Negating Immigration Misconceptions

Sophia Chang/New University

Counteracting current misconceptions about the abuse of available resources by undocumented immigrants, UC Irvine anthropologist Leo Chavez’s newest study refutes the belief that undocumented immigrants overuse health services due to the lack of medical insurance.

His latest research, published last June in the digital academic journal “Social Science and Medicine,” Chavez found that undocumented Latinos used medical services less than legal immigrants and US citizens. The study also found that undocumented Latinos relied more on clinic-based care when seeking medical services.

Professor Chavez, a Stanford University Ph.D. alumnus and esteemed anthropologist, has done extensive research over the past three decades. Most of his work focuses on transnational migration and the roles of undocumented immigrants in the Orange and San Diego Counties. Having published multiple books on the topic of undocumented Latino immigrants, such as his newest “The Latino Threat: Constructing Immigrants, Citizens and the Nation,” Professor Chavez is more than familiar with examining the issues of anti-Latino discourse.

Addressing the national issue of anti-immigrant sentiments and increasing anger towards Latino immigrants stemming from a concern about utilizing the U.S. citizens’ public services, Professor Chavez’s study presents some strong evidence because of Orange County’s notable undocumented immigrant population and high density Latino population (roughly 33.7% of the general population according to the U.S. Census Bureau).

Professor Chavez sought to answer the question of whether an undocumented immigration status predicts the use of medical services. His research gathered valuable information from a random sample telephone survey in Orange County that summarily indicated that “undocumented immigration status is a significant predictor for not having used medical services”.

Professor Chavez’s past work, collected in January of 2006, predicted the growing discourse against undocumented immigrants before it escalated to its current state. In a society where governmental reforms are being implemented to change the medical/healthcare system, undocumented immigrants have become the centralized scapegoat for the general public’s concerns over  misallocations of funds. Professor Chavez addressed this problem, stating that, “Healthcare for undocumented immigrants has become so politicized that current healthcare reforms explicitly exclude them. They face great obstacles to obtaining healthcare.”

His research brought shocking statistics to light, such as one set of numbers that showed legal immigrants and citizens were 72 percent more likely than undocumented Latinos to seek medical care. These numbers conflict with general anti-immigrant sentiments and show other misconception contributing to fuel the fire behind this issue.

Although this research may not have great effects on immigration policies, it stands to change the public sentiment against undocumented immigrants in the United States. By tackling the discrimination and blatant hatred that is often seen in the news and current events regarding illegal immigrants, this study may change the tide and provide an end to the mass sensationalism that has taken the United States by storm in this severe economic downturn.