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Fighting Anti-Immigrant Hate & Xenophobia
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Content Warning

The following section contains content of the past and current existence and examples of white supremacist/anti-immigrant rhetoric and prejudice across different racial and ethnic groups. This content may be sensitive to those of a minority racial and/or ethnic background, as well as those who align with an immigrant identity.

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Outdoor demonstration in San Francisco. Prominent sign reads "Stop Separating Families"
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Definitions

  • Xenophobia: fear of strangers, specifically intersecting with racism and white supremacy, manifesting in hatred and discrimination of immigrants or those perceived to be outside the norm of American whiteness. 
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What is happening? 

With the emergence of the global pandemic of novel coronavirus (COVID-19), you may have seen on the news, witnessed, or personally experienced, increasing reports of anti-immigrant and xenophobic hate crimes. Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) have been targeted, harassed, and blamed for COVID-19. Latinx communities continue to face constant threat and increased reports of hate crimes in relation to ongoing U.S. Border Policy. Anti-immigrant sentiment is institutionalized in racist and anti-immigrant policies. In distributing government stimulus checks during COVID-19, checks were withheld from Americans who did not hold a social security number despite having  paid taxes for years.  

In fact, immigrants and refugees, particularly those without documentation, are targeted for labor exploitation and harassment. Additionally, undocumented immigrants live in fear of deportation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). If detained by ICE, undocumented immigrants are transported to detention centers, where they are forced to live in inhumane conditions and are vulnerable to abuse from ICE officers everyday. Recipients of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) sometimes called “Dreamers”, who arrived to the country at a young age and under DACA are protected from deportation and allowed to obtain work permits,  continually fear being deported despite growing up in U.S. society and contributing to U.S. culture and economy. 

These issues permeate Stanford culture, policies, and community members’ lives. From hate crimes targeting undocumented immigrants to the hate crimes faced by Asian and Asian Americans in the face of COVID-fueled xenophobia, the Stanford campus is not immune anti-immigrant discrimination. 

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Why is this happening? 

While the worsening of the COVID-19 crisis has sparked a disturbing increase of anti-immigration and xenophobic sentiment, particularly for Asians, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, xenophobia has historically manifested in hate towards all groups deemed to be different. As different waves of colonization conquered the world, constructs of race and racial superiority gained widespread popularity to rationalize the domination, enslavement, and subjugation of other peoples while keeping wealth and power in the hands of a few. Thus, ideas and values of white supremacy became synonymous with definitions of American culture despite, and in fact in direct erasure of, Native Americans who were the original stewards of the land named the United States of America, the enslaved Africans brought to the U.S., and the varied waves of migrants from all parts of Europe. In order to protect the power and wealth of the ruling, white class, ideas of who belongs and who is “other” continue to evolve and be enforced.  

Political cartoon. Large wall reads "The 'Chinese Wall' Around the United States of America". There are people on top of the wall, a ladder leaning against it, and people who appear to be Chinese at the bottom of the wall.

This ongoing conflation of whiteness and Americanness can be traced through “scientific” modes of thought, legislation, and social movements. Eugenics, the faux science of racial hierarchy, was used to show racial inferiority of anyone not descended from Christian, Anglo-Saxon stock. This “scientific” thought underlined the mistreatment and abuse of anyone deemed as different, from those with disabilities to immigrants. From the early 1800’s the US government’s policies to assimilate Native populations, asserting that the only way that Native Americans could exist within U.S. society was to erase Native culture entirely and replace it with “American” values to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 which was the first U.S. law to bar immigration solely based on race to the 1921 Emergency Quota Act and the Immigration Act of 1924 which restricted immigration of people from Africa and Eastern and Southern Europe, policies and political rhetoric has continually held up beliefs about who is valued as a part of American society and who does not belong. Social movements and cultural practices have upheld these notions of white supremacy, “Americanness”, and the “Other” as well. From the discrimination and prejudice faced by Irish, Jewish, and Eastern Europeans to Orientalism’s othering and rejecting of Middle Easterners and Muslims to the scapegoating of immigrants, the financial and social structures of the United States continued to bar undesirable and “unAmerican”, non-White peoples from equality, equity, and opportunity.   

Someone not pictured is holding a blue sign that says "2 out of 3 in US support DACA and Dreamers". In the background, you can see the US Capitol.

These discriminatory ideas and oppressive laws and policies persist today. Common language used to describe immigrants as “aliens” and notions of immigrants “stealing American jobs” perpetuates these white supremacist thoughts. Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) have been portrayed as the “perpetual foreigner”, outsiders who don’t belong and have other loyalties as evident in the Japanese Internment camps and the recent wave of anti-Asian hate and sinophobia. Anti-Immigrant sentiment exponentially jumped after events like 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan. In recent attempts to end DACA and justify separating families at the US Border, immigrants have largely been vilified and face increased hate crimes and are told “don’t come” to the United States. 

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What can I do? 

Honor Intersectionality

Being in solidarity with a community against oppression requires both an intersectional lens and ongoing praxis. We know from the main anti-hate landing page that oppressions intersect. To fight one type of oppression would be incomplete without continuing to learn about and fight the other interlocking oppressions that target and magnify the harm experienced by individuals and communities. For example, to fight for immigrant rights would also include fighting for racial justice since those who are most impacted by oppressive systems are typically folx of color. Second, to fight against these systems takes continued learning and continued self-care; social justice work necessitates humility, ongoing education, and self-preservation. Taking care of ourselves ensures that we can continually and sustainably strive for liberation. 

Educate yourself

Explore local and national organizations that work in immigrant and refugee advocacy. Follow immigration activists and advocates on social media. Continue to learn about how xenophobia has pervaded U.S. policy and society and how it manifests now. 

Vote

One of our most powerful tools is our ability to change the systems that impact immigration policy, treatment of immigrants, and protections for migrants. Vote in your local, state, and federal elections and make sure to consider the suggestions of organizations that work tirelessly on behalf of immigrants when you do. 

Show your support

Immigrant and citizenship status may not be visible or disclosed, especially in spaces and groups for fear of prejudice and hatred. Being vocal about your support for immigrants, refugees, and DACA recipients alike can signal to folks that you support them in their experiences. Some ways to outwardly show support are: 

  • Get involved with reputable organizations that do advocacy work.
  • Use the 4 step speak up method to respond when you hear anti-immigrant sentiments
  • Make sure your support is centering immigrant and refugee voices. Check the source of the things you are retweeting, or and ask yourself before proposing a solution, “Is this what immigrants, DREAMers, and refugees are saying they want and need?”
  • Check out the United We Dream Toolkits to explore a number of ways to be an ally.

Take Care 

Photo of a demonstration. People are holding signs reading, "Close the camps", "Stop separating families," "Nobody is illegal on stolen land", and "freedom for immigrants"

If you, yourself are an immigrant, refugee, DACA recipient or identify with an undocumented status, it is important to practice self-care, recognize the specific factors affecting mental health of immigrants, and prioritize your mental well-being. The National Latinx Psychological Association created this mental health guide for DACA recipients and undocumented immigrants, but it has many translatable mental health check in steps that anyone can utilize. As an immigrant, it is not your duty or your responsibility to teach others, or take on every advocacy project related to immigrant rights. You may also consider some on-campus resources available to you: