Associate Professor of Public Policy Chris Zepeda-Millán was featured in a USA Today article about the role of immigration policy in driving voters to the polls. Democrats are divided about ending Title 42, a public health order that allows U.S. border agents to expel asylum seekers to Mexico in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Zepeda-Millán noted that immigration alone is not what motivates most Americans, including Republicans, to head to the polls. “While many Americans don’t agree with immigration policies that separate children or detain families, those policies don’t drive voters to the polls, especially in a midterm year when voter participation is low,” he explained. Even if immigration is not a defining factor for voters, Zepeda-Millán added that it could still affect some voters’ decisions if the Biden administration doesn’t explain that it can repeal the policy to follow international and U.S. law, but also make sure the border stays orderly.
UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge Director Paul Ong spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the decline in California’s population, largely driven by lower immigration, fewer births and pandemic deaths. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, California experienced a net loss of 262,000 residents between July 1, 2020, and July 1, 2021, mostly from Los Angeles County. Ong pointed out that while the COVID-19 pandemic probably played a role in less immigration, the number of international migrants has been steadily declining for several years. “It’s a combination of those things, but certainly it was happening before the pandemic,” Ong said. “In some ways, it’s part of what we see historically in terms of immigrants — that they do settle and cluster in a few areas and cities, but over time they move away.” Ong said that a shrinking population can have a negative effect on the local economy and result in a decrease in the number of skilled workers in a region.
A CBS2 News report on West Hollywood residents’ reaction to the Russian invasion of Ukraine featured Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin. In the 1970s, West Hollywood offered a fresh start for Jews fleeing religious oppression in the former Soviet Union after World War II. Now, the city claims more Russian speakers than any U.S. city outside of New York, the report noted. “West Hollywood became a magnet for those fleeing the Soviet Union,” said Yaroslavsky, whose parents emigrated from Ukraine earlier in the 20th century. “You had the very liberal, progressive gay and lesbian community in West Hollywood and then you had the Russian community. But over time, they became partners, and it’s really a beautiful history they have in West Hollywood.”
Associate Professor of Urban Planning Amada Armenta spoke to the Los Angeles Times about increasing pressure to reform the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), which has for years been criticized for its treatment of immigrants in detention. The implementation of any changes will fall under the responsibilities of the new director, nominated by President Joe Biden. Some advocates have demanded improved conditions in detention centers as well as the scaling back of programs such as 287(g), which allows for collaboration between ICE and local law enforcement. While ICE says the local collaboration programs are meant to promote public safety, the result is that many undocumented immigrants are reluctant to report crimes to law enforcement out of fear that they will be expelled from the country. Armenta argued for doing away with the collaboration programs altogether. When immigrants are afraid to engage with law enforcement, “that’s bad for all of us,” she said.
Associate Professor of Urban Planning Amada Armenta spoke to the Los Angeles Times about privacy and accountability concerns regarding the recent announcement that U.S. Border Patrol agents and officers will soon begin wearing body cameras as they patrol the southwestern and northern borders. Following other local and state departments that have adopted body cameras, the policy change is meant to improve oversight of the agency and reduce the use of force by officers. Customs and Border Protection expects to deploy 6,000 cameras by the end of the year. However, some immigration experts are concerned about the fact that agents will be responsible for activating their own cameras. “It’ll be very easy for agents to claim that they forgot to turn on their cameras,” Armenta said, adding that it will be hard for migrants and others to counter officers without a recorded version of events.
Research by Paul Ong, director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, is highlighted in a Los Angeles Times article focusing on COVID-19’s impact on Korean families involved in the dry cleaning businesses, which has struggled amid the pandemic. In 2015, Ong co-authored a paper that investigated ethnic mobilization among Korean dry cleaners in the United States. Starting in the 1970s, Korean immigrants welcomed one another into the dry cleaning business with loans, moral support and training. “The children are quite often at the business … it’s a way of supervising them in terms of their education,” the researchers wrote. During the pandemic, dry cleaners lost revenue because many customers moved to virtual work, and at least a quarter of these family-oriented businesses have closed because of the pandemic, according to a representative of the Korean Dry Cleaners & Laundry Assn. of Southern California.
