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Posts: 23

No One Leaves Home: Why Have so Many Americans Sought to Close the Door to Immigrants?

People fear the unknown, if a family has lived in the US for generations and generations they may find it easy to forget or dismiss the fact that they are likely the descendants of immigrants. When all people see or hear is stereotypes bashing a certain ethnicity, they become afraid of a culture they know nothing about, this is where ideas of anti immigration come from. Fear of germs, or job loss, or criminals, etc. are all fueled by propaganda about groups of immigrants. A study from Yale explains that fear causes people to become more conservative with their views, our natural human instinct prioritizes safety and fear plays a big role in this. This can be seen when propaganda is used by conservative politicians to manipulate our fears and capitalize on them. One example of this is the video we watched in class, created by the US government to explain and justify internment camps that Japanese Americans were forcefully put into. They claimed that Japanese Americans were a threat to the country because they were living too close to airports, naval bases, oil wells, and other military and industrial settings, because of this the US “relocated” entire Japanese American communities. They were treated with a lack of dignity and human rights but this propaganda video claimed it was for the “safety” of everyone, and that Japanese Americans were “happy to make the sacrifice”. The Yale study concludes that “Instead of allowing our strings to be pulled so easily by others, we can become more conscious of what drives us and work harder to base our opinions on factual knowledge about the issues, including information from outside our media echo chambers.” When we allow our fears to overcome our empathy, the result is a more conservative view, which means less opportunity for immigration and immigrants within the US.

The first half of the Obama administration saw a rise in the number of deportations, this has been the trend since 9/11. Bush increased after Clinton and Obama after Bush, until the second half of his administration, which saw a decrease in “removals.” The reason for this is the fear of the “other” caused by the 9/11 attacks. The aftermath of 9/11 saw a rise in racism and biases towards muslim americans, and a generally negative feeling towards allowing immigrants into the US. Over the past 20 years many Americans have been hostile towards immigrants when at one point in time it’s likely their ancestors were immigrants themselves. Towards the later half of the Obama presidency there had been a rise in deportations at the border but a decrease from within the US. An article from NPR says that they don't have “the resources or the desire to deport millions of immigrants whose only crime was entering the country illegally.” This shows a safer feeling in America with a more liberal point of view.

Lastly the idea of nation states, vs larger international governing bodies. I don’t feel like I have the knowledge to fully form concrete opinions but from what I can assume, forming this type of organization would be extremely difficult. The struggle for power would be immense and could lead to many different troubling circumstances. On the one hand if the leadership was good, progressive, and for equity, and making the world a better place it could be an extremely beneficial government system. However if it were led horribly with evil, selfish, and unfair intentions it would mean a world full of sadness for all.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 28

The reason that people in our country, even descendants of immigrants, are often in opposition to immigration is fear. They’re afraid of losing their power, their privilege, or their potential for success. In Jason Stanley’s How Fascism Works he addresses how when people feel like their place in society is being threatened, their nationalism increases. A group will unite in some shared trait against their perceived threat. In America, that perceived threat often comes in the form of an immigrant.

Something of importance to most Americans, and especially conservative Americans, is the need to feel physically safe. John Bargh reports on a study where it was found that Americans are more likely to agree with socially liberal stances after being put through an action that made them feel safe. Whether it was having a genie wish them complete absence of bodily harm or simply putting on hand sanitizer, feeling safe had a noticeable impact on people’s political ideologies. Specifically, it had a significant impact on people’s views towards immigrants. It was the same thing, people were more likely to be accepting of immigrants when they felt physically safe.

So consider this, what have been major historical events in which Americans’ physical safety was compromised, or at least was perceived to be compromised. And in turn, how were national views towards immigrants impacted by those events?

One of them would have to be 9/11. Scott Horsley in “5 Things to Know about Obama’s Enforcement of Immigration Laws,” states 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.” 9/11 blocked the passage of immigration reform like the DREAMER act, and it caused an increase in Anti-Immigrant sentiments in the country. People felt that their physical safety was in danger, like the people who were killed in the devastating attack, so they began to harbor increasingly negative feelings towards those who were similar to the perpetrators of 9/11. It was implied that immigrants were a threat to public safety, and that’s why people were in opposition.

Another instance where Americans feel like their public safety is threatened because of immigrants is the Covid-19 pandemic. This is easy to see: people feel scared for their safety so they place all the blame onto the perceived instigator of this crisis: immigrants. That’s why attacks against Asian-Americans increased; people are afraid. They believe, “immigrants are the virus.” And people are selfish. They only care about the well-being of themselves and those close to them, or those of the same race as them, so they do not think twice about opposing immigrants and immigration reform. Even when people are being separated from their families and held in detention centers. Or, they’re living in squalor on the other side of the Mexican border waiting for safety, but Americans don’t care. (Real America and Separated by Jacob Soboroff. They only care about their own safety and stability.

