A copy of the in class presentation; Undocumented Immigrants
Preliminary research on the subject
The audience is challenged to develop an understanding of a complex array of factors when assessing social claims concerning undocumented immigrants in this country. Among these are:
Geographics – physical boundaries play a role in the circumstances. i.e. Mexican and Latino immigrants have far greater access to the U. S. borders through land routes than immigrants from other areas that require travel by air and sea.
Demographics – the origin and destination of immigrants are affected by the proximity to international borders and entry points, i.e. Immigrants will tend to settle in states near their entry points. Arizona and California have higher immigrant populations than other states and therefore experience more of the difficulties detailed in the claims.
Economics – The disparity of local economies across international borders helps determine the motivations for immigrants to cross those borders. 1) The economic differences between Mexico and the United States provide a much more compelling reason to cross borders than those that exist between Canada and the United States. 2) Immigrants will be drawn to states with industries that profit by employing low wage workers. Service industry jobs near the borders, low tech food processors and agricultural jobs are common draws for undocumented workers looking for work. This drives both companies and immigrants to maneuver around existing immigration laws.
Politics: Governments across the globe struggle to balance internal and international economic factors in order to create regulations that bring order to the immigration process. The U. S. faces different challenges with each nationality in light of the other factors listed above.
Rather than relying on claims-makers for my education , I tried to find some analytical and objective information to increase my understanding of the situation.
My preliminary research led me to a variety of sources:
TheU.S. government provides objective information on the size, location and makeup of the immigrant population.
From the U. S Census Bureau
Nativity Status and Citizenship in US 2009 http://www.census.gov/prod/2010pubs/acsbr09-16.pdf
Place of birth of foreign born population 2009 http://www.census.gov/prod/2010pubs/acsbr09-15.pdf
The Foreign-Born Labor Force in theUnited States: 2007 http://www.census.gov/prod/2009pubs/acs-10.pdf
From theU.S. bureau of labor statistics
Labor Force Characteristics of Foreign-Born Workers Summary http://www.bls.gov/news.release/forbrn.nr0.htm
The Urban Institute consolidated much of the census data providing a coherent, understandable snapshot of the immigrant population’s geographics and demographics.
Undocumented Immigrants: Facts and Figures http://www.urban.org/publications/1000587.html
Other useful sources were those that outlined claims and provided evidence that contradicted those claims. Aviva Chomsky’s book ‘They Take Our Jobs and 20 Other Myths about Immigration’ deconstructs popular immigration myths while providing an analysis that compares fact and popular opinion on immigration issues.
The Southern Poverty Law Center and About .com, both immigrant advocacy groups, provide similar facts vs. claims analyses.
This research, admittedly, relies primarily on left leaning resources. One reason is that the more conservative sites I looked at almost inevitably provided claims masquerading as ’facts’ with little or no referenced sources to back them up, leaving the audience with no way to determine the veracity of the information. See more on this later in the post
The following CILE site illustrates the point:
Citizens for immigration law enforcement: ‘Illegal immigration facts’.
This site tries to persuade the audience based on ideologies rather than substantive information
Framing the claims
In investigating the claims a pattern arose which enabled a categorization of the claims and claims-makers..
1) Those claims that were made at the individual level could be characterized by underlying tones of xenophobia, racism, nationalism and fear. Sponsored by conservative organizations these claims are often driven by strong personal emotion and unsupported allegations and less by objective evidence. Typifying stories outline the problems caused by the presence of ‘illegals’. Their diagnostic frame sees the immigration problem as one of individuals ignoring laws and bringing poverty and disease to this country. Their corresponding prognostic frame proposes prosecution, imprisonment and deportation of ‘illegals’ as the solution. A healthcare claim on the CILE site advocates sending immigrants with healthcare issues back to their own country. In their typifying story the problems experienced by a specific hospital caring for uninsured ‘illegals’ are not put into any societal context. Is the problem specific to this hospital? How many hospitals are similarly affected? How did the ‘illegal patient’ come to be injured? Perhaps working for less than minimum wage at a plant with substandard working conditions? None of this background is readily available.
The most radical, right leaning sites advocate a position that cultural diversity itself is evil and undermines successful nation states. Immigration is part of an evil scheme to establish an ‘Atheistic Materialistic Totalitarian Dictatorship’ and illegal immigrants are responsible for bringing a litany of diseases into the country: ‘Tuberculosis, hepatitis, dengue fever, chagas, and even leprosy are being imported into the U.S. inside the bodies of illegal aliens…And you thought they only carried heroin-filled balloons inside their bodies!’
