The Framing of Immigration is a brief, provocative article on recent developments in the “too many people coming here from Mexico” controversy. George Lakoff and Sam Ferguson point out that framing the problem as about immigration misdirects our attention. Mexican immigrants are cast as illegal (implying that they are criminals), undocumented (implying that they should be documented), aliens (implying that they fundamentally do not belong here), not to mention a security risk (implying that they are dangerous). In this way the Republican machine consciously avoids addressing the actual problems and their actual causes.

Immigration per se is not the problem. Among the problems we should be trying to solve are:

  • Why are conditions in Mexico so awful that millions of Mexicans are willing to risk their lives to cross into the United States?
  • Why are they treated so abominably once they get here?
  • Exactly why don’t we want them to be here?

My own favorite mis-framing example (mentioned only in passing by Lakoff and Ferguson) is how immigrants are said to be “taking jobs from Americans”. Consider:

  • Do they actually take jobs from Americans? Show me the data.
  • If they aren’t taking jobs from Americans, who came up with that image, and why?
  • Even if they are doing that, in what way is it better for Americans to have those jobs than for Mexicans to have them?
  • Even if they are doing that, might there not be a better solution to this problem than to try to make it more difficult for them to come here?
  • I don’t want to pick cauliflower for 12 hours a day, do you? Why don’t we just let them do it? Did I miss something?

Then there’s the Bush cabal’s bundling of “homeland security” into the immigration “problem.” What exactly does immigration from Mexico have to do with homeland security? In what way will building a fence across the border make us more “secure”? These are just the first two objections that come to mind. I’ve got a million of ’em.

Please read the article, and discuss.

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