The opposition of immigration is not something new. In the past, there were numerous times where large numbers of people opposed letting immigrants into America. A few examples would be when Chinese and Italians came to the states. The reasons back then are uncannily similar to the reasons now. The same even. There is this fear that the newly immigrated will steal jobs and ruin the country. Descendants of immigrants are afraid that America will turn into a country similar to what they left behind. They would not want to go through the same process ever again. The ideas that immigrants will ruin America and steal jobs are spread through politicians and social media. In Scott S. Greenberger’s ‘Cheap Slaves’: Trump, immigration, and the ugly history of the Chinese Exclusion Act, he writes that “Trump said he aimed to help Americans’ competing for jobs against brand-new arrivals.” This quote relates to a sentence in an article, called At Yale, we conducted an experiment to turn conservatives into liberals. The results say a lot about our political divisions, written by John Bargh. Bargh explains that “President Trump and other Republican politicians are instead likely to emphasize the dangers of terrorism and immigration, relying on fear as a motivator to gain votes.” Politicians manipulate people with the fear they introduce. Saying this though doesn’t mean that all the blame is on politicians, social media is part of that too. Anti-immigrant ideas gain traction from social media. The way the algorithm works is that when you spend time on a certain post, you will see more posts similar to it. The issue with this is that the user will think “if so many people are agreeing and saying this, then it must be true!” People tend to forget that, unless you're Indigenous, your ancestors are immigrants.
"No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark"
people who take the risk of immigrating to the United States don't just do it for fun or for no logical reason, many do it because they have no choice. For some immigrants trying to enter the US, they are facing life or death situations, not just for themselves, but for their families, their innocent children, and their wellbeing.Some Americans have a strong sense of nationalism that they refuse to give up or share with anyone. They believe that anyone entering
The United States should also have those same ideas, to completely assimilate and have no allegiance to anything else but America. A quote from one of our former presidents, Theodore Roosevelt, summarizes this belief completely; "Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all". When immigrants come into the US speaking another language or participating in their own ethnic culture, people believe that this is going against American ideals and that anyone that does anything that in the slightest bit strays away from "American culture" is not an American and should therefore be shunned from American society.
Most people who are against opening up our borders and letting immigrants enter the country are descendants of immigrants themselves. As it was stated in the prompt, unless you are of indigenous decent or were forcibly brought here, like how some black Americans were sold into slavery, your ancestors are more like the "illegal aliens" that are trying to cross the border than you think. Your ancestors, like today's immigrants, came to America in search of the better opportunities and resources that the United States loves to promote. I believe that people who are against immigration are so far removed from their ancestry and background that they unutterably believe that they are a "true American" and that they have no connection to their past ethnic cultures or roots. To them, being a true American is only speaking English, participating in all aspects of American culture (like politics, American football, or whatever the American way of life is), pledging total allegiance to the American flag, and nothing else. If this definition of an American were true, does that mean that your great grandfather who immigrated all these years ago was not an American? What about the immigrants who do choose to totally assimilate to American ideals, who are willing to abandon their lives and culture at home for the expense of their safety in America? Are they not American just because they had a life before choosing to move to the United States? in my opinion, the definition of being a "true American" is totally confusing and not clear at all. Why can't we help the people who need to be helped and try to support them to become good citizens of this society? Many who come here are willing to work, pay taxes, to participate in our economy and politics but are never given the chance simply due to where there were born.
Immigrants: why does America want them out?
My parents immigrated to the United States in 2001.
When we used to visit my mom’s oldest friend, Presbytera, during Christmas time, I remember her telling the story. I was maybe eight at the time, and my sister and I would hang around in the common room instead of the little cramped apartment. We ran back and forth through the hallways, sometimes stealing the fruity candy canes that they hung on the community tree. Yet, sometimes we would have company. One year, as my sister and I were pretending to be ballerina’s, my brother played the violin for the old folk in that common room. Soon after, with more than 30 people wedged into the room, my parents told their story.
