Immigrant Nation: Exploring Immigrant Portrayals on Television

Define American & The USC Annenberg Normal Lear Center
Date of Publication: 
October, 2018
Source Organization: 

Immigrant characters on television do not accurately reflect the immigrant community in the U.S. and in fact are often depicted as undocumented, incarcerated and criminal. ”Immigration Nation: Exploring Immigrant Portrayals on Television,” uses content analysis of 47 television shows that aired in 2017-18 to examine how immigrants are represented in popular culture and the ways these depictions compare with the immigrant reality. The study found that female immigrants, Asian immigrants and Black undocumented immigrants were underrepresented on TV. For example, female immigrants comprise 52 percent of the foreign-born population in the U.S., but only 40 percent of immigrant characters on TV. This study also found that TV portrayals overrepresented immigrants as criminals, incarcerated and uneducated. While research has consistently shown that immigrants are less likely than U.S.-born individuals to commit a crime or be incarcerated, 34 percent of immigrant characters were associated with a crime. The study concludes with an analysis of widely used immigration terms in the sample of TV shows, the most common of which were “deportation” and “ICE.” (Deb D’Anastasio for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

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Define American & The USC Annenberg Normal Lear Center. (2018, October). Immigrant nation: Exploring immigrant portrayals on television. Retrieved from