Undocumented Immigrant People’s Rights
I am going to write about undocumented immigrant people’s rights in the United States. This topic is interesting because undocumented people face a lot of challenges when living in the United States and attempting to find their own American Dream. The Latino community in the United States has embraced the fight for migrant people’s rights for decades, and recently have become even more politically active in order to gain more rights for undocumented immigrants.
This topic is relevant because marginalized people seeking to gain rights is very important to the people seeking the rights themselves, and to future generations of people. The Chicano Movement of the 1960’s defined Chicano identity and empowered many Chicanos of that generation (both with citizenship and without) to stand up for themselves and their rights. Since the 1970’s, the Chicano Movement has lost its way, but Chicanos, and the problems affecting their communities have not vanished. An article by Mike Leyba, that was published in the Huffington post in late 2015, brings attention to the disparities in wealth, representation, and opportunities in Latino communities and calls for a “new Chicano Movement” to form as a response to these inequalities.
This topic is controversial because there are people who oppose the expansion of rights for undocumented immigrants. Not only are there people who oppose undocumented immigrant people’s rights, there are people who are actively working to further marginalize undocumented immigrants. It has been (re)discovered that racism is still prevalent in the United States today thanks to Donald Trump’s overt racism and the large following that he has gained from it. Donald Trump has specifically said he was planning on deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants. According to an article by BreitBart website, as of late April, Donald Trump has received over 8 million votes. So that means as of late April, there was 8 million people who may not have agreed with Donald Trump’s idea to deport 11 million people, but those 8 million people were complacent with the idea enough to vote for him. This also means that 8 million people have supported Donald Trump’s extreme nativism, which is rooted in racial discrimination. Donald Trump expresses his racism against Latinos as nativist ideas. Donald Trump, as well as other people who oppose undocumented immigration and immigrants use nativism and pro-border control sentiment as a legal way to express racially based oppression.
The first challenge within an undocumented person’s life in the United States is the labelling of “illegal immigrant”. The phrase “illegal” has been perpetuated in the media since the 1980’s and creates an automatic bias unfavorable to undocumented people. The term “illegal” is used to dehumanize undocumented immigrants and increase anti-Mexican sentiment among people already pre-dispositioned to conservative nativism and pride.
Another challenge undocumented people face in their lives in the United States is being mistreated in their jobs. An occupation that is easily accessible to undocumented immigrants is being a farm worker. While looking for work as a farm worker is not hard, the job itself is very physically and emotionally demanding. In addition to working one of the most demanding and laborious jobs of all time, farm workers are not often paid fair wages, and are often found to be victims of sexual assault. An article published in the New York Times states that female farmworkers make an average of $5,000 less than male farmworkers and that between 2010 and 2012 and of 200 female farmworkers, over half of them either had experienced sexual assault or knew someone who had. Farmworking jobs are jobs often held by undocumented immigrants who are vulnerable to mistreatment due to fear of deportation if they were to speak out.
Rights already held by undocumented immigrants consist of access to public services like education and emergency healthcare, and in California, the right to recieve a driver’s license. A new right recently given to undocumented immigrants in California is the expansion of healthcare to 170,000 undocumented immigrant children. An article published by a San Francisco newspaper, El Tecolote stated that as of May 1, children of undocumented immigrants had access to healthcare which meant for parents of immigrant children, one less thing to worry about. Undocumented people often do not have a lot of extra money to spend and enabling their children access to more affordable medical coverage allows for better overall health, and the resources to get vaccines, which are required for a child in California to attend school. These positive gains in rights for undocumented people alleviates some of the issues that have been affecting their communities for decades.
Recently also, more and more undocumented immigrants and children of undocumented immigrants have become even more outspoken and proud of their undocumented status. One high school valedictorian in Texas announced her status as undocumented in her high school graduation speech as an act of resistance and criticism of the immigration system within the United States today. The concept of empowerment through revealing undocumented status is not new, there are organizations like Define America and Immigrant Youth Justice League who focus on empowering people through becoming open about their own status.