CU Prof Seeks to Debunk Immigration Myths

Arturo Aldama would like to see the mainstream immigration debate shift from xenophobic ranting to a discussion of the facts.The impassioned and unfriendly debate that has thwarted recent attempts to overhaul our outdated and dysfunctional immigration system relies in large part on racially charged stereotypes and ignores the history and reality of immigration to the United States.

That was the message Arturo Aldama hoped to convey to about 60 students assembled for a workshop on the Auraria campus Tuesday. 

“We see over and over from politicians and mainstream media this equation of immigrants and crime, immigrants and terrorism, immigrants and public benefits,” said Aldama, a professor of ethnic studies at CU Boulder. “Most of the anti-immigrant positions are completely un-factual; it’s basically hate-mongering, in my opinion.” 

Aldama’s workshop, “We Are Not Criminals: Facts and Myths on Latina/o Immigration,” highlighted some of the arguments commonly heard in support of immigration restriction and the empirical evidence that he says refutes such claims. 

Increasingly, the discussion over immigration centers on immigrants’ use of public services likes education, health care and welfare. But according to Aldama, who has compiled research on the subject, the average immigrant pays 22 times more money to the U.S. government through sales, property and income taxes than the total monetary value of the public benefits he or she receives. 

“The number one immigration myth is that Latina ladies are going to come here, have tons of babies and go on welfare. That’s just factually incorrect. … But over the past decade, the welfare stereotype has morphed from the image of a black woman with 10 kids to a Latina woman with 10 kids.”

The workshop was sponsored by the Metro State College department of Chicana/o Studies and was part of the Beyond Chicanismo Oral History Project. The latter is a student group that examines the connections between the Chicano movement and other activist causes. Over the past several years the group has produced lectures, events and publications on a wide range of topics related to ethnic studies in Colorado.

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