I tell this story to show the irony of it all. As my sister and I were having the time of our lives, we had no idea what the reality of my parent’s lives were. They truly struggled a lot during their journey, and they did it all so that their kids could have a better life––just like those in the film. It makes me sad that citizens already living here, cannot possibly empathize with others coming here for a better future. It’s said that “anti-immigration attitudes are also linked directly to the underlying basic drive for physical safety” (On Fear and its effect on political views), but I think a very tiny majority of people are coming to smuggle drugs or “rape” as Donald Trump said in a speech that we saw. Do you think that those crossing the Darrien Gap would put their lives in danger just to do that? If people are immigrating because they are scared, or they are looking for something better, why shouldn’t they be able to? When we went back home (their country) and my parents took us on a road trip they showed us the place where they were detained. The place was barren. It had a large, rusted fence, and prickly, dry grass. I’m not sure if a building ever existed there. My parents became very silent and angry at that moment. My mom told me that after walking for four days to try to get across the border to one of the neighboring countries, they were stopped by the police. They were threatened by the K-9’s, and held for long; however, they were not sent back like some were.
I am hesitant to understand the fear and anxiety behind those who won’t welcome other immigrants. America has been a country of immigrants for a long time––whether it was the Germans or the Italians or the Chinese that we hear about in our history books. It is to my understanding that the Lady of Liberty was placed as a symbol of welcome, the “Mother of Exiles.” I think we have forgotten a lot of our ideals. America is not a place of a singular race or peoples, what makes it so special is that we are a place of all cultures and nationalities, and those same people who condemn immigrants are the same people eating at the trendy Thai place down the street, or who’s favorite food are Samosas. To my understanding, I think that fear comes from change. They fear immigrants will change their lives, or take their jobs, or homes. Yet, I don’t understand what changes when immigrants arrive. When my parents came, those living in Boston still live here. Their favorite food is still clam chowder. They still go to the same church. They still have the same jobs. Maybe it is that they fear retaliation. If illegal immigrants continue to break laws and rules without punishment, will the same happen for other citizens living here?
I think the issue comes down to a general lack of understanding, and an unwillingness to understand. Those who immigrate, who leave beautiful and tropical countries, who leave bustling tourist destinations, do not leave because they want to bring harm to another country. They leave because their particular country has become dangerous to them, they are doing it to bring opportunity for their children, they are doing it for a better chance at life. This is where the lack of understanding comes from.
I was shocked to discover that even Obama (a person who I loved and was a huge role model), somewhat encouraged deportations and they increased under his service (5 Things To Know About Obama's Enforcement Of Immigration Laws Article). After so many years, it seems that there needs to be more and better options than simply deportation. We need to solve this issue, and soon, because America will simply never be an only-white, only-conservative country.
Descendants of past and present generations of immigrants not only have more information about the dangers of immigration. Of course as the internet has become more and more widespread, so has the spread of misinformation and propaganda-esk things. Although political cartoons and political posters aren’t as common, it is just as easy to convince someone to believe on way or another in today’s age. Various political figures are seen to be not only idolized but have been the source for misinformation or have said things that lead to greater chaos. The words of these figures have an impact on all people as they may take what they say too far or too literally. An example would be the stereotypes towards immigrants about being dangerous, criminals, threats, and more. More specifically, Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States, has said "California's law provides safe harbor to some of the most vicious and violent offenders on Earth, like MS-13 gang members putting innocent men, women, and children at the mercy of these sadistic criminals.” His words and the words of many others have done what they have in the past and landed on the ears of people eager to be misinformed. Those who become misinformed with many conservative views of course take these words quite literally and believe what their politicians believe that immigrants should stay out the country because of what has been said. In the Washington Post article by John Bargh, the author explains his experiments which proved that most people with conservative views have a larger fear center on their brains as shown by various scans. Other studies within the same article have found that conservatives’ main concerns include physical safety. These words and phrases are used by Trump and other political leaders to frighten their followers into believing that immigrants are a danger, a risk the country would take, and more. Though Trump may not be the only political power to have said negative things towards immigrants, he also indirectly offended them by stating how he planned to help those who were “competing for jobs against brand-new arrivals,” as described in another Washington Post article titled “Cheap Slaves,” by Scott Greenberger. The article connects the hatred of immigrants today to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. In these times, Chinese immigrants were only tolerated when there was economic peace yet as the economy went into a dip the animosity grew. The head of the newly founded Workingmen’s Party of California, Denis Kearney, created more and more tension between white workers and Chinese workers. Their main motivation? Simply that they were scared they were going to lose everything due to the Chinese able to work for lower wages and in terrifying conditions, finding work wherever they can.
