In the battle over immigration, words such as "illegals" are used frequently in an attempt to dehumanize the millions of people who live and work in this country without proper documentation. By turning individual human beings into objects, in this case dark, scary, and unlawful things, opponents of immigration try to snuff out any empathy most people would have for the individuals who risk their lives to come into the country for a chance at better lives for themselves and their families. An article in GQ offers a possible antidote, giving the "illegals" names, stories, hopes, and fears. "Hecho en America" offers analysis of the migrant farmer population in this country, both those with proper documentation and those without. From the article:
Most of the people who pick our food come from Mexico. They blanket the entire country, and yet to most of us they're strangers, so removed from our lives we hardly know they're here, people hunched over baskets in the flat distance as we drive down vacation highways. If we imagine them having anything to do with our lives at all, the picture isn't good: 50 percent of the migrant-farmworker population is in the United States illegally, the one piece of the story Americans hear quite a lot about and are increasingly bothered by, or urged to be. On TV and talk radio and especially during election years, we're told we must work together to stop this national crisis. These people are robbing our homes and trafficking drugs and raping our children right there in our J.C. Penney dressing rooms. The bad guys make headlines, as bad guys will, and the rest, we're told, are a more insidious blight: taking American jobs, giving birth to bastard "anchor babies" in what Pat Buchanan once called "the greatest invasion in human history." Whether we buy into the rhetoric or not, one thing has been made clear: Illegal immigration is a problem reaching a breaking point, and something must be done.
Except there really is no invasion, no growing national crisis. In fact, recent statistics show that immigration from Mexico has actually gone down—and steeply so—over the past decade. (An estimated 80,000 unauthorized migrants crossed the Mexican border into the United States last year, down from 500,000 ten years ago.) More to the point: There is nothing new about this story. Importing foreign labor has always been the American way, beginning with 4 million slaves from Africa. Later came the Jews and Poles, the Hungarians, Italians, and Irish, the Chinese and Japanese—everything you learned in sixth-grade social studies about the great American melting pot. And with each group came a new wave of anti-immigrant, pro-Anglo rage.
Read the full article here.