Dismantling the imperialist discourse shadowing Mexican immigrant children.

Author:Miller, Lisa L.

The purpose of this paper is to dismantle the political, public, and private discourse that has led to a dehumanization of immigrants, specifically children of immigrants. Local examples will focus mainly on the state of Arizona and the Sonoran Desert and the plight of individuals crossing the border of Mexico into the Southwestern United States. The intention is to tear down fortifications with regard to the language used when discussing borders in order to create a new space/geography that is fluid and open to movement where borders are no longer necessary and where difference is welcomed as well as valued. How can I speak sobre la inmigracion? Yo, the privileged academic who has not faced such challenges? Porque yo soy mexicana y Americana, the second generation of both Mexican and Irish immigrants.

Utilizing a bricolage of methodologies including Third World feminist theories, critical theory, and postcolonial methods, this paper will attempt to dismantle the imperialist discourse that currently overshadows Mexican immigrant children. The construct of immigration is not feminist in that it does not dismantle traditional ways of thinking with regard to gender and family (Goodman, 2004). However, feminist theories and particularly Third World feminist theories provide strength with regard to immigration research because both recognize multiple perspectives. A critical perspective is relevant in that one must address the power issues in the aforementioned methodologies and in order to recognize ones own limitations, call attention to them as frequently as possible.

Immigration cannot be separated from globalization and treated as if it were a singular concept unencumbered by outside influences. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, immigration discussions on city, state, and national levels have increased exponentially. The creation of the Department of Homeland Security by the Bush administration has both heightened awareness and created fear of immigrants. Local, as well as national, political campaigns are driven by a myriad of global influences and in Arizona specifically by discussions of both legal and illegal immigration. The discourse that envelops this topic has led to the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border and the criminalization of the migrants passing through this region.

Creating Borders: Producing the Power to Limit

Fluidity of human movement is common throughout the world, yet the Western world (specifically the dominant culture of the United States) has ascribed negative connotations to the terms immigrant and migrant when referencing the movement of people of color into the United States. When westerners pass between regions and relocate we say they are moving or traveling. However, as soon as the discussion changes from the westerner to the person of color the mover is seen as a migrant or immigrant. Aqui esta el problema, for from within this realm, issues related to power and class begin to arise clouding interpretations and judgments related to relocation.

The whole discourse of mobility is in and of itself an axis of power. The imposition of human reproductive theories concerned with watering down or the transference of impurities serve imperialist agendas while reinscribing and legitimating the 'need' to defend against those on the outside of the border. This outside is thus constituted as backward and even dangerous, while the insiders (those who create the borders) are assumed to be safe, legitimate, the 'ideal.' Borders are created to "define the places that are safe and unsafe, to distinguish us from them" (Anzaldua, 1999, p. 25). Borderlands are spaces created by the emotions residing within that created fear of unnatural boundaries. However, it is always people of color who are placed in those borderlands quien pertenece al otro lado (Anzaldua, 1999). The very ideals of citizenship and humanness are then redefined (Goodman, 2004) and the children of immigrants are pushed into new margins and silences. Dismantling this destructive discourse allows for critical examination of issues related to power, class and immigration. However, the question must be asked: how do we dismantle and reframe the discourse without creating power for ourselves and 'placing' immigrants in a position with even less power (Freire, 1971).

The driving forces of capitalism, technology, and transnational corporations have penetrated even the most remote regions of the world. While there is no one agreed upon definition of globalization (the veritable twin of capitalism), the basic tenets are not difficult to comprehend. The main idea involves the economic and technological forces of the world and more specifically the dominant countries of the world, commingling and impacting all social aspects of humanity around the globe. The magnitude and speed of change literally outstrip the ability of people and governments to control, resist, or contest change at all. National and local politics are thus impacted by the limits that globalization imposes on them (Held, 1999).

The discourse that envelops this topic has led to the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border and the criminalization of the migrants passing through the region. As both countries continue to develop, the disparity becomes more apparent all the while increasing in magnitude. No es posible para naciones como Mexico to be free from the interference of the United States. This impossibility lies in the fact that there is a shadow cast over Latin American countries by a "violent and sadistic superpower that is committed to domination and control," (Chomsky, 1999, p. 41) and has committed to securing the availability of resources in Latin America for its own purposes and disposal.

I would argue from a postcolonial perspective that the increased disparity between the U.S. and Mexico is what is central to the increased emigration of Mexican nationals to the U.S. Nortenos are migrants who begin their journey in northern Mexico and are pulled toward the United States by a promise of wealth in a large labor market and the push of a local economy that can promise little if anything. "Caught between failed local systems and the seduction of the United States, the Norteno fills a middle world that transcends borders but at the same time lacks roots in either Mexico or the United States" (Cohen, 2004, p.3).

The news media, politicians, and citizens refer to Mexican laborers as unskilled or low-skilled. One of my concerns with the discourse surrounding this classification is the notion that foreign workers, both female and male, are continually referred to as unskilled or low-skilled. Terminology such as this categorizes individuals based on Western ideologies of skill. Every human being young or old is skilled. Yes, there are a variety of skills possessed by humans and some are utilized or refined to different degrees in different cultural settings,but to mislabel someone as unskilled is a colonizing action. Until the attitudes of policymakers and citizens alike change drastically, people will continue to be relegated to subaltern positions within the borders created by those who believe they have the 'right' to judge others.

Propaganda and Cultural Quarantine: Creating the Dangerous Other

The political and media discourses of documented and undocumented immigration have served a particular agenda within the U.S., a sort of quarantine on culture, and have successfully constructed a categorization of immigrants as a threat, terrorists, drug dealers, lesser, animalistic, and in need of correction and control as evidenced by the following announcement by the U.S. border patrol:

"Operation Be Alert" program, complete with billboards along major highways asking citizens to report suspicious activity to the USBP's tollfree number, 1-877-USBP HELP (872-7435). (Sonoran News, Apr. 6, 2005) Despite the fact that Arizona's economy is at an all...

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