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Study: Many Immigrants Perceive Racial Discrimination at Work, in Health Care

November 15, 2021

In recently published reports, Department of Public Health Professor Maria-Elena Young, Public Health doctoral student Sharon Tafolla and colleagues at UCLA discovered that Latino and Asian immigrants in California have varied perceptions and experiences in the workplace, encountering law or immigration enforcement, accessing health care and using government benefits.

The findings were released by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and published in two fact sheets: one focused on immigrants' negative perceptions of the immigrant experience in the state and another focused on experiences with law and immigration enforcement.

Researchers found that 70% of the 2,000 people surveyed perceived that immigrants experienced discrimination in the workplace due to skin color or accent. Additionally, 65% felt they would be prevented from gaining legal U.S. immigration status if they used government benefits, such as income assistance, housing aid, health care and food programs.

The fact sheet showed that more Latino than Asian immigrants perceived that immigrants experience discrimination in the workplace, unequal access to health care, barriers to getting legal status, safety risks when calling the police for help and risk of being stopped by immigration officials while traveling.

Immigrants living in the San Joaquin Valley reported having more direct interactions with immigration and law enforcement officials than those living in the Bay Area and Southern California. In the Valley, 17% of residents said they had been racially profiled by law enforcement, compared to 14% in Southern California and 12% in the Bay Area.

A total of 42% of Latino immigrants reported knowing someone who had been deported from the U.S., compared to 13% of Asian immigrants.

The study centered on California because a quarter of the country's immigrants call the state home. Researchers said they focused on Latinos and Asians because they make up the two largest immigrant subgroups in the state.

The fact sheets are part of a series of studies that will emerge from the Center for Health Policy Research's Research on Immigrant Health and State Policy Study (RIGHTS).

"The data from the RIGHTS survey highlights the importance of understanding the range of experiences that immigrants have encountered under our state policies," said Young. "California has advanced many policy efforts to protect immigrants. Yet, immigrants' experiences are varied and understanding their perceptions sheds light on the drivers of persistent health inequities in the state."

Additional findings from the RIGHTS study are slated to be published in early 2022.