Discrimination Against Immigrants in American Society

Oct 24, 2022

by United Way NCA

Xenophobia —defined as prejudice or discrimination against immigrants — has deep roots in American society, stretching back to some of the earliest waves of immigration at Ellis Island in the 19th and 20th centuries. What started as a form of bigotry against immigrants from Europe and Asia — including the Irish, Italians, Chinese people, and Eastern European Jews — has evolved to focus on Latin Americans and asylum seekers, primarily from the Near and Middle East.

In this article, we’ll examine what discrimination against immigrants is and include a few examples of the phenomenon that manifests in American society. We will also provide solutions for how you can help get involved and end discrimination against immigrants in the United States once and for all. Keep reading for additional information!

What Is Discrimination Against Immigrants?

Getting down to brass tacks, discrimination against immigrants can be defined as unjust or prejudicial treatment of individuals due to their national origin. This can take many forms in American culture — from employment discrimination to police and healthcare discrimination, verbal harassment, and more — and its effects are equally broad and harmful. The subject of discrimination ties in closely with that of racial equity and equality — two concepts that, while closely related, have subtle distinctions that make them unique from one another. For more information, read our blog post on Racial Equity vs Equality.

Examples of Discrimination Against Immigrants

Discrimination against immigrants in the United States takes many forms. These range from decreased access to healthcare, unsafe and unfair working conditions, xenophobic harassment and attacks, and more. Below are three examples of discrimination against immigrants in American society:

Workplace discrimination

Immigrants often face uphill battles in the workplace with challenges in regards to language barriers and mistreatment from coworkers and employers. Additionally, immigrants are often the target of exploitation and wage theft and are often subject to more hazardous working conditions. A recent study published by the University of Chicago found that 22% of migrants were employed in private households where the employees — primarily female — were subjected to 12-hour shifts without breaks and no overtime pay, sexual assault, and other forms of abuse.

Healthcare discrimination

One of the most challenging area’s immigrants will face in the United States — a nation without the robust national insurance programs commonly adopted in other developed countries —  is access to healthcare. Discrimination against immigrants in healthcare manifests itself as denial of benefits and care due to citizenship and insured status. A study conducted by ReproductiveRights.org found that immigrant women of reproductive age were 70% more likely to be uninsured, resulting in poorer reproductive health outcomes.

Social perception and policing

Many immigrants in the United States face discrimination in society and in everyday life. From verbal harassment and abuse to physical violence and microaggressions, the immigrant experience in America is rife with conflict. Additionally, due to the intersection of racism and xenophobia, Latino immigrants perceive interactions with the police as more likely to result in harmful outcomes. 44% of Latino immigrants in a study by PolicyLink.org report being less likely to contact police if they’ve been the victim of a crime due to their immigration status. 62% of the same respondents responded “yes” when asked if they’d ever been stopped by the police without cause.

How to Advocate for Immigrants in Your Community

Are you ready to champion America’s rich community of immigrants from across the world and do your part to end discrimination against immigrants? You can take action by donating or volunteering with United Way today. Your gift will go directly to programs that will create a measurable impact on the immigrant communities we support through our programs. For more information, contact us to learn more about how you can help make a difference. 

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