Three Myths about Latino Immigrants That It’s Time to Bust

Photo by Monivette Cordeiro

As a counseling professor, I train my students to ask their clients: “If you succeed in making the changes we’re talking about, what will be better?” So I have to ask: Has the President thought through the consequences of his actions on immigration?

America was built on positives. We didn’t become great by preventing, arresting, and deporting. Why does the President want us to return to a past we never had? Is it even possible to build something great while focusing on tearing down or walling off?

I’ve conducted more than two decades of research on population studies, and here’s what I can tell you about Latino stereotypes: It’s time to get rid of them. The fact is, immigration is at the core of America’s greatness, and Latinos are very much a part of that greatness.

Here are some of the key facts from analyses of Census data that I’ve done with my colleague Jorge Garcia and from other sources:

First, Latinos do share our culture and do adapt.

The wall-builders say that “Latinos don’t share our culture and won’t adapt — they just aren’t like us.” But in the past, some Americans said the same thing about each wave of Irish, Italian, and Polish immigrants.

Research shows that after three generations of being here, Latinos look remarkably similar to those previous immigrant groups. (Of course, most Latinos in the US aren’t immigrants but have been here for many generations – much longer than many other groups.)

Like Americans in general, Latinos are more likely to live in big cities and are more likely to be married. Like earlier generations of immigrants from Europe, they have a preference for coastal cities and their families are slightly bigger than average.

Latinos are on average younger. However, that’s a big benefit for a US population that would otherwise find it much more difficult to grow the economy and pay for programs like Social Security that are based on younger people funding older people.

Second, Latinos are not criminals.

Several studies have failed to show any relationship between immigrant presence and increased crime rates. In fact, a recent study showed that areas with the most immigrants have lower crime rates. It’s important to remember that to be here without documents is a civil violation not a crime; think of it as the equivalent of traffic tickets.

Third, Latinos are not taking your jobs.

The biggest difference between Latinos and the total US population is in their types of occupations. In both 2000 and 2010, the majority of Americans overall were employed in managerial and sales jobs. For Latinos, the majority were employed in either low-level white collar or blue collar occupations, both skilled and unskilled. So, are they taking our jobs? Not as long as these types of occupational differences persist. And yesterday’s Day Without Immigrants protest is a prime example of this fact.

When Latinos do what other immigrants did and become more educated, they’ll move up and start taking some of those white collar jobs. And that will be a very good thing for America, because we’re already looking at huge shortages of educated people as the baby boomers retire.

Are Latinos a drain on our society because they use social services? They do use services, but also contribute significantly to the tax base that pays for those services.

Other Americans, for example those in rust belt states with aging populations, use a lot more services than Latinos, and already are benefiting from younger people supporting the tax base.

Sadly, Latinos who are undocumented, provide an especially big boost to the economy – they pay the taxes but aren’t eligible for benefits. These aren’t the only myths about Latinos. Language acquisition? Same as previous immigrants. Educational attainment? If Latinos get to college they tend to major in similar disciplines as the rest of the country. Military service? Latinos have a long tradition of serving in the US military.

Even the causes of death are similar for the total US population as for Latinos – both die from the same top diseases: heart disease and cancer. Many Latinos, especially in border areas, have retained the ability to speak Spanish. But English is their primary language and American culture –from sports to movies – is the only one they know or care about.

Begging the question of whether it’s possible to build greatness by tearing things down, the obvious conclusion is that Latinos are more like other Americans than they are different. Let’s build relationships and not walls.

The Intersection Between the Worldwide Refugee Crisis and Human Trafficking

Bilal Hussein/AP

The worldwide refugee crisis, largely spurred by the historic mass migration of people from war-torn Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries, are seeking refuge around the world. Many of these individuals are unaccompanied minors and are at even greater risk of exploitation with no social support from their family and sometimes no support from the host country where they are seeking refuge. Some of these individuals have been targeted by human traffickers who are taking this opportunity to exploit their vulnerability.

Many unaccompanied refugee youth have entered the sex industry in Greece as a result having no other means to support themselves. Many are teenage boys, a group often overlooked as potential sex trafficking victims, are trading sex to meet their basic needs. Many of these youth have nowhere to stay and no way to support themselves. This is a commonality with many runaways in the United States that are lured into the sex industry with the promise of a having some place to stay. CNN also reported there are around 1200 unaccompanied minors living on the streets of Greece with no place to stay—but it is believed to be much higher.

