The Relationship Between Fear and Immigration
Fear and hatred towards outsiders is the driving force behind people who opposes immigration and are doing everything they can to not only stop people from coming into the country, but also forcing immigrants out. The Frontline documentary Separated: Children at the Border brings up the issues of immigration from the perspective of the U.S. government, that “we don’t have the robust asylum that we need for this kind of situation.” It is true that the undocumented immigrants are breaking the law by crossing the border without the necessary papers. And it is understandable that it is the only option for them to escape violence and gang activities. But it is unjustifiable to separate children from their parents and have them stay in detention centers with horrendous conditions. The only solution to this problem is to develop a process that provides safety and security to the immigrants and provide them with a refugee status that allows them to stay in the United States legally.
Despite knowing that they are breaking the law by entering the US borders without documents, immigrants proceeds to do so because they have no other options. Many immigrants’ lives are at risk if they don’t leave their homeland. Yet Americans, who are privileged to live in communities without threats to their lives, doesn’t understand the struggles that these immigrants go through. The immigrants are not just immigrants, they are refugees who are trying to seek asylum in the US. The lack of consideration and empathy for the immigrants and their reasonings for moving to a completely new country is another factor that motivates people to oppose immigration. Stereotypes and prejudices including that immigrants are criminals, they take jobs away from Americans blinds Americans, who are descendants of immigrants to sympathize with the undocumented immigrants. Since they are descendants of immigrants who have arrived in the U.S. centuries ago, they seem to forget that their ancestors were also once immigrants. Many people take pride in their status as an American and disapproves of any outsiders but they don’t acknowledge the struggles that their ancestors also faced.
According to the Washington Post article “At Yale, we conducted an experiment to turn conservatives into liberals. The results say a lot about our political divisions,” “anti-immigration attitudes are also linked directly to the underlying basic drive for physical safety.” Conservative leaders are utilizing this fear of physical safety to gain political support for immigration policies to prevent the entry of immigrants. This fear and anxiety is fueled by xenophobic sentiments and the association of immigrants with words with antagonizing underlying tones such as “virus,” “criminals,” and “bacteria.” The usage of these words creates an us and them situation and dehumanizes the immigrants. In order for more Americans to accept immigration, it is important to erase their fear and stereotypes of foreigners, and to remind that as descendant of immigrants, they should be more sympathetic towards other immigrants.