The words and phrases that the general public and people in power use to talk about immigration determine whether we tend to think of immigrants as military threats, economic assets, societal burdens, or modern Ellis Island arrivals. And how we talk and think determine how we act and what kinds of policies we set.
Hartelius’s introduction to her book the Rhetorics of US Immigration: Identity, Community, Otherness:
Since 2011, the number of unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, specifically the Rio Grande Valley, has surged to tens of thousands per year. Between October 2013 and June 2014, over 47 thousand were apprehended by U.S. customs agents, many of them under the age of 13. Shelter facilities are overburdened and administrators backlogged. The news media reports that many of the children leave families behind to escape the violence and coercive recruitment efforts of Central American gangs. Many set out to find a parent or relative living in the United States, oftentimes without documentation. This is an international, humanitarian, political, and logistical crisis. Moreover, it is a rhetorical [LINK]crisis, a matter of enduring mythologies and symbolic classifications with material consequences. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency refers to the young immigrants as “Unaccompanied Alien Children”; the UN Refugee Agency as “Children on the Run.” With either label, these children illustrate the contingency of immigration on language, and the powerful rhetoric of social (civic and national) imaginaries.