Xenophobia and Border Protection
Most simply stated, xenophobia refers to the fear or even hatred of foreigners. It is a protectionist stance, wherein xenophobes assume the responsibility of protecting their country from the perceived threat of foreign invasion or intrusion. For these reasons, it is common to discuss xenophobia in association with vigilantism or, within the United States, in reference to the Minutemen Project, which patrols our border with Mexico.
First, it should be noted, neither am I suggesting that all minutemen patrolling our borders are inherently xenophobic, nor am I suggesting that they operate as a vigilante organization. What I am suggesting, however, is that organizations such as these have a tendency for sympathizing with xenophobic ideals. If the ideas motivating xenophobes to protect their country is itself based in notions of fear and anger, then in their act of protecting or patrolling the borders, they are effectively acting as xenophobes.
Some have argued, though I will not, that minutemen function as a racist organization. Supporters have defended Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the minutemen project, by highlighting the facts that drug and gun traffickers readily exploit the U.S. border with Mexico as a means of smuggling both guns and drugs. In either case, irrespective of what side one may support, the protection of our nation’s border with Mexico is a very sensitive topic.
Surely there is a logical argument to be stated on behalf of those minutemen patrolling our nation’s southern borders, insofar as they are accepting the responsibility of ensuring that illegal immigrants do not enter the United States, a claim which, in itself, is certainly justifiable. They are assuming a certain amount of risk in order to protect and defend their nation, but in assuming that risk they are also presenting a risk to those illegal immigrants seeking to enter the United States. For this reason, as the levels of risk escalate, for both sides involved, the potential for violence escalates as well.
The discussion of xenophobia, however, is much larger than its tenuous relation to the minutemen, which only serves as a vague example of how this concept manifests within the United States. At its core, xenophobia is based on a perversion of patriotism. It is the assumption that foreigners, be they legal or not, fundamentally present a threat to one’s country.
This perversion extends to all foreigners as threatening to undermine Americana as such, despite the fact that American culture is itself a collective of various ethnic, social, and religious groups. The manner in which this hatred and fear manifests within the xenophobe differs from person to person. But at its root, there is a sense of the dangerous foreigner on the one hand, and the foreigner seeking to burden or infiltrate our economy on the other.
A nation’s border represents the physical boundary of a nation’s sovereignty. It is the limit of its national jurisdiction and the ultimate means of demarcating citizens from non-citizens. National borders are important for this matter, as they safeguard and define the limits of power.
As long as there are human beings, there will always be traffic, both legal and illegal, between a nation’s borders, and as such there are any number of laws and regulations defining proper modes of transit. With respect to our discussion of xenophobia and border protection, then, the first motivating fear for the xenophobe is the assumed danger — both justified and unjustified — that foreigners present.
The xenophobe’s fear of this danger is a consequence of legal culpability, which is to say, the xenophobe assumes that foreigners are not accountable to the United States government. Thus, any legal infractions, if they are serious enough, will lead to deportation. Once deported, however, it is unclear whether or not their native countries will prosecute these infractions. Thus, argues the xenophobe, we, as Americans, have the responsibility to protect our citizens and our families from this threat.
The problem, however, with this line of reasoning, is that it assumes control for actions that are essentially the responsibility of the U.S. government. If citizens think their government is not doing an adequate job of protecting them, then rather than patrolling the borders, their focus should be on protecting their homes.
If state representatives are not addressing the overwhelming concerns of their constituents, they will not get reelected. Thus, more important than self-policing borders, one should raise awareness among state residents and organize movements to have the proper legislation passed to adequately safeguard the lives of American citizens. If representatives are unable to do this, they will lose their seats in office.
Pertaining to the second motivating force behind xenophobia, that is, the economic burden foreigners present to a nation, especially illegal immigrants, the argument almost exclusively pertains to the economic problems of their immigration. Legal immigrants pay taxes and earn wages and are subject to the same employment regulations as American citizens. The illegal immigrant, however, cannot be subject to the same regulations because the employment of illegal immigrants is strictly forbidden, which almost always means they are willing to work for less than the minimum wage.
Nevertheless, each year, an unknown number of illegal immigrants gain employment within the United States, which many argue undermines the potential workforce, and thereby takes jobs away from U.S. citizens. Granted, this is a fair assessment, but the root of the problem pertains to the impoverished nature of their respective countries and the allure U.S. employment offers.
With respect to Mexico, rather than simply bemoaning the fact that Mexican laborers are illegally entering the United States and gaining employment, we should press our government to aid Mexico in building a sustainable economy and possibly restructure our trade agreements so as to promote a higher standard of living in their country.
The point being, if there is a perceived economic advantage in leaving one’s own country and fleeing to another country to gain employment, the only sensible means of curbing the influx of illegal workers is to aid in restructuring their nation’s economy. A sustainable economy has satisfied workers, and satisfied workers aren’t looking to migrate to another country.
In discussing xenophobia, then, one must assess both the fear of foreigners and the resentment that builds from their illegal employment. There are certainly justifiable instances wherein citizens should feel threatened and ought to protect themselves and their homes, but vigilantism and violence will only escalate the problems for all parties involved, which is why it is essentially a problem for government officials to solve.Powered by Sidelines