Musings on the Immigration Debate

Since taking the oath of office, President Donald Trump has met with numerous controversies regarding policy and law. One of the most urgent – immigration reform – has become a hotbed of debate. Currently, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have been unable to reach an agreement about the changes that need to be made to America’s immigration policy.

Aviva Chomsky, an academic and historian who also happens to be the daughter of political activist Noam Chomsky, has entered her voice into the debate over immigration. In her article, “Dividing Immigrants into Good and Evil is a Dangerous Game” republished on the Nation’s website, Chomsky delineates the current debate on immigration from a political and historical perspective in order to effectively criticize the Trump administration.

Chomsky begins her article by describing the current state of immigration policy reform in the United States, stating that “the immigration debate seems to have gone crazy”. This use of subjective language sets the reader up to view all the information that Chomsky presents about the struggle to reform immigration policy as just that: crazy. This has the effect of placing her audience on the side of the Liberal left. However, based on Chomsky’s conversational tone when discussing the negative aspects of both Trump and the Republicans that support him – the reader gets a sense that she knows that her audience was already on her side.

In order to show just how wrong Trump and Republicans are in regards to how they view immigration, Chomsky uses select quotations to prove her point. Taken out of direct context, there is rhetorical power in showcasing Trump’s “sweeping references to ‘foreign bad guys’ and ‘shithole countries’.” This evidence of Trump’s racist speech helps to support Chomsky’s main argument – that current immigration debate is just fuel for the racist opinions that currently hold power in government.

Chomsky’s observations of the state of immigration debate is not confined just to her words. The accompanying image to the article is a picture of ICE police agents handcuffing an (illegal) immigrant. While the audience is not privy to the face of the arrested individual in the picture, it is clear that this person is not of the Nordic blond and blue-eyed persuasion. This image helps to drive home the fear that Chomsky builds into her rhetoric by calling attention to the threats posed by ICE agents to turn America into a police state. Chomsky describes this “concept of criminality” being taken to “new heights” by ICE agents, with the intent to escalate her audience into perhaps taking a more active role in defending the rights of immigrants.

One of the points of Chomsky’s article that she executes effectively is to draw attention to the misuse in government and the media of the term chain migration. She unabashedly calls out both Democrats and Republicans for their misuse of the word. For the benefit of her audience, who may be on the Left but may lack historical background, Chomsky provides the socio-historical background of the term and how its place in immigration policy has led to a systemized racism towards Mexicans and other Latino groups attempting to immigrate to the United States. Chomsky places this distinction between family unification and chain migration as the crux of her rhetorical analysis of the immigration debate. It is with this quasi-history lesson that Chomsky is able to direct the rhetoric back to her main goal: placing a spotlight on the racist Trump administration.

The article ends with Chomsky calling out Trump and his overuse of the concept of threats to national security for what it is, claiming that with the administration’s view on immigration policy “race has again reared its head explicitly.” It is clear from the audience for this article that Chomsky knew she was presenting information to fellow liberals and anti-Trump Democrats, however her sense of urgency as portrayed in evidence and word choice presents a powerful level of exigency regarding the current debate on immigration.


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