immigration and reproduction

On July 28 a federal judge moved tentatively in favor of the Obama administration’s efforts to limit Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, which among other things, gives the green light to local enforcement agencies to racially profile. It’s worth noting that the judge’s order doesn’t attack the premise of the law, but rather a few provisions in it. As at least one conservative immigration reform advocate has correctly pointed out, the judge wrote quite favorably of law’s attempt to confront “rampant immigration.”

Certainly this is nothing new. Immigrants have been the subjects of nativism and racist violence in the US for hundreds of years, coupled with hysteria about “race suicide” and the declining birthrates of US-born (usually Christian, western European) white people. (Hint: don’t use wikipedia to learn more about race suicide, you will be taken to a lengthy entry about the “suicide race,” which is an annual horse race held in Omak, Washington.)

The media attention paid to the 2010 Census results on minority population growth offers a faint glimmer of this ideology. It’s particularly worthwhile to note the obsession with comparing white birthrates to Latino birthrates, such as in this June 2010 article in the LA Times, or this March 2010 CBS story which warns that “this year could be the ‘tipping point’ when the number of babies born to minorities outnumbers that of babies born to whites” and the shift will likely “heighten tensions in current policy debates from immigration reform and education to health care and Social Security.”

Not that attention to demography necessarily carries bad intent,  but it’s impossible to ignore the political context — i.e. declining government services, tax breaks for the wealthy and abundant rhetoric about belt-tightening and scarce resources — in which these conversations are unfolding.

Plenty of smart people have already pointed out the ways in which immigrant rights is a reproductive justice issue, and the recent developments I outlined above are more proof.


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