Immigration and the “Wall”

Last week, I saw an article on Buzzfeed where Trump and Sanders supporters were asked about their opinions on “the wall.”  “The wall” refers to Trump’s proposition to create a wall on the Mexican-American border as part of an immigration reform.  In each interview, the supporters were asked to write their opinions on a pad of paper and hold it up.  While many of the responses were dumb, a few of them stood out to me and relate back to our class discussions on immigration.  


One quote from a Trump supporter stood out to me: “I think we should build a wall because the amount of illegal people coming in this country are ruining thousands of job opportunities every day for people who are legal citizens.”  This quote reminded me of one of the Vice videos from class where the interviewer stood outside of a temp agency and asked people if they would be willing to work on a farm.  A majority of the people said that they would never do that and one man even said that the farm should get Mexicans to do the work.  Although we do not know if the video was edited to only show specific responses, it is obvious that many “regular” Americans do not want the jobs that migrants work.  Similarly, this idea was expressed in Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies when the migrant workers would perform the fruit picking in the fields while American workers help higher authority positions.  Without migrant workers, many important industries in the United States would not be able to function.  


When comparing the responses of the Trump supporters to those of the Sanders supporters, I also noticed a trend with the terms used to describe the migrants.  In general, Bernie supporters referred to the people as “immigrants.”  In contrast, Trump supporters used terms like “illegals” and linked immigrants to terrorism and drugs.  These stereotypes represent a form of symbolic violence because they reinforce the racist ideas that migrants are violent and dangerous criminals.  This symbolic violence also fortifies the misconception that people of the United States are superior to those of other countries.  


As we learned from Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies, the idea that migrants are all terrorists and drug dealers is very wrong.  In fact, Holmes explained that most migrants abide by laws more strictly than American citizens.  Migrant workers usually drove below the speed limit and paid taxes.   By continuing to associate migrant workers with terrorism and drugs, we are reinforcing stereotypes.  The claims that building a wall would decrease the drug trade and terrorism are not necessarily true.  Moreover, preventing migrant workers from crossing the border to work here in the USA will be detrimental to our economy.  Without the workers from South and Central America, we would not have enough people to harvest our crops and farms would not be able to produce enough food.  

Overall, I think that it would be interesting to see if reading Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies would affect politicians’ stances on immigration.  I also wonder if the Trump supporters would change their stances on immigration if they read Seth Holmes’s ethnography.  Learning about the migration patterns of workers across the border teaches us that our economy depends greatly on migrant workers.  By building a “wall,” we would be hurting our economy as opposed to helping it.



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