Rhetoric and the Creation of Hysteria

Ediberto Román and Ernesto Sagás
Date of Publication: 
December, 2022
Source Organization: 

Claiming that immigration has become “the civil rights issue of our time,” this study explores how nationalist politicians in the United States, the Dominican Republic, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile are following similar anti-immigrant scripts in order to secure and retain power. One strategy is to give the appearance of stern enforcement of existing immigration laws. However, “without virtually anyone realizing it, purposefully mediate the extent of deportations—effectively making the overall numbers of deportations appear to be much greater than they are, thereby making the total numbers of deportations actually insignificant because of the vital economic roles of the undocumented in each country. This phenomenon creates a permanent subject to blame for the country’s ills, gives the appearance of a dedicated leadership creating policies to address the problem, and further silences a shadow segment of society.” The authors trace the futile efforts of the Trump administration to speed up deportations, and how the expansion of the 287(g) program, which mobilized local police departments to enforce immigration laws didn’t really lead to more deportations, but only to a “state of siege” among undocumented immigrants. The authors show how this type of extremist political behavior (welcoming immigrant and then vilifying them) has occurred repeatedly in U.S. history. They also show how this kind of political rhetoric plays out in Latin America, with special attention to politicians in the Dominican Republic, who assert that Haitian immigration is a “silent invasion” that is “destroying the nation.” However, the authors conclude on a positive note -- pointing out that the resurfacing of these dangerous ideas out of the “dustbin of history” has mobilized millions of people to “expose baseless hate” and to reaffirm the values of equality and democracy.

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Román, E., & Sagás, E. (2022, December). Rhetoric and the Creation of Hysteria. Cornell Law Review. https://live-cornell-law-review.pantheonsite.io/wp-content/uploads/2022/...