Other reports suggest approximately 10,000 unaccompanied refugee minors are unaccounted for and may have been trafficked by underground criminal networks. The United Kingdom is proposing to halt unaccompanied refugee minors entry into the country after only accepting 350 of them. Advocates fear this move will lead to an increase in human trafficking while leaving them with no formal support system and no ability to stay in their war-torn home countries.

Meanwhile, in the United States unaccompanied refugee minors from Central America and other countries are also at risk. In 2014, several unaccompanied refugee minors from Central America were accidentally released by a shelter to human traffickers and forced to work on an egg farm in Ohio where traffickers threatened to kill them if they left. When historic numbers of unaccompanied minors entered the US in 2014, there was an increase in trafficking visas issued to children as traffickers once again exploited this vulnerable population.

In Iraq and Syria, ISIS has been targeting the religious minority Yazidi, forcing them to flee as refugees. Many of the women and girls have been captured by ISIS militants and forced to ‘marry’ or are used as sex slaves for the men. Again, like other victims of human trafficking, the women and girls are systematically raped and traded among ISIS fighters. The New York Times estimates that 3,144 Yazidi women and girls are still being held captive. One courageous Yazidi woman escaped her captivity and has been telling her story to bring awareness of the
others that are still being held captive.

Human trafficking is an exploitation of vulnerability and refugees can be among the most vulnerable populations. As a result, it is necessary that providers be aware of the potential risk factors leading to trafficking, be able to identify and assess for trafficking, and be able to provide trauma-informed care to those that may have been trafficked. This is a clear issue of social justice and re-emphasizes the humanitarian necessity of assisting vulnerable refugee populations—particularly children. Likewise, policy can be crucial in providing the resources to
support refugee populations that may be at risk.

With the scale of the problem being so vast, complex, and multi-faceted, it can feel like any effort at combatting this issue cannot possibly make an impact. Yet, social workers are at the intersection of mental health, the medical field, the justice system and the school system as well as various social service agencies. Social workers may likely be the first to identify a trafficking victim which places us in a unique position to make a real difference for this population.

What can you do to help?

    • Educate yourself on the issue of human trafficking and let others know what you’ve learned. Attend a workshop or training on this issue.
    • Learn how to assess whether an individual may be trafficked. As a social worker, you may be the first person to identify a potential trafficking victim.
    • If you think someone may be trafficked report a tip to the Polaris Project hotline: at 1888-373-7888.
    • Host a film screening on the human trafficking to raise awareness, such as A Path Appears.
    • Make a donation to an agency working with survivors. Tangible needs for survivors of human trafficking may include: clothing, toiletries, money for rental assistance/getting a first apartment, bus passes. This can include international agencies working with survivors.
    • Survivors of human trafficking also have long-term needs in order for them to become self-sufficient. This may include GED classes or ESL classes, medical services, counseling services, job placement services and immigration services. Consider whether your agency may be willing to help provide some of these services for survivors.
    • Become a mentor for a survivor. Continue to advocate for vulnerable refugee populations around the world, particularly unaccompanied minors who may be at the greatest risk. Educate others on the worldwide refugee crisis and our responsibility as social workers to take a role in addressing this issue as one of social justice.

While it is an audacious goal, we must aspire to end human trafficking in our time and renew our commitment to serving vulnerable refugee populations. As abolitionist William Wilberforce is quoted as saying, “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”

Trump Administration’s Orders Pose Harm to Refugees, Immigrants, Academic Research and International Exchange, According to Psychologists

Iranian psychologists in American Psychological Association (APA) Convention From left to right: Sheava Rahimi, Dr. Mehrpouyan, Dr. Fakhrabadi, Dr. Modarressi, Dr. Pakdaman, Peyman Raoofi

WASHINGTON – While safeguarding the nation from terrorist entry is of critical national importance, the Trump administration’s proposed restrictions on refugees and other visitors are likely to compound the stress and trauma already experienced by populations at risk for discrimination, limit scientific progress and increase stigma, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).

APA voiced concern regarding the executive order issued Jan. 27 that suspends all refugee admissions for 120 days, more than halves to 50,000 the number of refugees to be admitted in 2017, indefinitely blocks all refugees from Syria, and bars entry for 90 days to individuals from seven Muslim-majority countries.

“Refugees, particularly those displaced from war zones, experience stress, trauma and other serious mental health problems,” said APA President Antonio E. Puente, PhD. “Denying them entry to the United States, particularly those who have already been vetted, is inhumane and likely to worsen their suffering. This conclusion is based on extensive research and clinical experience, as well as my own personal past.”

