The Concept of Illegality

Immigration is as much a part of our culture as it’s deeply rooted in the creation of our nation. It wasn’t until the late nineteenth century when the California began to see a need to secure its borders and control the increasing number of immigrants from arriving and entering each year. One of the first legislations passed to control immigration was specifically targeted towards one ethnic group, the Chinese. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 demonstrated a response to economic fears due to unemployment and lesser wages on the West Coast, particularly in California (Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882). This paved the way towards a national concern about immigration, demonstrated in the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 which targeted Southeastern Europeans.

Scholars such as Harvard’s Samuel Huntington may distort views on immigration by directly correlating social and economic ills to immigrants. Specifically, he says Mexicans in causes not only social and economic ills, but also destruction to our nation’s cultural identity (The Hispanic Challenge). Indeed, with every movement of people, consequences will occur; however, the usage of fear and manipulation of data must not drive our perceptions.

However, we should ask ourselves- what factors drive citizens’ positions on immigration policies? The concept of illegality is a post-1965 notion where the Hart-Celler Act abolished the national origins quotas and replaced it with a numerical-based system of immigrants. This act established a concrete definition of borders and created tension between immigrants and natives. Clearly, economic concern shapes a voter’s decision as well as their socioeconomic standing, educational level, and ethnic identity. For instances, Latino voters tend to be more sympathetic towards legislation targeted towards Latino legislation as compared to other ethnic groups (Race, Ethnicity and Immigration). Essentially, we must examine the origin and influence of immigration discourse for this upcoming election in order to make an educated vote.

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