Us and Them: An analysis of recognition in issues of immigration

October 31, 2011

Political Theory


When it comes to voting, everyone wants to think that his or her vote matters. That is why recognition is such an important aspect of political campaigns. I don’t know about you, but I would not be inclined to vote for a presidential candidate who does not stand for the same issues that I do. I would like to be recognized as a citizen whose vote matters and whose opinion is considered. Today, political parties are becoming increasingly separated. You are either a Republican or a Democrat, and if you are registered Independent, you are still either a Republican or Democrat but are simply choosing to forgo a title. On a more serious note, the concept of “We vs. The Others” is becoming more and more pertinent among all political issues.

Opinions on illegal immigration and U.S./Mexico border patrol are currently highly debated topics among Republican presidential candidates, in particular among Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Herman Cain. Recently, Cain made a joking comment about building a killer-electric fence on the border of U.S. and Mexico. This comment caused a huge amount of controversy between Mexico and the U.S. as well as the Republican candidates. The Mexican population was offended and thought the comment was extremely insensitive. The American public voiced their concern with the potential of Cain as a future President, as well as the transforming and tactless tone of all Republican candidates on issues of illegal immigration. Perry has suggested that American troops cross the border and enter Mexico to fight Mexican drug cartels. Where Romney has noted that he is an advocate for an even more aggressive increase in border patrol than Perry. Are the Republican candidates becoming too concerned with winning the Republican vote by appealing to the extremists? Let me ask the Democrats and Independents, do you feel ignored or mis-recognized by the Republican candidates as citizens whose vote matters?

You can read more about Cain’s comment, here.

Furthermore, this debate concerning the hardline opinions of Republican candidates propels a feeling of “We vs. The Others,” by demonstrating issues of recognition and mis-recognition. The American people are recognized because the candidates are interested in winning their votes as well as their votes on future bills concerning immigration. Mis-recognition or selective recognition becomes relevant in this debate when referring to future Mexican immigrants. The candidates choose to talk extensively about future immigrants who may increase the presence of drug cartels in the U.S. This is because this negative aspect of immigration supports their opinion of increased border patrol. Similarly, the future immigrants who may be coming to the U.S. for a better job or life are mis-recognized because they do not aid the candidates’ argument. Both Mexican groups are denied recognition because their votes do not matter for the Republican presidential hopefuls.

This denial of recognition furthers the concept of “We vs. The Others” because immigrants are portrayed as people who are contaminating our nation. The Republican debate is augmenting misconceptions of immigration discussions being a fight between “us” and “them,” rather than being productive and ultimately finding a solution that will benefit “us” and “them” as well as every group involved. Putnam thought that a sense of community would not exist unless the citizens were proud of their government. In my opinion, the democracy of America serves as a basis to foster national pride. In order to boost national pride and create a sense of community, citizens must feel recognized in politics. As citizens of a democratic country, our personal opinions are recognized through voting. However, come election time, we must consider whether our personal opinions are embodied by our elected President. As citizens of a country of the world, we must consider whether immigration should be assessed with the concern of immigrant countries taken into consideration.

Additionally, lets look at the three concept of citizenship to assess this issue. Remember, Perry, Romney and Cain are all arguing for increased border patrol in order to protect the safety of the American people. Now, consider these concepts of citizenship: Cosmopolitan (global responsibility, local loyalty), Cultural Relativism (respect and toleration for different cultures), and Universalist (shared common, moral nature). As educated citizens and future voters of the 2012 elections, which concept of citizenship do you think the three mentioned Republican candidates believes in? Which approach to citizenship would you align with to approach issues of immigration?

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One Comment on “Us and Them: An analysis of recognition in issues of immigration”

  1. guysnick Says:

    This is a well-written and thought-stimulating post, but I do not really agree with the tacit stance it takes. It isn’t fair to vilify the Republican presidential candidates because they want to take aggressive steps toward cracking down on illegal immigration into the United States. Sure, Herman Cain should not have made his already infamous “electric fence” comment. While this was a very insensitive comment, at least we know he’s serious about drastically reducing illegal immigration. It is a very real and serious issue facing the U.S. We cannot simply allow illegals to flood into the U.S. I understand that the vast majority of them are in search of a better life. They want to realize the “American dream.” I get that, but they must go through the process of gaining citizenship just like everyone else who enters this country legally. Illegals don’t pay taxes, and they do, albeit minimally, take jobs from American citizens. And I do not want the tax dollars I pay every year to go toward government welfare programs that benefit anyone other than fellow U.S. citizens.

    I think that the post did a very good job of tying in the three concepts of citizenship. I understand the sentiment of “We vs. the Others” that is so prevalent when addressing a topic like illegal immigration. This is where I would tie in the concept of citizenship to which I would align myself. I would take the Universalist approach on this issue, which states that all human beings have a shared, common, moral nature, but also that emphasizes general obedience to laws first. I agree that the Republican presidential candidates seem to be propelling the feeling of “We vs. the Others.” However, I do not think this is all bad. The Universalist recognizes that all human beings share a common nature, which means that both illegals and American citizens and the rest of mankind have a connection. We definitely must be aware of the concerns of our human brethren, in this case most often Mexicans fleeing drug war violence and a life of oppression and poverty. However, the Universalist also recognizes obedience to the laws of the land first. Therefore, the American public should want to welcome immigrants. Our country is made up of immigrants. But such immigrants should have to go through the process of gaining citizenship or at least a visa.

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