Are Stereotypes About Immigrants True?

Image from La Santa Cecilia just released a video featuring migrant farm workers


When you read a news story about immigrants, who do you think about? When you form a political opinion or debate with your friends regarding immigration, do you think of the stories of the people who’ve come to this country? Do you imagine who they are and how they might feel?

So many of us simply follow our chosen political party when we decide our stance on issues. I am guilty of following my party line on certain topics. Are you?

When we think of immigrants, oftentimes the political arguments – the black-and-white philosophies – we’ve been fed by our favorite journalists and commentators and Facebook posts trump the deeper perspective we may gain by taking time to consider the wide variety of experiences that belong to the enormous category of “immigrants.”

It’s easy to cling fast to the ideas we’ve been trained to believe about immigrants, such as:

    “They’re criminals.”

    “They don’t pay taxes.”

    “They drain welfare and social programs without paying for those programs.”

    “They take jobs from Americans.”

    “They don’t benefit us.”

And if you follow fringe journalism, “They are ebola terrorists.”

While some of these statements are true of some immigrants, some of these statements are also true of some Americans. The truth is a much more complex animal than stereotypes can possibly convey.

Many immigrants come to this country not seeking handouts but seeking opportunity. In fact, a recent Barclays Report by John Tozzi found that first generation immigrants are 27% more likely to start their own businesses than U.S.-born Americans. Many undocumented immigrants pay taxes into Social Security and Medicare but are never entitled to a dime of that money. According to a Washington Post article by Roberto A. Ferdman, undocumented immigrants contributed $183 billion to Medicare between 1996-2011, compared to negative $69 billion by U.S.-born Americans.

Many immigrants are moral people who place great importance on family and hard work. Are they criminals? A 2008 study by the Public Policy Institute of California found that U.S.-born adult men are incarcerated at a rate over two-and-a-half times greater than that of foreign-born men.

Many immigrants take on jobs that Americans do not want to do, such as farm labor. Without immigrants, these jobs would go unfilled.

Let none of us forget that the rainbow of colors in our supermarket’s produce section is largely available to us due to the work of migrant farm workers. Without these farm workers, our access to fruits and vegetables grown on U.S. soil would be compromised.

As we debate for or against immigration legislation, may we consider that the full picture of “American immigrants” is built of diverse stories, a variety of faces and shades of gray filling the cracks between black-and-white political speak. May we remember their humanity and our own.

As we walk down the aisles of the grocery store, may we have gratitude for the hands that harvested our food. The following video, released Monday, by La Santa Cecilia reminds us of the importance of migrant farm workers to our food supply. A remake of The Beatles’ song, “Strawberry Fields Forever”, this video moves backwards in time, from a person using strawberries to decorate a dessert all the way to the worker picking the fruit. As you watch this video, I encourage you to think of all the ways the immigrants of the past and present have benefited the economy of our country and the daily reality you inhabit.

Migrant farm worker in La Santa Cecilia's Strawberry Fields Forever video


Watch video here: La Santa Cecilia’s “Strawberry Fields Forever” video

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