Immigration

The United States has spiked periodic fevers on the subject of immigration since the militarization of the U.S.-Mexican border in the late 1970s. The debate has typically unfolded on two distinct planes: the economic debate (“they” threaten to take “our” jobs versus “no industrial or post-industrial society has ever shrunk to prosperity”) and the civic or social debate (“they” are inferior and unassimilable versus the argument against today’s Mexicans and South Asians replicates exactly what was said a century ago about the Irish, Jews, and Italians whose descendants now so comfortably constitute an American “us”). The emotive power of this debate was heightened in 2006, with the emergence of highly visible and vocal pro-immigrants’ rights rallies across the country. But only upon the ascension of our first African American President did the anti-immigrant animus reach its highest pitch: I want my country back is evidently a sentiment generated, not by actual immigration rates, but by Obama’s blackness. Were one to gauge the present reality simply by listening to our national discussion, one would never guess that immigration rates are declining and that deportation rates have skyrocketed. Rather, within the right-wing logic of white displacement that has characterized the Obama years, Obama is a “foreign” usurper and immigration itself is our most pressing and dangerous problem. Hence the irrepressible “birther” movement, and the new and harsh anti-immigrant laws in states like Arizona and Alabama. This gallery is devoted to the manifestations of this bitter debate. mj