Such policies can lead to a perception of reduced freedom, safety and social connection for those directly affected, as well as for society at large. APA urged the administration also to consider the importance of allowing international students and psychologists with proper documentation to enter the United States. The restrictions to entry will prevent many international students and scientists from studying, working or attending conferences in the United States, curbing the nation’s ability to benefit from global scientific talent, according to APA. They will also impede the international engagement of scientists living in this country who are not U.S. citizens.

APA also took exception to an executive order issued on Jan. 25 that would make it easier to deport immigrants. Research has documented serious mental health consequences for immigrant children and/or their parents who have been forced to leave the United States, which may magnify earlier trauma experienced in or upon fleeing their country of origin. Sudden and unexpected family separation is associated with negative outcomes on child well-being that can last well into adulthood.

The president’s executive order on immigration could lead to expanding family detention centers, according to APA. Immigration detainees are more vulnerable to psychological stress, compared to those in the community. The longer the detention period, the greater the risk of depression and other mental health symptoms for immigrants who were previously exposed to interpersonal trauma.

“The United States has historically served as a safe haven for the world’s refugees and a destination for those interested in the educational and employment opportunities that our nation offers, as it did for me,” Puente said. “We must strive to develop ways to secure our borders from those very few who wish to harm us while continuing to welcome others who come to our shores in peace.”

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA’s membership includes nearly 115,700 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives.

The Many Faces of Latino

Time Is Now Immigration Rally in DC

When I was about 14 years old, I started to really notice that my family was different from others. I always knew I did not fit the stereotypical Hispanic or Colombian image. I am not 5’3’’ with brown skin and curly hair. I am 5’ 7’’ with straight hair and pale freckled skin which means no one ever took me for Hispanic. We did not face as much as teasing however we were called “wetbacks”, “Drug Traffickers” and “Mexicans”, and many Latinos are called far worse. Not to say for us being called “Mexican” was bad, but we were not from Mexico.

Latinos come in all shapes and sizes and colors much like in the African-American culture. The lighter skin color a Latino has society perceives them to be the more attractive. The media messages about Latinos from political media and entertainment sources seem to paint a picture of the cartels who traffic drugs, angry women who are abused by their husbands, and Macho husbands who drink too much and party all of the time.  Others perceive us as immigrants who will cross the border and bankrupt the economy because they send money to their homeland in order to bring drugs into the country. What can the average listener or viewing audience get from these messages?

Are violence and drug abuse only common among Latinos? Is domestic violence normal in Latino families? When thinking about what it means to be Latino in the United States. First, People need to understand the origin of the word Latino and what it really means. Latino means being a descendant of Latin America which is comprised of Mexico, Central America, and South America. Hispanic is another term which is often used to describe individuals who are Spanish-speaking but are not from Spain. However, neither terms correctly denote race and ethnicity.

Latinos are a group people of whose origins are from Latin America which could mean Mexican and Proud, Colombian and Proud, Puerto Rican and Proud, or from any other Spanish-speaking country proud of that heritage. This is no different from Caucasian people who celebrate being Irish or share their pride in their family’s background from the “old country”.

An interesting part for social workers to discover is that if a Latino has lived in the United States of America for a while not only are Latino, they are American!

The Daily Show captured the essence of this story. They spoke to immigrants about the Immigration Bill by reminding people that Latinos are people, and don’t lump us all together.

Photo Credit: (April 10, 2013) Scenes from the “Time Is Now” Immigration Reform Rally at the US Capitol. ~ Washington, DC ~ Photo by David Sachs / SEIU Read more: Follow us: @RYOTnews on Twitter | RYOTnews on Facebook

ID’s for All: A New Greensboro North Carolina Initiative

Amanda Huber MSW, Staff Writer

Faith Action International House has been building bridges in Greensboro, North Carolina for over 15 years ago by diversity and faith leaders. Faith Action employs immigrants and works for the immigrant population through interfaith and intercultural means. Immigrants from all over the world have made Greensboro their home and over 100 languages can be found in the Greensboro community. This is a result of Greensboro’s long history of refugee resettlement. Why is this important?

Greensboro is cultivating a community of immigrants through a collaboration of efforts by Faith Action International House, The Greensboro Police Department, and other religious groups in the community.  A non-citizen ID is being created to assist undocumented people who require identification to receive a  photo identification card. It is important to note that this ID is only valid within Greensboro, and it does not provide the same protections as a driver’s license. However,  it is apart of the process to cultivate relationships with immigrant populations.