Certainly, these are blatant, fear driven ( see Glassner), appeals to an audience that is easily swayed by emotions rather than facts. The motivational frames are entirely emotional. These claims-makers often rely on religious references and graphic representations of the flag and the constitution to help frame their claims. http://www.citizensforlaws.org/
2) Institutional claims were those that saw government regulations and procedures as the problem. They tend to be more rational and fact based in their claims. In their diagnostic arguments they strive to provide factual evidence of the problems associated with poorly constructed laws which, intentionally or not, trap immigrants in untenable conditions. One well documented paper points to complex tax laws that do not make sense and may be viewed as a way to take advantage of the immigrant population that is unable to advocate for itself. http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/llr/vol9/lipman.php
Other claims discuss current healthcare regulations and how new universal healthcare laws will effect undocumented immigrants and their access to care. http://www.kff.org/uninsured/upload/Immigrants-Health-Care-Coverage-and-Access-fact-sheet.pdf
These claims generally reflect a thoughtful, logical gathering of objective evidence in support of a prognistic frame that advocates institutional and regulatory reform as a solution for undocumented immigrant issues. This information would appeal to an informed, well educated, audience. The motivational frames are primarily logical.
3) Finally, Global claims look to the social problems created by a global, capitalist economic model as the cause of issues with immigrants. The claim is that Globalization allows large corporations to move about and to exploit less economically advantaged populations for increased profits. Solutions, if considered, include the idealistic notion that change can be brought to the current world economic order. Motivational frames are altruistic and idealistic but not very realistic.
The players – victims and villains
Ironically, the undocumented immigrants are alternatively viewed as villains in individual framed claims and victims in institutionally framed claims. Conservative claims-makers, as expected, view the situation from an individual attribute level portraying immigrants as the villains and U.S. citizens as the victims. Liberal claim-makers portray social institutions as the villains with immigrants playing the role of victims.
A very brief search of two popular media sources seems to indicate that coverage of immigration issues is relatively unbiased. Certainly, a broader, more extensive analysis , not allowed for in this context, is needed to confirm these conclusions.
A Google inquiry of NY Times articles on the subject yields a variety articles detailing positive and negative views on the subject:
Illegal Immigrants are Bolstering Social Security with Billions
Senate Democrats Reintroduce Dream Act
Obams Courts Latino Voters with Immigration Speech
Utah Immigration Law is Blocked
New Call in Albany to Quit U.S. Immigration Program
U. S. Warns schools Against Checking Immigration Status
A similar query from USA Today reflects both positive and negative aspects of immigration:
Illegal immigrants might get stimulus jobs, experts say http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/employment/2009-03-08-immigrant-jobs_N.htm
Fewer illegal immigrants entering USA http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2010-09-01-illegal-immigrants_N.htm
Rising health care costs put focus on illegal immigrants http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2008-01-21-immigrant-healthcare_N.htm
Illegal immigrants face threat of no college http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2008-07-06-Illegaled_N.htm
As might be expected, the media will tend to lay low to avoid controversy in this issue. I would not expect the media to take a strong stand in this controversy as it is caught between appealing to the personal interests of its customers, the general populace, and the economic interests of its owners, big business, which in this case conflict..
The audience varies widely in this country as do the claims surrounding undocumented immigrants. The claims-makers are challenged to construct claims differently for different audiences in order to collect sufficient support. My analysis of the claims-making going on now in the U.S. points to some interesting contradictions.
Conservative republicans, normally in favor of decreased govt. intervention and increased corporate profits, need to find a way to appease their popular base by demanding immigration reform while still protecting corporate interests which favor immigration. What seems to be happening is that the republicans make a show of implementing reform legislation, but then do little to actually enforce the regulations that are put in place. One paper looks at the pattern of immigration law enforcement as a source of the problems that currently exist in the U.S.
The Illegal Alien Problem: Enforcing the Immigration Laws http://www.immigrationusa.com/george_weissinger.html
An individual writing on Yahoo!Answers.com sums up the issue as follows : “On one hand you ( the conservatives) say you want to defend our Constitution and its nation of laws. On the other hand you worship corporate profits. So when the time comes to stoping companies from hiring illegals you oppose prosecution. Who wins in the case of The United States Constitution vs. Corporate profits?” http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110115091624AA7Yh7C
Another interesting example of ideological conflict is pointed out in Aviva Chomsky’s book. Folks who look to the US Constitution and its ideologies as a remedy for their claims face an ideological dilemma. They are adamantly in favor of the constitutional claim that all ‘men’ are created equal but are not a bit uncomfortable with the notion that undocumented immigrants should be denied equal rights. Perhaps the dilemma could be resolved with a constitutional amendment that provides that all ‘US citizens’ are created equal.
As illustrated in the above discussion, a thoughtful audience audience is challenged to ‘decode’ the diagnostics and prognostics, ideologies and facts, presented by the claims-makers to determine if their claims are valid and if the solutions actually remedy the problem or just distract the audience from the real issues at hand. The issue is far more complex than I imagined but this research certainly allows me to more carefull consider claims regarding immigration reform within our existing social contex.