I think nations still exist for both good and bad reasons. One is the preservation of culture and cultural practices, but the other may be the preservation of maintaining ethnic groups. And if a place has become ethnically diverse, I think nations prevail because people need to be against something. Republicans wouldn’t even think of blaming lack of jobs on the U.S. government, so they need a ‘them’ to play it on. If we were more united, and we focused on solving problems together, I think things would be done much more efficiently. Instead of blaming other countries and other people from those countries for economic and social issues, blame could be placed on our governments, or the people living in our own country. I don’t know how possible this shift is, as tribalism and clans have existed for pretty much all of human history, but working to end the discrimination immigrants face would help us achieve this goal.

Boston, Massachusetts , US
Posts: 27

No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark

While doing the readings and viewings for this post, one thing that especially stood out to me in regards to the question of why people oppose immigration was the Washington Post article about the Yale study. This study found that conservatives were primarily driven by fear, and when they felt less threatened and afraid, they became more open-minded and their answers in the study were similar to those of more left-wing participants. From these findings, it seems like people who oppose immigration are often afraid of harm, whether this be physical or economical. NPR said that Donald Trump praised Obama’s policies on immigration and deportation for “[getting] tremendous numbers of people out of the country”. As the article by Scott S. Greenberger mentioned, Trump justified his tightening of immigration laws by saying that immigrants hurt American workers, similarly to the ideas that created the Chinese Exclusion Act.

The fear of an economic threat seems to be a major part of people’s distrust of immigrants. It also has to do with xenophobia– the interview with Jacob Soborof quoted someone who went to visit children who were separated from their families, and she said she did not feel compassion for them because she thought they should have been assimilated, meaning she felt that people should only immigrate to the US if they were already fully assimilated into American culture and society, which is obviously unfair and harmful to expect everyone to be the same in this way. For example, the video by Jorge Ramos showed a young girl who had been living in a camp for months, waiting to be allowed into the United States. She had fled for her life from Honduras. How would it be possible for her and others in similar situations to assimilate if they can’t even really enter the country? It also seems like this need for assimilation is based in racism, because as @Nightshade said, European immigrants are rarely the target of oppositions against immigration.

A big part of the reason we have nation states today is because of nationalism and patriotism. We see this a lot here in the Unites States, where people feel proud of their country and believe that other countries are inferior. I think it could be good if we were able to become larger entities like the EU, but I think it would realistically be very difficult politically and socially, as so many countries in the world are very divided. Even if becoming larger entities would help overcome our tribalism, it would be very hard to even get to the place where that could happen.

Bumble Bee
Posts: 25

First off, many Americans forget, or choose to ignore, that their ancestors were once immigrants too. There is a sense of ownership over the country that many white Americans feel even though the country never belonged to them. This land was stolen.

The main point used against immigration is that the immigrants will steal Americans’ jobs. This fear and anxiety is preyed upon by politicians like Trump and organizations like the Workingmen’s Party of California. This organization said they “objected to Chinese workers’ willingness to toil for low wages on railroads and in mines. But the party’s anti-Chinese views were rooted in racism and revulsion at the newcomers’ unfamiliar customs” (Greenberger 4). Economic struggles is certainly a fear of Americans, but a different and maybe greater fear is the shift in culture. To many white Americans, different cultures means a chance for a different group to over take the white dominated country. This fear could be partly fueled by their knowledge that white immigrants to America took over the culture and country of indigenous people all the way back in the 1400s.

Another argument against immigration is that immigrants are criminals or are bringing crime to the U.S. The Obama administration focused a lot of their deportation efforts to those with a criminal record. In the article 5 Things to Know About Obama's Enforcement of Immigration Laws, it says, “The 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.” This fuels the narrative that most immigrants are criminals. This, however, is only a percentage of immigrants. Plus there is plenty of crime being committed by nonimmigrant Americans. Whether immigrants come into the country or not isn’t going to change that.

An article from the Washington Post, “At Yale, we conducted an experiment to turn conservatives into liberals. The results say a lot about our political divisions,” an experiment was done to see if conservatives could become more liberal. It revealed that when conservatives felt safer they leaned more liberal. Safety and immigration are directly correlated. Conservative politicians know that when people don’t feel safe, they will get more votes. They implement this by making people feel unsafe about immigration. They do this by likening immigrants to diseases. The article says, “‘Immigrants are like viruses’ is a powerful metaphor, because in comparing immigrants entering a country to germs entering a human body, it speaks directly to our powerful innate motivation to avoid contamination and disease.” Once again we can see that politicians play a large part in manipulating people’s views on immigration.

In regards to the bigger picture questions, in many ways removing borders would definitely be a positive thing. So much time and resources has gone to protecting the border, enforcing border patrol, and deporting illegal immigrants. This wouldn’t be an issue if borders were opened up. Also, as the two videos address, thousands of children have been separated from their families by ICE. This separation was bad during the Trump administration, and has gotten even worse due to separation because of COVID. With open borders families wouldn’t have to go through such traumatic experiences as being taken from their loved ones by the U.S. government.

