Study: Dehumanizing Immigration Policies in Relation to Misconceptions

Study: Dehumanizing Immigration Policies in Relation to Misconceptions

On June 7, 2021, SAGE Journals released the results of a study recently conducted by PCNL (Peace and Conflict Neuroscience Lab), which focuses on the root causes of anti-migrant policies among the American population, especially in border territory.

The study looks at the most arbitrary policies and strict ideals when it comes to undocumented immigrants who cross the US’ borders without prior authorization. These policies often lead to abysmal social division and certainly increase racial discrimination. But, the real question is, what encourages a part of the American public to adopt and support these extremist ideas? The answer is, in fact, lack of information and misconceptions about immigrant communities in general.

Let’s look at some of the most important findings of the study:

Undocumented immigrants and crime

One of the most revealing conclusions of the study is that a high percentage of the local population associates undocumented immigrants with gangs or human trafficking, which is not always the case:

  • Study participants think that 15% of undocumented immigrants, mainly at the US’ southern border, have some type of relationship with gangs, when the real figure is around 1%, according to DHS (Department of Homeland Security).
  • Study participants think that between 25% and 30% of immigrant children are used by unscrupulous adults at the borders to enter the US. The real figure is less than 0.1%

Erroneous beliefs lead to dehumanization of immigrants

The study reveals that unsubstantiated anti-migrant policies, which are essentially the result of lack of information and misconceptions, lead to dehumanization of immigrant communities and diminish the American public’s empathy towards foreigners in general.

Many of these policies are also related to narratives and conjectures promulgated and disseminated by public figures, but which are rarely endorsed by reliable sources and are often contradicted by research and experts.

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Effective strategy to increase empathy towards undocumented immigrants

The study reveals that there is an effective and efficient way to eradicate misinformation about immigration, more specifically when it comes to undocumented immigrants, among the local population.

Researchers involved in the study state, “We noticed that false narratives about undocumented immigrants as criminals or as having criminal intentions are commonly circulated in the public (…) By both correcting these false narratives about immigrants and unlocking empathy toward them, we were able to foster more positive attitudes toward immigrants and encourage greater support for more humane immigration policies”.

In other words, the first step would be to intervene to eradicate misconceptions regarding undocumented immigrants by presenting the correct and official figures, and then encourage empathy among the local population and promote more welcoming and less arbitrary immigration policies.

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