The ID with Faith Action works in the following way. It is valid with the Greensboro Police Department and it allows people with the ID to not feel afraid of being taken into custody because of their lack of a photo ID, and it allows the police to feel confident that the person is who they say they are. The ID will not protect against ticketing, but it will protect against being held in police custody which may result in a call to Immigration and Custom Enforcement. The city police department is on board, and Faith Action hopes to get other institutions on board with this new initiative.

Why Else Would Anyone Want an ID?

photo credit: Victor L Antunez via photopin cc
photo credit: Victor L Antunez via photopin cc

American culture is focused on verifying who a person is. Being a part of the mainstream American culture requires identification. Picking up prescription drugs for the first time requires an ID, going to the library and getting a library card requires an ID, and hospitals prefer an ID to be on file.  Employers want to know who you are, although now this issue has been dealt with by utilizing the E-Verify program. Banks have their own rules about cashing checks which require some sort of identification.

When Can I get an ID?

Obtaining this ID is simple. It costs $10, and all you do is sit through an orientation where the details are explained. On ID day you bring your paperwork, a bill verifying your address, and a picture from a passport, school ID, work permit, or anything that confirms your face matches your name.

The next massive Faith Action ID day is in August.

Visit Faith Action’s Homepage for more information about the next mass orientation and ID day or go to their facebook page for updates.


The Role of Social Workers: Impact in Numbers

By assisting the most disadvantaged members of their communities, the role of social workers are to act as change agents, revitalizing lives, and improving communities. These professionals serve in many different sectors of society, providing services and resources that empower people and promote self-healing.

Role of Social Worker ImageIn 2011, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported that 636,017 individuals were homeless in the United States. While this number is staggering, it was a decrease from 2009 of approximately 7,000 individuals, due in large part to the services provided by federal, state and local programs. Social workers continue to strive to end homelessness by providing evidenced based and cost effective interventions such as assistance obtaining housing, education and employment.

Programs such as Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program (HPRP) assisted more than 700,000 people in 2010 alone. This program provided funding for resources offered by non-profit human service organizations in local communities, and those programs, in turn, provided assistance that reduced and prevented homelessness. While our society still has a long way to go if we hope to end the homeless epidemic, social workers continue to play a large part in finding the solution.

Another sector of society served by social workers is the immigrant population. Social workers assist both legal and illegal immigrants in many different ways, including advocating for improved working conditions, providing adults and youth with education, accessing resources to meet healthcare needs, meeting children’s needs when their caregivers are detained due to immigration status and assisting immigrants of all ages in learning the English language. According to the Census Bureau, immigrants in the United States account for one in eight residents. Of these immigrants, approximately one in three reside in the country illegally. When considering adult immigrants, approximately 31 percent have not achieved a high school diploma, 34 percent lack health insurance and 17 percent live at or below the poverty line.

It is believed that the high rates of poverty and increased need for welfare programs in this population is due in large part to their lack of education. Immigrants are often detained for non-violent offenses, separating them from their children and leaving those children without any emotional or financial support system. This is a growing problem in America, and more than 33,400 immigrant detention beds exist in the criminal justice system to date. The role of a social worker is crucial in these situations, as social workers are often the only individuals advocating for the parents and attempting to reunite the family if a release is negotiated. The National Association of Social Workers states that, while the very nature of these individuals being illegal means that few statistics exist showing the benefits of social worker’s actions when it comes to United States immigrants, there is no doubting these contributions are essential in improving lives and empowering individuals.

Social workers are able to make a drastic difference, sometimes life saving, for children in our society. This is particularly true when they provide services to young victims of abuse or neglect and their families. In the United States, approximately 6 million children suffer from abuse or neglect according to Childhelp. This is the worst record of any industrialized nation. More than five children die every day as a result of injury imposed by a caregiver or other adult. Approximately one third to two thirds of these reports are initiated or impacted by caregiver substance abuse. As a result, social workers take on many roles in preventing and resolving child abuse cases.

Case management professionals in Child Protective Services receive approximately 3.4 million referrals related to child abuse cases. Of these, 60.8 percent are screened in according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Screened in cases are assisted through interventions including case management, referrals to community resources and family counseling. Substance abuse counselors often work with abusers to resolve alcohol and drug abuse problems and improve parenting skills. Child abuse prevention programs are offered in schools, educating children on the importance of reporting abuse. Social workers also advocate on the state and federal level for new programs that protect children.