Sonja Diaz, executive director of the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, was featured in a Spectrum News 1 interview about the recent ruling by a Texas federal judge that deemed Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to be unlawful. According to Diaz, the central question is “can we provide a pathway towards work, towards opportunity for people who have known no other country but the United States?” There are currently 800,000 DACA recipients in the United States, and about one quarter reside in California. “When immigrants don’t trust the government, they are likely to stay in the shadows, not report crimes that are committed against them and not deal with substandard working conditions,” Diaz warned. The ruling could have important implications for Latino voters in the 2022 midterm elections. “It’s certainly an issue that should drive Latino turnout in upcoming elections if the stakes are made clear with active outreach and dedicated engagement,” she said.
Health Affairs, a leading journal of health policy research, devoted its July edition to health issues relating to immigration along the southern border of the United States, with Arturo Vargas Bustamante of the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) serving as editorial advisor. He curated more than a dozen research studies that provide an in-depth understanding of the effects of U.S. immigration policy on the care, coverage and health outcomes for immigrants. The journal also published two research studies from Bustamante, the faculty director of research at LPPI and a professor of health policy and management at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. One study found that better access to insurance for aging immigrants would improve their health care and reduce emergency room costs for both immigrants and U.S. taxpayers. Another study, by Bustamante and LPPI Director of Research Rodrigo Dominguez-Villegas, focused on the health of immigrants repatriating to Mexico from the United States. Vargas Bustamante also took part in a Health Affairs podcast and a panel discussion with other featured authors from the issue. For those working at LPPI, the special issue represents a sign that public opinion may be shifting on immigration issues, particularly regarding the contributions made by Latino immigrants to America’s social and economic fabric. Such a narrative shift would be a particularly welcome change in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which further highlighted systemic inequities relating to U.S. health care for Latinos and other persons of color.
Associate Professor of Public Policy Chris Zepeda-Millán was featured in an Independent article discussing the deadly consequences of U.S. border policy. A recent photo of a Border Patrol agent carrying a migrant to safety in the Rio Grande Valley highlights the dangers of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, especially in the excessive heat of summer. As of May, the Border Patrol has rescued more than 7,000 people this fiscal year, more than the same period in previous years. By tightening security at more common points of entry, U.S. border policy is explicitly designed to push migrants into dangerous, remote areas to deter further crossings. “The most devastating effect will undoubtedly be the increasing number of migrant deaths as they get pushed further and further into dangerous deserts and isolated mountain areas,” Zepeda-Millán said. “That’s literally our stated policy.” Most adult migrants who make it across the border are immediately deported without a chance to seek asylum.
The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified calls to end the detention of migrant children, as cases surge among children held in crowded conditions. Yet immigration detention’s threats to the fundamental rights of children did not begin with the current public health crisis. Unlike nearly three-quarters of high-income countries, the U.S. has no laws specifically limiting the detention of accompanied migrant and asylum-seeking children, according to a new study by the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health’s WORLD Policy Analysis Center (WORLD). Moreover, the U.S. offers minimal legal protection for unaccompanied minors, and for children who are detained, and the U.S. has no legal guarantees of access to adequate health care or education. “The U.S. lags behind when it comes to protecting the most fundamental rights of migrant children,” said Jody Heymann, a UCLA distinguished professor of public health, public policy and medicine who serves as director of WORLD. International treaties are clear that detaining children based on citizenship is a violation of human rights law. Heymann and her research team systematically coded legal restrictions on detention of child migrants in the 150 most populous United Nations-member countries, as well as literature on the costs and benefits of varying approaches to keeping such children safe and under responsible oversight. Their study, published in the International Journal of Human Rights, found that while the U.S. falls behind other high-income nations, gaps in legal protections persist across the board. “These longstanding gaps in the law have left countless children vulnerable to grave health risks and human rights violations,” Heymann said.