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California Surveys Immigrants to Learn About Discrimination

A study surveyed 2,000 Latino and Asian immigrants to better understand what drives social and health inequities. California is home to approximately one-quarter of the nation’s immigrant population.

(TNS) — Many Latino and Asian immigrants in California feel discrimination at work, in health care, when using government benefits and when encountering law or immigration enforcement, a study co-authored by a UC Merced faculty member found. And those experiences can take a toll on health and overall well-being, a lead researcher says.

Findings from the Research on Immigrant Health and State Policy Study (RIGHTS), released by UCLA, show Latino and Asian immigrants see their experience in California as negative, despite being in a state with more inclusive policies than others.

A total of 2,000 immigrants in California were surveyed, half of them Latino, half Asian. Respondents live in three regions: the Bay Area, the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.

Researchers focused on this demographic because the Golden State is home to about a quarter of the nation's immigrant population, with the majority being Latino (50 percent) and Asian (39 percent), according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

Findings from the RIGHTS survey were divided into two focuses.

For one, participants were asked about encounters with surveillance, policing or deportation by law and immigration enforcement. Specifically, respondents were asked if they:

— have seen immigration enforcement authorities in their neighborhood

— have stayed indoors to avoid law enforcement

— been watched by law enforcement

— been racially profiled by law enforcement

— been asked to prove citizenship

— know someone who has been deported.

Across all three regions, Latino immigrants reported higher rates of experiences with law enforcement than Asian immigrants.

The top two experiences shared among Latinos were (23 percent) staying indoors to avoid law enforcement and (42 percent) knowing someone who had been deported. The top two most common experiences among Asian immigrants include the latter, with 13 percent reporting knowing a deportee, and 10 percent claiming to have been racially profiled by law enforcement.

Further, immigrants who live in the San Joaquin Valley reported having more direct interactions with immigration and law enforcement than those in the Bay Area and Southern California. In the Valley, 17 percent of residents reported they have been racially profiled by law enforcement compared to 14 percent of those in Southern California and 12 percent of residents in the Bay Area.

Maria-Elena De Trinidad Young, assistant professor at UC Merced and co-author of RIGHTS, said believes California has done a good job at implementing inclusive immigrant policies. She feels the lower rates of immigration and law enforcement encounters reported by those living in the Bay Area and Southern California are a result of more proactive sanctuary policies there than in the Valley.

"I think the takeaway here is that we've done good work and there's more work to be done," Young said.

Discrimination Potentially Impacts Health



For the study's second focus, respondents were asked about their experiences in the workplace, accessing health care, using government benefits and encountering law or immigration enforcement. RIGHTS data show that a majority (70 percent) of Latino and Asian immigrants perceive discrimination in the workplace because of skin color and accent.

The data, broken down by race and ethnicity, show that more Latino immigrants (79 percent) feel this way than their Asian (58 percent) counterparts.

On the question of health care, more Latino immigrants (26 percent) than Asian immigrants (13 percent) felt they have unequal access.

Getting policymakers, community organizations and other stakeholders to understand the experience of immigrants is critical, said Nadereh Pourat, lead author of the report and associate director at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, in a news release. Previous research shows that aggressive immigration enforcement instills fear in immigrants, influencing immigrants to possibly forgo health care and other important services, she said.

"Those experiences can impact immigrants' health and overall well-being, which in turn can contribute to health inequity throughout our state and the country overall," Pourat said.

Immigrants (65 percent) also perceive that if they use government benefits, like income assistance, housing aid, health care and food programs, it will prevent them from gaining legal U.S. immigration status. Of the respondents, 72 percent of Latino immigrants agreed with that statement, compared to 55 percent of their Asian counterparts.

Further, Latino immigrants (54 percent) reported facing safety risks when calling the police for help and (75 percent) felt at risk of being stopped by immigration enforcement while traveling. Asian immigrants perceived those same experiences at 33 percent and 38 percent, respectively.

One perception that Asian immigrants report at higher proportions (46 percent) is not feeling safe from immigration enforcement in their neighborhoods, with only 37 percent of Latino respondents feeling the same. When it comes to immigration protection at a clinic and work, Latino and Asian immigrants responded at similar levels, less than 40 percent.

When analyzing the differences in negative perception by citizenship status, researchers found no differences but did determine there is a strong correlation between race/ethnicity and negative perceptions. The findings show there is potentially a disconnect between the inclusive immigrant policies in California, the implementation of those policies and the experiences of immigrants that come after the fact, researchers say.

Researchers said they believe that in order to lessen the disparities in the health of immigrants, underlying causes of immigrants' negative perceptions must be examined and addressed. The study acknowledges that immigration policy is health policy, said Young, the UC Merced professor.

She said health is shaped by our social environment, which immigration policy is a fundamental aspect of, determining the everyday rights and protections of undocumented people. When immigrants experience health issues, their environment may prevent them from seeking services if they lack trust and a feeling of being accepted.

Young said learning about the perceptions of immigrants is key to understanding the factors that drive persisting health inequities. "If we ignore the potential impact that immigration-related issues have on our communities, then we're probably not going to really be effective in promoting health," Young said.


(c)2021 The Modesto Bee (Modesto, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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