Is there something in the air?

August 28th, 2012

Dear Immigrant Fairness Network,

A few days ago, a friend who works in the construction industry stopped by to tell me that his colleague had been “educating” peers at work about some new information he heard on talk radio, that 90% of undocumented people are on welfare. Then, a Human Dignity member sent me a scanned article from a local paper comparing welfare recipients to zoo animals – as in “don’t feed the animals, they will become dependent on handouts.”

Is there something in the air? Have you been hearing these rumors again too? Are we hearing them more often now as the election draws near, and as we start to win victories like Deferred Action? These talking points are not new, but are regularly cranked out of right-wing messaging mills and filtered down to our communities. Attacking people on welfare, and scapegoating undocumented immigrants who are not even eligible for most services is an old trick. And we can easily prepare ourselves to correct this misinformation as it comes up.

Here are a couple of points to help us be better equipped to intervene:

· To say “welfare” makes us think of cash benefits. In fact, undocumented immigrants are barred from receiving this kind of assistance. Less than 1% of households headed by undocumented immigrants had anybody receiving cash benefits (like a spouse or child).
· Undocumented immigrants are also barred from receiving benefits like food stamps, and social security. 75% of undocumented workers do pay into these systems with their taxes, but will never see the benefits of Social Security, for example.
· Some of the few services guaranteed to everybody are: public education for kids, free & reduced lunch at school, and emergency medical care (though even this comes with a hefty price tag after the fact)
· Nationally, the highest percentage of use of assistance for families led by undocumented immigrants is the 33% of immigrants who receive food-based support, like free or reduced lunch for school aged kids. And many of these kids are US citizens. It is a large stretch to say that these children receiving reduced cost lunch while at school amounts to “undocumented immigrants on welfare.”
When manufactured rumors start flying, it’s worth doing a little bit of homework. We’d love to hear your stories about what the local paper is printing, what you’re hearing, and how you’re responding.

I’m so grateful to be part of building welcoming communities in Oregon with you all,

PS. For a printable “Mythbusters” fact sheet about immigration, look for “ROP’s Mythbusters Handout” on our website: Still have questions? We can talk through these myths with you, or send an organizer to talk with your community about the truth of immigration.

PPS. Here are a couple of other sites for digging up facts:

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