Immigrants as ‘Aliens’ for the Right-Wing Media

Published: 4 December 2014

Country: US

Immigration_USUS President Obama’s immigration plan is the most recent opportunity utilised by the some of the media portraying immigrants as “threatening aliens ” to the American nation. Immigrants in the US were accused once again of “stealing jobs, costing taxpayers and being responsible for overcrowded schools and hospitals”.

US president recently proposed immigration reform that would give a temporary right to 5 million people to stay in the country.  Not surprisingly, some media outlets used this occasion to belittle the importance of immigrant rights and jumped into the full wave of anti-immigration advocacy and rhetorics.

The well-known argumentation used by the conservative media is a suggestion that “illegal immigrants jeopardise Americans’ employment opportunities and take social benefits from public funds”.

Many right wing media outlets based their story on Heritage Foundation, the conservative research think tank often criticised of producing controversial reports “Report: Immigration Amnesty Will Cost American Taxpayers $2 TRILLION” is the headline of Fox News Insider referring to the Heritage Foundation statistics, while New York Post suggests that New York schools will be overwhelmed with new immigrant students.

Some other examples of the discriminatory approach and language used to debate the immigration issues in the US include the phrases such as “immigrant women ‘[knock] out babies like loaves of bread’ in order to get more welfare benefits”. That is why Media Matters for America warned about the alarming rhetoric portraying the immigrants as a threat and burden to the American society and published the list on how Right-Wing Media Use Economic Myths To Attack Obama’s Immigration Action. There are many experts’ findings and interpretations of positive impacts that immigration has on the society, but some of the media deliberately disregard these facts.

Media Matters for America in their report showed several finding that oppose suggestions that immigrants will be a burden to American citizens. For instance, Economic Policy Institute study found that immigration has a “positive impact on the wages of native-born workers overall: although new immigrant workers add to the labor supply, they also consume goods and services, which create more jobs.

“The most recent academic research suggests that, on average, immigrants raise the overall standard of living of American workers by boosting wages and lowering prices. One reason is that immigrants and U.S.-born workers generally do not compete for the same jobs; instead many immigrants complement the work of U.S. employees and increase their productivity. For example, low-skill immigrant laborers allow U.S.-born farmers, contractors, or craftsmen to expand agricultural production or to build more homes — thereby expanding employment possibilities and incomes for U.S. workers”, says the Brookings Institute in its report.

A piece in The Atlantic argues that with this step “Obama is bringing the dream of exceptional American mobility a bit closer” and even if the reform comes at the expense of some Americans it positively affects the gap between social classes.

“Until Congress acts, they will still represent a separate caste. But their opportunities for economic mobility—and with it cultural assimilation—have just shot up. Will those opportunities come at the expense of some other Americans, whose legal status had previously given them an economic advantage? Sure. But that’s the whole point of class mobility. When men and women becomes masters of their own fate rather than prisoners of circumstance”, writes the Atlantic.