Today, descendants and current immigrants have their oppositions to immigration due to fears of others, which fuels anxiety of even attempting to immigrant into a country. The fake news spread about them would only discourage them for trying to make a better life for themselves. In the film from class, the majority of those fleeing their countries were also fleeing violence that their own government wouldn’t or couldn’t protect them from. The United States have promised asylum and yet there was point where asylum was code for temporary safety then separation from their family. No matter the situation, those immigrating into other countries, regardless of if it is specifically the United States, deserve better lives that they may be dealing with such as violence, poverty, food insecurity and others. Everyone understands that we may be dealing with this in our country and our people may be dealing with this, but that doesn’t mean we need to make others lives worse by trying to escape it.
I believe much of the fear of immigration stems from people, especially southern conservatives, wanting to maintain the status quo. They want to keep immigrants out in order to protect their jobs and live away from people they see as different or dangerous. Greeberger’s article on the history of exclusion makes it apparent that people think immigrants are “competing” for their jobs. On a side note, I find it somewhat ironic though that the same people who preach capitalism and hard work are the ones trying to stop immigration once they realize there are people willing to do their job for less money. It already sucks that so many immigrants work for such low wages, and the fact that people are separating families to prevent immigrants from even having the opportunity to work is baffling.
Conservatives also don’t like living near people they find potentially dangerous. Historically, immigrants were made to seem like an infection that “seek to invade and destroy their country from within” (Bargh). Even today, certain minority groups are incarcerated at much higher rates than Whites, which only adds to the fear of other people. Bargh’s study also suggests that conservatives act more strongly against fear, which makes complete sense since they push to stop the flow of immigrants in the U.S.. So, to the second question, fear and anxiety have absolutely everything to do with people opposing immigration. It’s the force not only behind people’s dislike of others they aren’t familiar with, but also behind their wish to stop them from coming to the U.S..
Lastly, I think people fear the start of a “immigration feedback loop” that would bring in a huge amount of foreigners. If people in Mexico, for example, see that the U.S. are taking in those fleeing their country, it may push them to also flee. While this certainly is a possibility, punishing those who cross the border by separating families is completely crazy, and the fact that the Trump Administration actually enacted something that Obama’s wouldn't even consider is reflective of the authority. Also, there’s only a certain amount of people wanting to leave their country. The title of this assignment, “No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark”, is very true. People fleeing Mexico aren’t doing it for a vacation, and they’re going to try to escape death threats whether America allows it or not.
No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark
Some Americans believe that allowing people to immigrate here is unfair “to our people, our citizens, and our workers” as Trump puts it. For almost as long as immigrants have been coming to America, there’s been a common rhetoric that immigrants “steal” jobs from “deserving Americans.” In reality, companies will hire those best suited for the job and if an immigrant gets a position over an “American,” it’s because they are more qualified. However, this fear of potentially “losing” a job to an immigrant makes many people unwelcoming to immigrants.
Certain politicians like Trump also use threatening language to get their followers to oppose immigration. Trump accused Mexican immigrants of bringing drugs, bringing crime, and being rapists and his cult following heard that and went crazy. Republicans as a whole react more strongly to fear which makes the fear mongering that Trump does a very effective political strategy. He is able to instill a fear of immigrants in his followers by associating them with all these horrible things so that even his more moderate followers give him undying support on his anti-immigration policies.
