I agree with Jeff Schnelz that population growth is an important issue that needs to be addressed (“We are stifling ourselves with growth,” Jan. 31). However, it was not the focus of the event in question. The Bridges not Barriers event offered a first-hand account by human rights attorney Molly Matter about abuses — primarily affecting children — perpetrated at our southern border. The question and answer period was dedicated to action steps — ways we could turn our outrage toward improving the lives of families fleeing violence and poverty in Central America.
It may not have been Mr. Schnelz’ intent, but his question seemed to conflate overpopulation with immigration. Those of us involved in anti-racist work have become aware that people of color have long suffered from accusations of causing overpopulation. Women and men of color have been targeted for forced sterilization through the 20th century. Negative stereotypes of African American teenage mothers and “welfare queens” have bombarded us. Racial overtones in the current administration’s characterization of asylum-seekers are impossible to ignore.
We need to do many things at once — immigration reform and population growth among them. I plan to push back on this administration and demand they expand access to family planning. The current policy of the Department of Health and Human Services is to expand the number of employers who can claim moral objection in order to opt out of providing no-cost contraception. This will not help efforts at population reduction. Women of all ethnicities tend to have fewer pregnancies when they have meaningful work and good healthcare for their children.
Long-standing U.S. policies in Central America are a major part of what’s driving people to seek asylum here. Our history of arming violent dictators has been under-reported in our media. As citizens, we can influence these policies with our vote and through activism. I feel fortunate to be able to help but, in fact, it’s my responsibility to do so.