Immigration: Rhetorics and Realities

This evening I received a Facebook notification where I had been tagged in a post about a political cartoon related to immigration. Of course, I have opinions about anything related to racialization, history, culture, and such. As I was mentally preparing my response, it occurred to me that except for sharing this podcast I made for my students, I have not done a full article about immigration specifically. (This article,The Nature of History, History as Entity vs. Example, and Texas History, uses similar ideas as discussed below.) Time to change that.  

En masse migration (or movement) of humans, plants, and animals is a never-ending, natural process. Only in the past century or two have countries world-wide sought to relegate and control this moment as modern Nation States and geopolitical areas reached a kind of maturity. Nonetheless, geopolitical borders are just that – political borders. Humans, plants, and animals have no understanding on a deep, biological, evolutionarily level that when you cross “this” line you are on “my property” or when you cross “this” line you are in a different nation, with a different set of mores.

Borderlands, or the “overlapping” areas between two counties, are frequently places of conflict and give and take.

Many people in the United States get entirely too excited (read: upset) when it comes to immigrants. They forget they too are immigrants, unless they are Indians (who were already here) or colorized as Black (since they were kidnapped). “Immigrant” implies a kind of freewill. They forget that immigrants greatly benefit our economy. They do jobs others will not do. They also do pay taxes when they buy anything, even if they do not pay income tax in all cases. And in cases where they do not pay income tax, they are likely making far less than a minimum wage (not to mention a living wage.) And let us not forgot about all of the corporations that do not pay income tax! And please do not cite arguments that “they come here for medical care” – the United States does not have that great of a medical system compared to other counties. And it is the human thing to do to help if someone needs it and we can help. Money does not matter.

As far as immigration today, all the rhetoric surrounding “illegals” is generally racist/colorist. People are people. People cannot be “illegal.” People are not “aliens.” We are far from being an overcrowded nation. If people want to come here, there should be easy ways, as there were. And believe it or not, there are people always leaving the United States for good. And the United States is not the only place immigrants travel to. 

The President’s recent efforts to improve the immigrant situation are understandable, considering the political environment he is forced to work with – a political environment that has specifically said its number one goal is to prevent everything and anything he does from happening. In reality, he should not have called the undocumented immigrants criminals. That does not do anyone any good and perpetuates the idea that immigrants pose real physical and psychological danger to the United States. 

So, finally, getting to why I started this post. According to this articleIndianapolis Star published this political cartoon:

cartoon1 And then because of accusations of racism, took it down, and published this cartoon:


And then took it down, too. 

Reportedly, people said the mustache was racist. The mustache is not actually what bothers me. Political cartoons tend to regularly have people drawn with unnatural eyes, noses, mouths, and faces in general; however, compare the faces of the “family” and of the “immigrants.” The “immigrants” have far fewer expressions and detail. Compare the female on the left in the window to the White people at the table, for example. 

It is clearly anti-immigrant by implying that people colorized as White/people who are “proper” citizens of the United States will have to (and reluctantly will) take care of immigrants. 

Additionally, it suggests that people in the United States are selfish and unwilling to help a neighbor. While the collective response of far too many people does ring very selfish, when it comes to immigrants or helping anyone in need, most people (those I know at least) are more than willing to take in a few extra people on Thanksgiving. Additionally, there are many people who care in other circumstances.

The political cartoon promotes the perception that immigrants are law breakers, people who desire to take and demand things. It promotes fear. It promotes a sense of territory and “the-personal-is-the-political”-geopolitical-boundaries. And they are coming in the window, not the door. In addition to “breaking in,” this could also connote a new “Culture of Segregation,” where immigrants are not allowed to come in the front door.  

The political cartoon also promotes distrust of the President, misuses his words and actions, and perpetuates the idea that “floods” of immigrants are waiting to enter the United States. Altogether, it reinforces fear that the status quo is about to be dismantled.  

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