Many descendants of immigrants are incredibly removed from their immigrant relatives, especially if it was someone like a great-great-great grandparent whom they’ve never met. After a while, they see themselves and their family as almost always having been American while other people, who migrated more recently, aren’t.
I think another one of the biggest reasons descendants of past generations of immigrants oppose immigration is out of selfishness and fear. They themselves have already immigrated, so to them, it doesn’t matter if anyone else can come. Then, combined with the fear brought by the idea that immigrants “steal” jobs, to them, it’s in their best interest to keep these immigrants from “stealing” jobs and keep them out entirely. Something else that I think contributes to the fear is the struggles immigrants find themselves facing even after arriving in America. Some immigrants have very little education or are unable to speak English or are forced to flee their home countries with little to nothing, which makes finding solid footing in America incredibly difficult. They fear that even more immigrants will make it harder for them to find jobs or be successful since there is more “competition.”
Of course, race also plays a big factor. Many people view Americans as a white people’s country. Others are told to go back to where they came from, even by white people who are immigrants themselves. For example, Denis Kearney, an Irish immigrant, created a party in the 1870s that pressured the U.S. government to ban Chinese immigration less than a decade after he himself had immigrated to America. His actions were very clearly solely based in racism as he only sought to ban Chinese immigrants and not any others. Now, still, many people who are anti-immigration are so because they are racist. The common association of crime with immigrants from places like Mexico and the Middle East means that they are looked down upon whereas someone from Europe would likely be seen as cool.
There are also some people who hold the law above all else, including ethics, who insist that no matter what, breaking the law is unjustifiable. They say that no one is above the law, however I think that even if the law changed to make all immigration legal, these people would be vehemently against it because they are afraid of change. This inhumane and outdated way of thinking leaves people like Mike Vickers, the Texas rancher who lived on the border, with a lack of compassion. They have no empathy for people who are fighting for their lives, who are only fleeing to America because they have no other choice. The law is created by people for people and I think it should constantly be changing as society changes to reflect that. All humans deserve to be treated like humans.
Some descendants of past or present generations of immigrants seem to express opposition to immigration because they otherize current immigrants. They don't see the conditions they're forced to live in, they haven't experienced it, and to them, it's not their problem. Genesis explains in the video "Real America: Out of Sight and Out of Mind" the living conditions they have to endure and adjust to. If they get sick, they don't get proper treatment. There are not a lot of resources and food. She also explains why they must flee their country. They would be killed if they don't pay a 'war tax'. But as the title of the video suggests, these immigrants and their conditions are out of sight and out of mind. Jacob Soboroff, author of Separated: Inside an American Tragedy, also points out that family separations are not done in the best interest of the children but rather from a political perspective. Politicians were willing to destroy a list of children separated from their parents, which is absolutely appalling.
To add onto this issue of otherization, immigrants also target each other despite the fact that if one group of immigrants is barred from entering the country, that just sets the blueprint for other groups to be prohibited from immigrating to America. Such an example is Denis Kearney, an Irish immigrant, who adamantly attacked the Chinese workers and their willingness to work for cheap wages.
I think fear and anxiety also has a lot to do with the anti-immigrant sentiment across the United States. This is supported by the studies conducted by John Bargh. He proves that liberal and conservative attitudes are directly linked to our sense of physical safety, and therefore so are anti-immigration attitudes. This argument also makes sense, as Republican politicians such as Donald Trump use the element of fear to manipulate the masses. Bargh points out that "arch-conservative leaders have often referred to scapegoated minority groups as 'germs' or 'bacteria' that seek to invade and destroy their country from within". This is especially true. The fear of immigrants being spies to destroy our country is apparent in a lot of the sources I've seen that were shown in class or just in general.
