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2/21: Using Anti-Immigration Hysteria to Promote the Anti-Choice Agenda?
Released 22 February 2007  By Priscilla Huang - Reproductive Rights Prof Blog

Using Anti-Immigration Hysteria to Promote the Anti-Choice Agenda?

Priscilla Huang
Reproductive Rights Prof Blog
February 21, 2007

(Priscilla Huang, Reproductive Justice Project Director and Women’s Law Fellow at the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF ) writes on

Today’s immigration debate extends beyond the goal of limiting the rights and humanity of immigrants: It’s about controlling who may be considered an American. Anti-immigrant activists contend that American citizenship is not about where you were born, but who gave birth to you. By extension, they believe—the 14th amendment notwithstanding—that the government must limit the reproductive capacities of immigrant women. Thus, immigrant women of childbearing age are central targets of unjust immigration reform policies.

Anti-immigrant groups, such as the Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR), believe immigrant women of childbearing age are a significant source of the country’s so-called “illegal immigration crisis” and want to limit the number of immigrant births on U.S. soil. They are calling for changes to jus soli, our birthright citizenship laws. Unfortunately, some Congressional members are listening.

In the last two sessions of Congress, lawmakers introduced the Citizenship Reform Act, which would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to deny birthright citizenship to children of parents who are neither citizens nor permanent resident aliens. The bill was reintroduced last month by Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif, and is pending committee action. . . .

Anti-immigrant policy makers and advocates are also trying to exploit anti-immigrant hysteria as a vehicle for denying all women the right to reproductive autonomy, and are manipulating the issue of immigration reform to advance an anti-choice agenda. In November 2006, a report from the Missouri House Special Committee on Immigration Reform concluded that abortion was partly to blame for the “problem of illegal immigration” because it caused a shortage of American workers. As the author, Rep. Edgar Emery (R), explained: “If you kill 44 million of your potential workers, it’s not too surprising we would be desperate for workers.”

In another example, Dr. John Wilke, founder of the National and International Right to Life organizations, testified in September 2005 as a medical witness for the Report of the South Dakota Taskforce to Study Abortion. In his testimony, he stated:

"Muslim countries forbid abortion. Furthermore they have large families … Germany’s birth rate is 1.2 … That is the Aryan Germans. What is happening? They’re importing Turkish workers who do all of the more menial labor and right now there are over 1,500 mosques in Germany. The Muslim people in Germany have an average of four children. The Germans are having about one. So it’s only a question of so many years and what do you think Germany is going to be? It’s going to be a Muslim country."

Dr. Wilke’s statement, which conflates U.S. post-9/11 fears about Muslims with nativist fears about the loss of Aryan national identity, was intended as a warning to South Dakotans against liberal laws governing both abortion and immigration. His assertion may seem extreme, but Wilke’s arguments are not that unusual. Contemporary immigration reform policies recall the early 1900s eugenics movement, which was rooted in the fear that immigrants (and other undesirable groups) were out-breeding “old stock” Americans. Like the anti-immigrant advocates of today, eugenicists believed that curbing the fertility of such socially unfit groups would help reduce social welfare costs.

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