chapter  16
Immigration Within the Contemporary Political Discourse
ByYalidy Matos
Pages 16

In the contemporary era following the attacks of September 11, 2001, political discourse has discursively weaved terrorism, national security—and security more broadly—and immigration together. The War on Terror, however, quickly became the War on Immigrants. More specifically, national security became a matter of border security, with keen attention to the U.S.-Mexico border. In the wake of 9/11, immigration more broadly, and border security in particular, became a vessel through which to fight terrorism. This chapter uses prior literature and supplements it with official state discourse from the Bush and Obama administrations to shed light on immigration within the contemporary political discourse, focusing mainly on immigration discourse generally, but, in particular, on the discourse of Latino immigration, which overpowers the United States’ imaginary. I first contextualize the contemporary time period, and then I cover the current political discourse and the move from terrorism and national security to immigration and border security. Research on political discourse, and, in particular, on immigration within U.S. political discourse is important given discourse’s effect on public opinion and political behavior. Discourses around immigration within the larger U.S. political landscape straddle the United States’ understanding of itself as “a nation of immigrants,” but ultimately privileges an understanding of itself as “a nation of laws,” which are more often than not discriminatory and punitive. Ultimately, conceptions of these laws often define the parameters of an imagined community that places immigrants—regardless of immigration status or birthplace—on the outskirts of U.S. national identity.