Bargh also proves with various studies that making people feel safer about a virus like the flu made them feel safer from immigrants as well and changed their minds [such as being given a flu shot or hand sanitizer]. Fear is a very dangerous and important element that can manipulate so many of our choices and thoughts. The people of this nation are motivated by fear and anxiety of being in danger which leads them to oppose immigration. The desire for survival presides over all else.
Why have so many Americans sought (and continue to seek) to close the door to immigrants?
- So….what motivates people who are already in the United States (or for that matter, any other nation around the world that is confronting the desire of others to migrate—often for urgent, compelling, desperate reasons—to their country) to oppose immigration? Unless you are indigenous or forcibly brought to this country, theoretically you are all descended from immigrants who chose to come here.
- It's out of fear. They fear their social standing in country that ironically promotes freedom and encourages but also demeans those of other backgrounds. The article On Fear and its effect on political views is about a study on Liberals and Conservatives proves the selfishness of human nature. They talk about how if they mention the importance of getting the flu shot and then talk about immigration people are more likely to be more conservative because they fear for their safety. This is how political figures like Donald trump is able to get large followings, he leads with indirect fear. This is why immigrants are more likely to be more conservative, they fear their social standing on land they are foreign to. They fear people questioning them, who they are and where they come from and having immigrants from their home country makes them feel pressurized to pick the most patriotic choice to prevent questioning.
So why do some descendants of past or present generations of immigrants seem to express opposition to immigration? Using the readings (yes, be specific!) and the films (yes, cite them too!) you watched, try to answer this question…as well as this one: What do fear and anxiety have to do with it? And provide specific examples that support your view.
- I answered a bit of this question in my response above and in more connection to the the stories of the migrants and my personal experience. In class we watched a documentary about the lengths people have went to gain asylum in a country y like United States only to be met with the shocking reality of a system rooted in racism and xenophobia. With people who are meant to be our leaders confidently spewing out hate like "“no, but I believe if you come to America you should assimilate. Why do we need to have ‘ Little Havana " which is ridiculous.
- When migrants move to a new country they might not know a lot about the political system of the new country and support what they know can guarantee their personal safety even if it means contradicting themselves. Since fear becomes more of a comfort feeling to them they prioritize safety meaning turning to conservatism.
One of the most prominent motivation for those who oppose immigration is, basically, protecting themselves. Many fear loss of jobs to immigrants, the stereotype that immigrants are all criminals, and overall reduced resources. The obama administration stresses that the majority of those who are deported are criminals, which is addressing that fear. For example, Trump said he wanted to protect Americans from competing immigrants and emphasises that it is to protect ‘our’ people. This fear is strongly associated with nationalism, and a selfishness to not share the wealth. As demonstrated, the tying factor is fear, anxiety about being hurt or disadvantaged. From what I’ve seen, many fear losing their comfortable position in life, of it being taken by immigrants as if there is a finite amount. This pattern can often be seen in other things like opposition to Black Lives Matter or oppisition to gay marriage - a fear of losing white power or the power of being straight (neither of which make sense). So, there is a lot of fear in losing the power of being native born. In a Yale study, it was proven that if people feel less fear about their own wellbeing they are more receptive to liberal ideas. You could spin any argument to be about fear, but conservative beliefs are based on fear for losing power over oneself - it is selfish. For example, unregulated economy and little government interference is based on the fear that the individual will lose power. Resources like energy should continue growing as normal in fear of losing electricity. They also fear for their lives greatly: fear of getting hurt, so they need gun protection. The abortion issues can be tied into this. Note, however, that many of these beliefs are reliant on some misinformation or lack of information. Many don’t know what goes on in immigration camps. For example, the ‘stay in Mexico’ order from Trump put the holdings for court hearings out of sight and out of mind, as said in the video. This atests to their lack of information (whether by choice or not). If they knew that immigration wouldn’t hurt them, that climate change would, I wonder how their opinions would change. Would they sway more liberal if they made the connection between their immigrant ancestors and the immigrants of today? If they knew what happens in the places immigrants flee from? Fear drives opposition to immigration, but survival drives immigration itself. Protecting ourselves (though it may sound shallow) is the one thing we all can agree on, but we just need to realize it.
