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The Narrative of Immigration and Borders

Updated: Mar 4, 2020

By Evelyn Reynolds

Adapted from her upcoming book: Culture Slaying

In essence, a narrative is a story, a telling of a specific or collective aspect of a group or society, historically or in the present. Narratives are also perspectives. A decision is made in the construction of narrative about who or what is centered. Cultural narratives serve specific functions in U.S. society. Namely, they create and reinforce ideas about whom or what is good or bad, desirable or undesirable. Histories and narratives have been revised and falsified to maintain dominant perceptions and the specific social order. Inaccurate cultural narratives have severe implications in the lives of the socially oppressed and are poisonous delusions in the minds of those with decision-making power in a society. Cultural sentiments are turned into legislation and policy by which important social arrangements are determined. Public policy establishes norms and enforces claims and rights. Culture is reified through public policy.

Contemporary immigration policy tends to focus on the interests of the power elite in the U.S and targets particular populations of “unwanted” immigrants. Just as there has been multiple waves of immigration to the United States, there has also been many iterations of immigration policy. Political interests and economic pursuits have been the cause for nearly all land and border conflicts worldwide. Real and imagined “terrorism” fuels immigration policy in the United States and reinforces the narrative of criminality among certain immigrant groups. These factors are the central focus of the present immigration narrative. By emphasizing immigration as a threat, we can abandon empathy and direct our attention to what we may have to share or sacrifice.

Racially and economically restrictive immigration policy cuts off America’s nose to spite its face. The very basis of U.S. economic strength is due to indigenous, enslaved, and immigrant intellect and labor centuries ago. We can conclude for certain that the U.S. economy would not be what it is today had it not been for the labor of enslaved Africans on cotton and rice fields, Mexican agricultural workers, Chinese transport workers, and so many more contributing “foreign” populations. Immigrant workers continue to increase the productive possibilities of the U.S. economy and have an overall positive effect on American wages. Once we accept this as the “real news” on immigration we must ask ourselves why we allow myths and lies about immigration to dominant the cultural narrative. We have to outright reject the rewriting of history which ultimately aims to uphold notions of White supremacy. We can

not allow ourselves to be emotionally stimulated into fear and panic around immigration because of bogus information. Immigrants have been used as scapegoats to mask the insatiable desire for power, control, and wealth by the U.S. power structure.


Evelyn Reynolds is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Parkland College in Champaign, IL.  She graduated with a Master’s of Science in Sociology from Illinois State University in 2009 and has taught college courses for over a decade.  Before joining the Parkland College faculty, Evelyn taught Sociology at her alma mater, Illinois State University, as well as Heartland Community College and Illinois Central College.  Evelyn is a community activist, founding the Black Lives Matter Champaign-Urbana chapter and organizing with several anti-incarceration campaigns. She is a writer who has had articles featured in publications such as The Huff Post, Next Avenue (a PBS syndicate), and She has spoken about social issues on numerous radio broadcasts, including NPR's WILL.  Evelyn is currently writing her first book on dominant cultural narratives, as well as editing a collection of essays for Introductory Sociology students.

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