Fighting Ethnocentrism with Ethics: How can we counteract our implicit biases about immigrants?

“Common Dreams”

“I had always hoped that this land might become a safe and agreeable asylum to the virtuous and persecuted part of mankind, to whatever nation they might belong.”
George Washington

(“Immigration Quotes from Great Americans.”)

An Introduction to my Topic:

Humans have been migrating around the globe since the beginnings of humans themselves, so now that we have created man made borders, why are immigrants who are seeking asylum in the US mistreated so horribly, and why do citizens hold such demoralizing prejudices about them? 

Immigrants make up about 14% of our population, which is approximately 40 million people (Radford). 40 million who know first hand the struggles of being discriminated against because of something they cannot control. Some of the most common misconceptions are that immigrants are taking away jobs, creating violence and increasing economic inequality due to the massive numbers of people who migrate illegally over our borders (“The 14 Most Common Arguments against Immigration and Why They’re Wrong.”).

I have always felt a sadness hearing that people who in their darkest hours are turned away at our borders for no apparent reason. Therefore, one of my goals in choosing this topic was to figure out what stereotypes US citizens have of immigrants that would lead them to have such a bad representation in the media, and why so many citizens of the US have no sympathy for people who are dying, literally, to enter our country.

Throughout this assignment I scrutinized the harsh legislation the United States created from the 1870’s through the 1920’s, which was considered the most rigid crackdown on immigration ever from the US. I focused on why it was implemented, as well as what morals or beliefs it was based off of and if we have a similar outlook on immigration today. At the bottom of this website there are solutions listed to help you, the audience, stop this moral crime.

Click here to read the rest of my personal interest essay!

What You Need to Know:

Legislation against the Immigration: A deep dive into how our federal government reacted to the first wave of immigration

The history of immigration in the United States dates back to the very beginning, as our country was created by migrants who fled Europe with the goal of finding a land of freedom. I decided to focus my historical research on the nativist legislation passed between in the 1870’s through the 1920’s because many of the biases and worries we currently face today are replicas of those seen during that time periods. Please click the link below to read about the history of this issue in depth:

Click here to read the rest of my historical research:

(“Visual Capitalist”) This graph represents the nationalities of immigrants coming to the United States over the past 190 years. It demonstrates beautifully how the migrants we are seeing today are very different places than the people who migrated over in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

For more information: “How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York”

If a picture is worth a thousand words, it would not be fair for me to not offer the audience photographs of how immigrants lived during this time period. Arguably one of the most famous photography books ever published was the first one ever to focus on the ugly side of life. Published in 1890, the book “How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York”, by photographer Jacob Riis did just that. Being an immigrant himself, he used his talent of writing to expose the hardships immigrants were facing after coming to America. However, he yearned to be able to illustrate a more complete picture, one not just of words, and taught himself photography. To see these perspective-altering photos for yourself, click on the link below:

“American Immigration Council”

Current Problem:

Overview: Even though the nationalities of immigrants coming into our country today look different than the faces that were most common in the past, they still face many of the same problems today. We are currently experiencing another large wave of immigrants which is accompanied by a uprising in nativist beliefs as well. Newer generations of immigrants are seen as “too different to assimilate” just like the Europeans were in the past (Young 228). Especially post September 11, 2001, our government and media sources regularly promote the ideas that refugees and undocumented immigrants are a threat to our country’s safety and security (Young 228). The countless false rumors about the danger and negative effects of immigrants unfairly become barriers to their success. Some of these beliefs include the concept of immigrants hurting the economy, taking away job opportunities from white citizens, taking advantage of government resources without paying taxes, and overall increasing crime rates and violence in the neighborhoods they reside in (“The 14 Most Common Arguments against Immigration and Why They’re Wrong.”).