The services that social workers provide benefit many of the most disadvantages members of our communities. By providing necessary services to these individuals, lives are improved and crimes are prevented. As the needs of society increase, so will the need for qualified individuals ready to tackle the demands that social workers see every day.

1. The State of Homelessness In America 2012. Retrieved August 3, 2013, from

2. Federal Aid Behind Homelessness Decreases. Retrieved August 3, 2013, from

3. Immigration Issues. Retrieved August 3, 2013, from

4. Camarota, Steven. Immigration In The United States 2007. Retrieved August 3, 2013, from

5. Bess, Amy. The Impact of Immigration Detention on Children and Families. Retrieved August 3, 2013, from

6. National Child Abuse Statistics. Retrieved August 3, 2013, from

7. Child Maltreatment 2011. Retrieved August 3, 2013, from

8. How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor. Retrieved August 3, 2013, from

Pathway to Citizenship is good for North Carolina’s Economy

By Shoshannah Sayers, Deputy Director

no_human_being_is_illegalProviding a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants could increase jobs and incomes in North Carolina, according to a new state-by-state analysis.

The nonpartisan Regional Economic Models Inc. examined the potential impact of the immigration-reform legislation that recently passed the U.S. Senate and found a positive effect in North Carolina.

According to the report, if undocumented immigrants in North Carolina get legal status,  it will boost productivity in the state by adding at least 3,421 more jobs in the first year.

In 2014, the expansion would add more than $500 million to Gross State Product and increase personal income by $290 million.

At a time when  NC loses its prestigious placement in CNBC’s Top 10 States for Business Growth , comprehensive immigration reform could be a pathway out of economic woes as well.

At the national level, the study estimates that “the Pathway to Legal Status policy will increase total United States employment by 123 thousand in 2014, increasing to 594 thousand net new U.S. jobs by 2018. Gross domestic product is expected to increase by $10.32 billion in 2014 and $49.93 billion in 2018. As the policy does not change the number of immigrants, but only affects the legal status of current, undocumented immigrants residing in the U.S., the total number of actual people living in the U.S. is not significantly affected by this policy. Employment increases as a result of the Pathway to Legal Status policy, as wage gains and corresponding productivity increases add to U.S. economic activity. In 2014, personal income rises by more than $19 billion, gross domestic product (GDP) goes up $10 billion, and employment increases by 123 thousand.”

This appears to be a situation where a rising tide lifts all boats.

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For more information on your State, visit the study  or Public News Service for coverage of the results in other states. .

Marriage Equality for LGBT Immigrants

Yesterday, the LGBTQ Community celebrated the end of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). However, the pathway to marriage equality has additional barriers for LGBT immigrants. While some celebrated the basic acknowledgment of their relationships, others like Sean Brooks and his husband Steve celebrated the end of deportation proceedings.

While DOMA was in effect, same sex married couples faced separation when their partner’s visas expired.  For other LGBTQ Immigrant couples like Christina and Eve, their family was strained because DOMA denied them the ability to petition for a green card. Christina who is a veteran married Eve who is an immigrant, and DOMA did not afford them the same rights and privileges as heterosexual couples. With the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, the elimination of DOMA marks another leap toward marriage equality.

In the gang of  8’s immigration legislation, an amendment to include same sex couples in immigration reform was shot down by the political voices of Lindsay Graham and Marco Rubio.

“Can you imagine pitting the L.G.B.T. community against the Hispanic community?” an aide to Senator Robert Menendez, a member of the Gang of Eight, told me before the vote. “Are we crazy?”

The end of DOMA signals the end of oppression for the LGBTQ community in many aspects of American culture; specifically for immigration proceedings- what should families know? ~ The New Yorker

Immigration Equality set out to write a checklist of what families should know. At  the top of that list is the confirmation that same sex couples be able to apply for green cards and be allowed to apply even if the state of application does not recognize marriage equality.

In an interview with Kevin Johnson, Dean of the UC Davis School of Law and an immigration law expert, he stated the legalities were quite complicated.

“It’s far easier to change the law to recognize same-sex marriages than to wait for the courts to do it,” he said.

It’s not likely this will occur via immigration reform, though. Senate Judiciary Committee members opposed to Leahy’s original amendment in May said they feared it could bring down the entire bill. His latest amendment faced slim chances of getting a floor vote, and most likely won’t in light of the Supreme Court decision.

The Senate could vote on the immigration package as early as this week, and there’s a good possibility it will be approved. But all bets are off in the Republican-led House, which has yet to come up with its own comprehensive immigration plan.

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