On a less optimistic note, opening up borders and trying to unify with other nations is something that many Americans would be so heavily against. The opposition even if it did happen would be strong and it could increase acts of racism and violence towards minorities.

West Roxbury, MA, US
Posts: 29

Originally posted by mango04 on January 23, 2022 19:22

I think a major reason for opposition to immigration— despite being descendants of immigrants— is fear. This fear is because of unease over the “other.” Therefore, this fear is usually motivated and perpetuated through racist attacks. One of the main ways people justify this fear— or racism— is by saying that immigrants will “take all our jobs.” According to the Washington Post’s article “‘Cheap Slaves’: Trump, immigration, and the ugly history of the Chinese Exclusion Act,” there is a “racially charged history to the idea that immigrant workers depress American wages,” dating back to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Californians feared that the Chinese immigrants were responsible for the economic struggle in the 1870s, despite making “significant contributions to the development of the West.” This rhetoric has not stopped. It has been carried through politics, most memorably and recently by Donald Trump. Donald Trump used this idea against immigration from the South as he was quoted saying this about Mexican immigrants: “They’re taking our jobs. They’re taking our manufacturing jobs. They’re taking our money. They’re killing us.” This rhetoric fueled support for the building of his wall— a literal example of this “fear,” or as I call it, racially charged policies.

While reading John Bargh’s “At Yale, we conducted an experiment to turn conservatives into liberals. The results say a lot about our political divisions,” I was able to understand the reasons for why fear of immigration hits Republicans more. I was fascinated to learn that “liberal politicians intuitively portray danger as manageable” (FDR’s “nothing to fear but fear itself”), while “Republican politicians are instead likely to emphasize the dangers of terrorism and immigration, relying on fear as a motivator to gain votes.” This connects to what I was previously saying about how Trump’s villainization and racist attacks towards Mexican immigrants helped gain support for him and his anti-immigration policies.

I also think it's important to mention that some people lack empathy. This lack of compassion for others is a main, rarely acknowledged reason for opposition to immigration. My opinion of this was strengthened when watching Jacob Soboroff’s interview for his book Separated: Inside an American Tragedy. I was horrified to hear that Katie Miller, communications director for Mike Pence, stated that even witnessing the separations at the U.S.- Mexico border did not work to “make [her] more compassionate.” Miller is openly unfazed by the horrifying things that have been happening at the border. And that is terrifying. I think people like Katie Miller cover up their lack of humanity by saying they are fearful of “what these immigrants will do to this country,” but, yet again, this is merely a coverup for racism and hatred.

Lastly, I think people fear the truth. People against immigration are too cowardly to face the reality of why immigrants come to the U.S. They are not able to allow themselves to listen to immigrants’ stories because they are afraid for their anti-immigration positions to be rightfully countered. While watching Jorge Ramos’s video “Real America: Out of Sight and Out of Mind” I was able to learn why a 9 year-old girl, Genesis, felt unsafe in Honduras, her previous country. She told of having cocaine sold to children and killings near her school. People that oppose immigration are afraid to recognize the faults within their country. They are afraid to learn how bad their country treats immigrants and how poorly their systems function. This, to me though, is not fear— rather it is ignorance and privilege.

I think we still have nations because the world is fueled by nationalism, rather we care to admit it or not. Wars are not waged due to money (like everyone says), they are waged because nations wish to prove themselves. It would be nearly impossible to eradicate nations for this reason, as too many people feel too connected to their home-nation. The question of would we be better off without nations is a really interesting one. I like to think that history will always find a way to repeat itself, so even if we were to rid the world of all nations and function as one, there would continue to be (maybe unspoken) groups of people that consider themselves different from others. Therefore, no we would not be better off considering we will always have separations regarding beliefs and backgrounds. Also @groot raises a great point about the challenge of combining different ideologies. Personally, I think that this could possibly increase bigotry and hate because it would most likely force everyone into uniformity, exterminating many identities people hold today.

I completely agree with your reasoning for why nations go to war. Avoiding the national tribalism that has so often led to these wars and division would be impossible—saying that uniting under one big union and there being no sort of division is to disregard the division that has happened in almost every nation that has existed. Even if we were able to shift to this idea of utopian global unification (with all the 8 million people on earth), I think division among ideologies is inevitable.

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Piper Clarke
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 6

Why have so many Americans sought (and continue to seek) to close the door to immigrants?

I think that descendents are afraid. They find these immigrants as a threat. They think that they’ll take their jobs and take over their communities and use their resources. But I also think that they don’t want more people of different races to come to America. As John Bargh says in the Washington Post, “anti-immigration attitudes are also linked directly to the underlying basic drive for physical safety.” They don’t understand what immigrants have to do to get to America, to be given a chance to have a better future.
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