difficult to contact loved ones that have been detained. For instance, “phone calls are expensive and limited, letters are read by guards before delivery” and visitation is very controlled (Patler and Branic 22). In some facilities, contact visitation is not even allowed and it only occurs either through a glass or video calls. (Patler and Branic 22). Studies show that visitations to detainees could help maintain family bonds and reduce depressive symptoms (Patler and Branic 22). Unfortunately, 60 percent of parents in jail do not receive visits from their children (Patler and Branic 22). In the case of immigrants, the legal status of the family is usually what causes limited visiting (Patler and Branic 23). They have legal stress because going to visit their loved one means they could be caught and detained as well (Patler and Branic 24). This “decreased access to face-to-face visitation could lead to increase despair and reduce family cohesion in immigrant families” (Patler and Branic 33). Additionally, since these detained individuals have no professional legal assistance, it is often the family members that aid with the legal proceedings (Patler and Branic 33). Consequently, lack of family visit also restricts the detainees’ legal actions (Patler and Branic 33).
The current situation for immigrants in the United States cannot be tolerated anymore. They come to a country to seek a better life and be protected, and instead they are marginalized. However, it is not only that they have disadvantages for social mobility, but that their human rights are being violated. Thankfully, this is not being left unnoticed by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International USA. One of their focus campaigns lately has been to stop undocumented immigrant’s unlimited detentions. For instance, they “recently helped two young children and their mothers who fled violence in their native countries in Central America get released from over 600 days in immigration detention” (Amnesty International). Human rights organizations can help aid the horrors happening to immigrants right now. However, there will be no permanent change until the United States government carefully examines what is happening to immigrants inside their borders and makes the necessary policy changes
Works Cited Page
Blewett, Lynn A., Johnson, Pamela Jo. and Mach, Annie L. “Immigrant Children’s Access to Health Care: Differences by Global Region of Birth.” Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, vol 21, no. 2, 2010, pp. 13-31, https://muse.jhu.edu/article/380471
Decker, Scott H., van Gemert, Frank, and Pyrooz David C. “Gangs, Migration, and Crime: The Changing Landscape in Europe and the USA.” Journal of International Migration and Integration 10.4 (2009): 393-408. ProQuest. Web. 15 Apr. 2018. https://search.proquest.com/docview/213849369/49AA7163B9A74B5DPQ/7?accountid=10427
Dow, Mark. “Designed to Punish: Immigrant Detention and Deportation.” Social Research: An International Quarterly, vol. 74 no. 2, 2007, pp. 533-546. muse.jhu.edu/article/527529.
“Featured Victory,” Victories Amnesty International USA, https://www.amnestyusa.org/news/victories/
Levin, Dave. “Congress must act on a permanent DACA solution.” The Hill, 2018, http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/politics/367578-h-must-act-on-a-permanent-daca-solution
Quinn, Rand., Hopkins, Megan., and Bedolla, Lisa García. “The Politics of Immigration and Education” Educational Policy, vol 31, no. 6, 2017, pp 707 – 715, https://doi.org/10.1177/0895904817725729
Patler, Caitlin. and Branic, Nicholas. “Patterns of Family Visitation During Immigration Detention.” RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, vol. 3, no. 4, 2017, pp. 18-36. muse.jhu.edu/article/665559.
Schmid, Carol L. “Undocumented Childhood Immigrants, the Dream Act and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in the USA.” The International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, vol 33, no 11, 2013, pp 693-707. https://search.proquest.com/docview/1441350025/49AA7163B9A74B5DPQ/3?accountid=10427
Singh, Shipra., Schulz, Amy Jo., Neigbors, Harold W. and Friffith, Derek M. “Interactive Effect of Immigration-Related Factors with Legal and Discrimination Acculturative Stress in Predicting Depression Among Asian American Immigrants.” Community Mental Health Journal, vol 53, no. 6, 2017, pp 638–646, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10597-016-0064-9
13th. Directed by Ava DuVernay, Kandoo Films, 2016