Spotlighting an anti-discrimination group: One particular organization that has been very vocal about immigrant rights is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). They have an immigrant’s rights project called “Fairness for All” that defends immigrants from being mistreated through our government or justice system (“Fairness for All – The Work of the Immigrants’ Rights Project.”). The ACLU believes that “politically disenfranchised immigrants are an especially vulnerable group and are routinely denied these basic [natural] rights embodied in our Constitution and Bill of Rights” (“Fairness for All – The Work of the Immigrants’ Rights Project.”). The federal government does have control over the United States borders and the immigrants that are allowed to enter, however too many are deported from the country without a trial, let alone a fair and speedy one, which goes against the Constitution in multiple ways (“Fairness for All – The Work of the Immigrants’ Rights Project.”). The laws that discriminate against immigrants “promote distrust of immigrants, including those here legally, and fuel xenophobia” (“Fairness for All – The Work of the Immigrants’ Rights Project.”). Due to the image that the media portrays of immigrants, employers as well as medical staff feel like they have to judge the immigration status and the authenticity of the person and their legal documents because people are getting into the country illegally. The ACLU notes this as a major problem as it results in the “distrust of immigrants, including those here legally, and fuels xenophobia… [they are] refused employment, medical treatment and housing and harassed by the police” (“Fairness for All – The Work of the Immigrants’ Rights Project.”). Read more about the ACLU and their work below in “Macro Step #1 – Fixing the flawed government databases like E-Verify”

A real life story – Yazmin Juárez: Juárez was a mother seeking asylum after fleeing the violence in Guatemala with her young daughter Mariee in July of 2019. Mariee became sick with a fever, cough, diarrhea and vomiting and after her mother pleaded for treatment, the doctor gave her an ointment not recommended for children. Juárez explained that she “begged them to do deeper exams, but… [the detention facility’s medical staff] sent us back to our room,” (Joung). Mariee died due to the revolting treatment she received at the border and her mother is now suing the US government for 60 million dollars (Joung). Watch the video below for an insight into what these “camps” look like.

Link to “Present Day Problems and Solutions” Essay:

For Now:

Nativists to Activists: What we can do as individuals to combat our stigmas

Micro Step #1: Confront the Stigmas – Understanding the prejudices you possess by confronting them and putting in the time to see why they are false is critical. Then you can realize and confront them when one comes up in a conversation with friends or you think of it again. Everyone has implicit biases, it’s human to have them, but we need to acknowledge these biases are the reason people are dying and families are being ripped apart. Remember that you are just as much the perpetrator as the person spreading the fake news if you don’t intervene with the truth.

Please visit this website to learn more: 

Micro Step #2: Encourage all people to vote – In the 2016 presidential election, immigrants from Latin American cultures were projected to show up in huge numbers to vote (Young 230). People in the Latinx community primarily vote more liberally, but many immigrants are scared to vote or even get a job due to our flawed databases like E-Verify that commonly lead to long and expensive legal battles (see macro step #1).  If the amount of Latinx people voting increases, so will the possibility for “political mobilization against nativist legislation” (Young 230). Therefore by encouraging everyone to use their voice and vote, the bills we pass and politicians we elect will more accurately represent all of the American people.

Macro step #1: Fixing the flawed government databases like E-Verify – Immigrants often are exploited because they do not know the labor laws and are scared to go after their rights (“Fairness for All – The Work of the Immigrants’ Rights Project.”). Employment laws purposed to hurt undocumented immigrants end up negatively impacting documented immigrants as well. Most businesses must check potential employees against E-Verify, a database used by the federal government with ridiculously high error rates. If an error is found it commonly leads to an expensive and long legal battle to fix the database before the person can be hired. According to the ACLU’s Fairness for All campaign employers would rather not “…run the risk of suffering the laws’ penalties.. [and] would rather not hire individuals they perceive as foreign-born resulting in widespread employment discrimination.” 

Please read this website to read more about “Fairness for All – The Work of the Immigrants’ Rights Project.”:

Macro Step #2: Forcing the media to disclose the cost of nativism – One of the most common stereotypes about immigrants in general is that they hurt us economically, but if the media exposes the reality that nativism not immigrants hurt our economy, it would shine a more positive light on immigration. Nativism in earlier historic periods has cost the United States socially, culturally, financially and morally (Young 229). The deportation of primarily Mexican immigrants over the past century has led to no positive wage changes, yet has left so many people traumatized (Young 229). Under the Trump administration, the United States has lost a substantial amount of money because of immigrants being scared to attend college and tourism rates dropping due to a globally negative view of how America is treating foreigners. Unfortunately, thanks to biased news sources, those who would benefit the most from hearing these facts most likely listen to the media that portrays immigration as a threat to society due to America’s segmented news.

Before you go!

Now that you have a new understanding of America’s past and present situation in regards to immigration, check out this engaging website to see 37 different types of maps that show immigration in America!

Works Consulted Link:


Please leave any questions, feedback or critiques on my project, I would love to hear if my research resonated with you and moved you to action! Maybe you have a suggestion about my solutions or want to talk more about how you can help… I would love to talk to you all!

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