Following Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the American presidential election there has been a lot of debate regarding his key positions as he reiterated plans to build a wall along the Mexican border and his goal of deporting between two and three million illegal (or undocumented, the term some circles in the U.S. prefer) immigrants. Unsurprisingly, there have been backlashes to Mr. Trump’s proposed policies. The chancellor of Cal State University vowed to not deport students as campuses nationwide planned protests while the chief of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) said that his department would not assist in deporting illegal immigrants.
This debate has—unsurprisingly—spread to the football field but not in the way that many may have anticipated. Despite media hyperbole designed to turn the 11 November 2016 World Cup Qualifier between Mexico and the United States into a political event, nothing of note materialized. The Miami Herald emphasized that there was no anti-Mexican sentiment in the stadium, and it was business as usual when Mexico went on to win 1-0 with a late goal courtesy of Rafa Marquez.
U.S. Fans Hang a Political Banner At the Match (Top) While an Unidentified Mexico Fan Wears a Mask of U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump (Bottom). Both Images Are Taken From a Very Readable Piece That Appeared on MLS’ Website. The Piece States Some Things Mainstream Media Won’t Dare Mention, Such as one Mexican American’s Comment That “I was born here, but I’m a first-generation American. My family is from Mexico and normally I support Mexico when they play, but when it’s US vs. Mexico, I’m USA first. When I was born and raised, my mother was all, ‘We speak English at home. You’ve got to integrate yourself into society.'” Images Courtesy Of: http://www.mlssoccer.com/post/2016/11/18/us-mexico-fans-find-joy-refuge-common-ground-columbus-word
Reading the news, I was left wondering why on earth the match was expected to elicit any sort of political response. Aside from the fact that (state) media wants to emphasize division by reporting in certain ways, there is no reason that policies aimed to promote legal immigration and discourage illegal immigration should be seen as an attack on Mexico specifically, or any other country for that matter. Unfortunately, the media is not that nuanced.
I myself as a graduate student in a PhD program have heard the perspectives of those fed by this kind of biased reporting that drives division. I have been told that, since my mother is an immigrant, I should not agree with increased border enforcement. I answer that my mother is a legal immigrant who came to the United States to study and who eventually got a PhD so as to fulfill here dream of becoming a professor. I have been told that the most Nobel Prize winners have been immigrants. When I stress legal immigrants, the other side ceases to argue. The enforcement of borders is a normal policy the world over; when on a family trip to Norway I saw armed soldiers standing guard at the docks so as to ensure that all tourists returned to the cruise ship. I have been stopped by police in Sofia, Bulgaria, and asked to produce a passport so as to provide some sort of documentation in order to prove that I entered the country legally. Interestingly enough, none of this seemed strange to me. Although I dream of a world with no borders (since I enjoy traveling), I also realize that this cannot become a reality until all countries abolish borders.
The saddest thing in the debate is the fact that the American public is woefully uninformed, either because state media has a penchant for churning out extremely biased stories or because Americans have little knowledge of the rest of the world; I had a fellow graduate student tell me that he could “just walk across borders in Europe”. When I told him that he still had to enter the European Union at some point in order to do that, he was shocked. While I cannot fault this perspective—after all, travel is a privilege and a luxury—I can fault the media, since it does a dis-service to all those that would like neutral reporting. The media is complicit in pushing a false narrative that being against illegal immigration means being against all immigration. A good example of this kind of poor journalism is Al Jazeera America’s articleAl Jazeera America’s articleAl Jazeera America’s article about the American 2014 World Cup team which says:
The composition of the team reflects the shifting profile of the North American athlete and the migratory patterns that the U.S. government has so fervently attempted to restrict. Sixty percent of the roster is composed of first- or second-generation Americans, five of whom were born outside the U.S. The team could field a starting lineup of 11 players with direct ties to Mexico, Colombia, Haiti, Germany, Norway, Iceland, Poland, Latvia and the Philippines; 14 of the squad’s 23 men trace their roots through five continents.
This article implies that America’s strength—not only in footballing terms, but in social terms—lies in its acceptance of immigrants. It is a sentiment that I wholeheartedly agree with. But—and this is a huge BUT that is often ignored—that immigration should be legal. This is because I believe that illegal immigration is inherently unfair and unequal. In a democratic society the goal is—ostensibly—to make people equal. Obviously, given certain structural issues, this is a fairly utopian view but it is one that is necessary to further the myth of democracy; those of us living in such societies have no choice but to buy in. The unfairness of illegal immigration stems from many factors. It is, first and foremost, unfair to the countrymen/women of the illegal immigrant; they arrive illegally while others follow the legal route. It is also unequal to other foreigners; those that follow the legal routes to a visa or citizenship are actively being subverted. A third inequality that results from illegal immigration relates to the job market. If one is undocumented, they will work for any wage they can get. Unfortunately, this means that others—particularly poor African-Americans and poor white Americans—get pushed out of jobs since illegal immigrants are essentially competing with poor Americans for the same jobs. This is an inherent contradiction within American politics; illegal immigration is championed at the same time as racial equality even though it is clear that this means a loss of—and lack of opportunity in—jobs for many minorities in U.S. society.
