posts 16 - 18 of 18
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 22

The anti-immigration movements in this country are, for the most part, motivated by fear. As the Washington Post discovered in their study, politicians on the more conservative side attain votes by using the fear factor of the ¨unknown¨ and assuring that they will provide safety. By instilling a feeling of panic and worry, conservative politicians are able to convince their supporters into voting for them on a subconscious level that many people do not realize.

In contrast, more liberal voters tend to veer away from anxiety of what could be and focus instead on what progress could be made in the future, hence liberal politicians focusing their efforts and campaigning on new reforms to improve the country in a different way than before.

Fear and anxiety are the driving factors for which so many people support anti-immigration policies. Americans (mostly of European descent) fail to acknowledge that their ancestors came to this country as immigrants as well. Not only did they immigrate to this country, but many participated in the mass genocide of Native Americans, who were the true owners of this land.

Cis-gendered, straight, white males take comfort in the feeling that they are welcomed and respected by the government in this country. Many of them live comfortable lives in which they do not have to take responsibility for their actions a lot of times, and also know that the system in which we base our whole society upon is created so that they can succeed. They cannot have anything or anyone threaten this because they feel as if the state of the country is prosperous.

What they refuse to realize is that the people immigrating to America also feel fear, many of whom live in countries taken over by corrupt governments, are in the middle of war, or that live in extreme poverty.

So what can be done to fix this? We have to educate people from a young age that people of other races, colors, and descent are not who we need to be afraid of. We must stop the spread of propaganda in order for people to understand that just because new people are entering this country, does not mean that they are a threat to our national security or safety. This is not an issue that can be solved overnight, but it can be fixed. We just need to put the work in to do it.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 25

Why have so many Americans sought to close the door to immigrants?

I think that the main reason there is such intense opposition to immigration is because of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of losing what is known and normal and comfortable. This is not unique to the US, and nations around the world fear immigrants and the stereotypical reputations that often precede them. People here are afraid that their jobs and inherent “Americanness” will be threatened if others come into the country, and these fears, while sometimes valid, are not necessarily based in fact or logic. Some descendents of past or present generations of immigrants seem to express opposition to immigration because they either do not see themselves as immigrants, or are afraid that immigrants now will threaten what their ancestors built for them in this country. Yet these sentiments are not new. Scott Greenberger argues in ‘Cheap slaves’: Trump, immigration and the ugly history of the Chinese Exclusion Act that “there is a racially charged history to the idea that immigrant workers depress American wages” and this is the “argument that led to the country’s first immigration restriction law: the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.” This act banned all Chinese immigration for ten years and barred them from naturalizing. This act came after years of toleration and when the economy began struggling, the Chinese were scapegoated and were no longer allowed access to the U.S.. Greenberger argues that “when gold was plentiful and labor was in short supply, the Chinese were tolerated. But when the economy struggled in the 1870s, animosity against Asians grew”, just like animosity against immigrants in America has grown particularly with the outbreak of the coronavirus and the economic downturn it caused.

Humans have a natural instinct to protect what is important to them, and when they feel these things are threatened or their physical safety is jeopardized, they tend to shut out the idea of anyone or anything that could further this feeling of unsafety. People also are afraid that this influx of South and Central Americans and Mexicans, who have come to gain a reputation of all being dangerous and criminals, will threaten their families and increase crime rates and violence. In John Bargh’s social experiment at Yale, he and his colleagues discovered that conservatives tend to “react more strongly to physical threat than liberals do”, which is likely why conservatives tend to be more anti-immigration: they feel that they are endangered by immigrants and that their general livelihoods and safety are being jeopardized by the increased crime rates they fear will be brought across the border. This fear has been seen in our history before, notably after the 9/11 attacks. In Scott Horsely’s 2016 article “5 Things To Know About Obama’s Enforcement of Immigration Laws”, he argues that “the trend toward increased deportations began with the 1996 passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act and accelerated after the Sept. 11 attacks, with growing budgets for the DHS agencies that enforce immigration law”, which is not surprising as 9/11 deeply wounded out country and instilled fear into the hearts of all. This fear was turned into anti-Muslim sentiment in many ways, which led to this tightening of immigration policies, and the discrimination against innocent people who had no intention whatsoever to bring harm or danger into the United States.