According to the study conducted by students at Yale, people who are anxious about their own physical safety are afraid of change, and hence become conservative in order to avoid change, and to avoid the uncertainty of what the change would bring. A method that is used by politicians is the fear or confidence tactic (which is also mentioned in the same article written by John Bargh for the Washington Post), where conservative politicians rely on fear to convince people to vote for them whereas liberal politicians rely on “portray[ing] danger as manageable.” For that reason, “President Trump and other Republican politicians are instead likely to emphasize the dangers of terrorism and immigration, relying on fear as a motivator to gain votes.” So, many people in the United States are anti-immigrant because they fear the change affecting them, and so they don’t see the bigger picture of what immigration would bring for those seeking asylum or those who need it. Politicians monopolize on the idea that immigrants are “germs,” and viruses that would kill the economy and kill job opportunities, and/or bring ruin to America. Echo chambers also contribute to opposers staying as anti-immigrant, because no one likes to be wrong. It’s hard to get out of such a loop when it’s so embedded into your system already.
An early anti-immigration movement started in the 1800s, with the Workingmen’s Party of California pressuring Congress and the President to pass the Chinese Exclusion Act (information taken from Scott S. Greenberger’s article, “‘Cheap Slaves’: Trump, immigration, and the ugly history of the Chinese Exclusion Act”), with members of the party using fear as a way to gain support for their movement. The men in the Workingmen’s Party of California was formed on the racist and exclusionary notions that because Chinese immigrants had different cultures. With fear making immigrants be seen as “germs,” it ties into the eugenics belief of having to get rid of what “taints the gene pool” —which is a gross idea to have about people who just want to have a better and safer life for either themselves or for their families. As the Jorge Ramos video, called “Real America: Out of Sight and Out of Mind” shows, many immigrant families come to America/any other country terrified for their lives. They don’t want to be here— but their home country forces them to be there because of socio-economic issues and/or because they fear that they’ll be killed the next day or soon. Some descendants of immigrants fall into the fear trap about work, which causes them to oppose immigration. Fear makes them forget their roots, and for some, it makes them hate their roots as well. It’s sad too, because every time the Obama administration tried to get reprieve for immigrants already in the United States, Southern states tried opposing such movements (information from Scott Horsley’s article, “5 Things to Know about Obama’s Enforcement of Immigration Laws”).
"No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark": Why have so many Americans sought (and continue to seek) to close the door to immigrants?
The reason that descendants of immigrants have an opposition to immigration in most cases is the result of fear mongering and the spamming of misinformation across social media today by some news channels and politicians using immigration as their platform. In John Bargh’s experiment it was unveiled that anti-immigration attitudes tend to be linked to the natural human drive for physical safety and this could be amplified by immigrants who had to flee a country due to the threat of death or impoverishment. An example of the immigrants' need to survive would be their drive and courage to cross the Darien gap which happens to be the most dangerous strip of land on the western hemi-sphere and possibly the world for travelers, so naturally it would leave some trauma. Further in the experiment he connected the feeling of being potentially under threat from the flu to the subjects views on immigration which had an undeniable correlation. Ex-president, Donald J. Trump, had used the fear of terror attacks to amplify his radical opinions and used the festering resentment to basically force himself into office and enacted anti-immigrant policies to appease the population’s fear and gain himself even more popularity. But, the anti-immigrant policies never started with Trump it was just the harrowing conditions that Immigrants were put through that made his policies so widely spread, the NPR article goes further into this were it talks about how presidents such as Obama, George W Bush, and Bill Clinton also enacted anti-immigrant policies but none of these policies to date has done any good for either side of the immigration dilemma.