The media do not take such a view, which is important to note since their stories are what drive the narrative of events in the United States. The LA Times reported that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was “expressing concern that mass deportations would hurt the Southern California economy, which he said is dependent on the labor and tax dollars of noncitizens”. The fact that a city in the United States should be dependent on the “labor of noncitizens” is, frankly, absurd and shows that something needs to change. Business Insider also wrote an alarmist piece documenting the economic disaster that may befall the U.S. if mass deportations of undocumented labor does indeed occur. They cite a study by the American Action Forum, described as “a nonpartisan, center-right-leaning think tank”. The study concludes that “Overall, removing all undocumented immigrants would cause private sector output to decline by between $381.5 billion and $623.2 billion. This translates to a 2.9 percent to 4.7 percent reduction in total annual output from the private sector”. While this would clearly mean a big hit to the U.S. economy, the article makes no reference to the fact that there might be unemployed American workers who could fill in and take the jobs of the undocumented deportees. Also, the article does not note the possibility that undocumented laborers who have not committed crimes—and are merely working hard to provide for their families by legal means—might be given documentation and therefore be allowed to continue working (a position that I support). In short, the media’s portrayal of a “crackdown” on illegal immigration is highly alarmist—and not just in terms of economics.
But Who Is To Say That These Jobs Cannot Be Filled? After All, Relying on Illegal Immigrants For Jobs Is Exploitative Of the Undocumented Workers. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.businessinsider.com/cost-deporting-undocumented-immigrants-study-2016-5
Business Insider also published a piece that underlines the possible violent consequences of this crackdown not only in the United States, but in Central America as well. The article notes that many deportees have few connections to their home countries, and that they will just try to return the the United States if/when they cannot find employment in their home countries. Business Insider also warns that “these people would also fall prey to criminal groups — transnational gangs like Barrio 18 or MS-13 — that have turned northern Central America and parts of Mexico into war zones […]The consequence of deporting many immigrants — a number of whom were already criminals — to countries emerging from a period of war with weak law enforcement and little economic development was the growth of groups like Barrio 18 and MS-13, both of which have their origins among immigrants in California who were deported”. A professor of political science is quoted as saying “Honduran and Guatemalan gangs were aided by deportations as well as the spread of gang influence from El Salvador […] So, in a way, deportations were extremely important to the emergence and expansion of criminal groups like the MS-13 and Barrio 18”. Now, this article raised two important questions to me. The first is “As an American and Turkish citizen, what do I care about how deportations affect Central American countries?”. The second is “if these people are indeed violent gang members—or even have a proclivity for violence—then why would I want them to continue to stay in the country?”. A logical response would be…A president’s job is to take care of their own country and that violent people should not be on the streets. Seems sound, right?
The Article Is Misleading; Homicides are Decreasing in Two of the Three Countries and I Would Argue That This Says More About Domestic Problems In The Triangle Than U.S. Policies. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.businessinsider.com/problems-with-donald-trump-deportation-plan-and-gang-violence-2016-11
As I have said, the media has a way of skirting the truth. When a former U.S. official is quoted, he says “as a result of that [U.S. deportation policy], we have created a disaster in Central America … where these gangs are fighting among each other, creating a massive migration of individuals into the United States”. While the deportation policy might have been one cause of “disaster” in Central America, I would argue that the true cause runs far deeper. Perhaps this is just another cause of blowback; American meddling in Central America during the Cold War and the policy of “kingmaking” by imposing and deposing strongmen by way of military coups hindered the region’s development so that most of the states are, now, unstable. This is why, for me at least, an abandonment of the notion of “empire” by the United States could lead to a more stable world in the future.
This is not solely a political blog, this blog is also about sports and I will bring the topic back. The main thing is that this kind of reporting misses the fact that there are some real issues regarding the consequences of illegal immigration. In October 2016 an illegal immigrant youth soccer coach was arrested in Texas for molesting eight of his young players. As someone who believes in the value of youth sport—and as someone who has coached youth soccer before—this kind of story is tragic. Soccer will forever be associated with the heinous crime of molestation for these young children, and no one has the right to soil the beautiful game in this manner. As long as the media continues to frame the possible U.S. immigration policies under a President Trump as “racist” or “xenophobic” we will never be able to actually discuss the problem maturely, robbing us of a chance at productive dialogue. The truth is that some—certainly not all—illegal immigrants are a problem and that a solution needs to be found. Allowing people like the alleged molester Marcos Ramos to stay in the United States is not only bad for Americans, it is also bad for Mexicans and other immigrants from Central America since people like Mr. Ramos feed into the creation of harmful stereotypes. Let’s hope for more productive discourse in the media on this topic sooner rather than later.