There is some correlation between deported individuals and criminal records, but I don’t think the desire to commit crimes is the motivator in any capacity for the immigrants currently at the border. Crime is often done out of desperation and poverty, which is somewhat of an inevitability for migrants who enter the country with few or no possessions at all. Parents do whatever they can to provide for themselves or their families, and sometimes this poverty and distress leads to criminal behavior. Scott Horsely states that the Obama administration “stresses that a growing proportion of those who are deported have criminal records: 59 percent last year, up from 31 percent in fiscal year 2008”. I can understand that authorities do not want crime rates to rise, however I feel that there needs to be more reflection on the motives for these crimes. When refugees are given such a difficult time in their home countries and journey all the way to a country in which they still have a hard time, things can seem hopeless, and this is often where desperation sets in. Horsely further points out that under the Obama administration, deportation efforts were focused on “particular targets: namely those caught near the border, those who've committed crimes and those who [appeared] to have arrived in 2014 or later”, which is a strong deterrent against crime and this instills fear.

Fear and anxiety are extremely powerful motivators, arguably the most powerful motivator of human behavior. It is what drives anti-immigration sentiment and is also the reason for refugee situations and a lot of immigration. Fear is what drives many of these immigrants to the U.S. and is also what is preventing them from entering the U.S. This issue is charged with manhy intense emotions on both sides, which makes the matter infinitely more complicated. John Bargh argues that as humans, “keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe from harm is perhaps our strongest human motivation, deeply embedded in our very DNA. It is so deep and important that it influences much of what we think and do, maybe more than we might expect.”, proving that the fear that is felt so deeply on both sides is a natural human response to a threat, even though the threats on either side are very different. However powerful fear and anxiety might be, I think the most dangerous reaction in this entire situation is indifference. In an MSNBC interview with Jacob Soboroff, author of “Separated: Inside an American Tragedy” he recalls a conversation with Katie Miller, former communications director for former Vice President Mike Pence, who at the time was working for DHS. In this conversation she stated that she was sent to the border to make her more compassionate about the families being separated, but she claims that “it didn't work”. She stated that she believes if people “come to America [they] should assimilate” and she doesn't understand the “need to have Little Havana”. This part of the interview stood out to me because not only does Miller oppose immigration, she does not feel any sympathy for what the refugee families are going through or the difficult situation the U.S. government has placed many families in. Fear drives change and important discussions, but complete indifference to the strife of others is a dangerous path to walk, and it is one our country must avoid if we ever wish to resolve this challenging issue.
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 20

People oppose immigration, especially of people they see as the “other,” due to fear. This is an example of the concepts explored in Jason Stanley’s How Fascism Works, there is an “us vs. them” dynamic between more recent immigrants to the US and the descendants of earlier immigrants. Many people who have been in America for many years have ceased to consider themselves immigrants, and instead think that they are somehow “better” than those who have not resided in America as long, leading to hostility and resentment.

Denis Kearney, who was the focus of the article “Cheap Slaves: Trump, Immigration, and the Ugly History of the Chinese Exclusion Act,” created the Workingmen’s Party of California, a group that advocated against Chinese immigration in the late 1800s. Although he was an immigrant himself, he believed himself superior to the Chinese immigrants, simply for the fact that he was white. He writes that the American aristocracy “imports [Chinese workers] here to meet the free American in the labor market, and still further widen the breach between the rich and the poor.” From this quote it seems that he either doesn’t understand the reasons for the wealth gap, or elects to ignore those reasons. This may be because he, and many other white Americans, fear for their position in America, and do not want to lose their privilege. It seems that they do not realise that their toxic belief in an “us vs. them” mentality causes other marginalized groups to be treated the way that they fear they might be treated, if they are no longer superior by birth.

In many ways, the current anti-immigration is aimed at connecting negative things like the virus and people’s fear of losing their jobs to the arrival of immigrants in America. Although it’s not rational, as many of these fears are symptoms of issues caused by things like the wealth gap, people develop a negative connection between these topics, causing hostility towards immigration, as evidenced by the Washington Post article.

When we were learning about social psychology, there was an argument that in order to have a society where social welfare is possible, there has to be a relatively homogeneous population, and less “othering” of marginalized groups. This contributes to the belief that immigrants should assimilate into American society, and join the institutionalised racial hierarchy. Although Nordic countries are quite successful at promoting social welfare, it should be possible to maintain different cultures without the creation of resentment and a hierarchy. Hopefully, we can work towards this goal together as a country.

Many politicians, including former President Trump, then play off this fear and negativity towards immigration to gather more support by running with anti-immigration policies. The NPR article describes how Trump uses his constituents’ fear of losing their jobs and of supposedly ‘dangerous’ immigrants from South and Central America to gain more support, and by extension, more recognition and money. After all, money is almost always the actual motivation in things like this. The willingness, of Trump and others like him, to use the suffering of others, like Genesis, a nine year old who we learn about in the “Out of Sight and Out of Mind” video, demonstrates that they either truly believe that immigration is the root of America's issues, or that they simply do not care. Neither option bodes well for the future of our country.

In the end, we need to do, as a country, what we do in Facing. The only solution is to continue learning and confronting our own biases.

posts 16 - 18 of 18