Stanford experts affirm that, despite its portrayal in the U.S. media as a Latino—or even Mexican—issue, undocumented immigration in the U.S. affects a diverse set of nationalities and that in fact, Mexican migration to the States is on the decline.
According to Leo Chavez A.M.’76 Ph.D. ‘82, who is currently a professor of Anthropology at UC-Irvine, there are 1.2 million Asian and 300,000 Eastern European unauthorized immigrants living in the United States.
He added that although 40 percent of undocumented immigration comes from elsewhere, extensive media focus on detentions and the arrest of unauthorized Mexican immigrants by border patrol have transformed Mexico into the iconic nationality for all types of unauthorized migration to the United States.
“Obviously these detention rates are skewed because they target the Mexican flow across the border,” Chavez said. “Other groups might be able to get in more easily because they aren’t so visibly recognized or seen as undocumented.”
Stanford Assistant Professor of Sociology Tomas Jimenez, whose research has focused on immigration, social mobility and assimilation, noted the stigma that even Latino families who have been legally situated in the United States for generations must face due to this widespread perception.
Chavez calls this dominating association of illegal immigration a “historically constructed set of ideas” influenced by the Immigration Act of 1924.
To further demonstrate a broader ethnic voice, current demands for immigration reform come from a variety of nationalities, including both Latino and Asian populations.
Katherine Nasol ‘15, member of the Pilipino American Student Union (PASU) on campus and an attendee at the 4th International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees in New York City, personally advocates for this reform.
Despite the stigma surrounding legal status among the Filipino-American population, she stressed Stanford’s collective responsibility to reach out to these individuals.
“Our campus needs to move forward, listen to the stories of those affected and connect how the status of these students are affected by larger systemic problems such as forced migration and racial discrimination in our current legal system,” Nasol said. “Media and social attention is just one of the many tools we can use to shed light on these unheard stories.”
While movements like those of the DREAMers and Revolutionizing Asian American Immigrant Stories (RAISE) work toward immigration reform, both Jimenez and Chavez said Mexican immigration to the United States is declining in general.
A variety of factors, including American hostilities toward unauthorized immigrants and an improving Mexican economy, have reduced the flow of Mexicans to the United States and increased the number of those who are moving back to Mexico.
“Given the historical immigration from Mexico and our still large dependence on Mexican labor and that from other Latin American countries, I imagine that these countries will remain dominant in proportion to the overall unauthorized immigrant population, but I can definitely see it decline in that dominance,” Jimenez said.
Contact Sarah Moore at smoore6 ‘at’ stanford.edu.