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Professor confronts immigration myths

| Wednesday, March 8, 2017

As part of Saint Mary’s annual Diverse Student Leadership Conference, which aims to establish an awareness and appreciation of diversity, assistant professor of philosophy and director of the Justice Education program Andrew Pierce dispelled misconceptions about immigration Tuesday.

According to Pierce, today’s political climate consists of contrasting viewpoints regarding President Donald Trump’s immigration proposals, from his support of a wall separating the U.S. from Mexico to his executive order banning the entry of nationals from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya into the U.S. for 90 days.

“Defenders of the current administration would argue that the measures put in place are necessary to keep Americans safe,” Pierce said. “Opponents of those measures not only deny those claims — that these policies will effectively promote national security or economic security — but they also often claim that those policies are driven by an underlying racism.”

Pierce said some white Americans may feel as though they are losing ground as the nation diversifies.

“These concerns, these issues [and] these anxieties are not new,” he said. “They haven’t sprung up overnight, and in fact, they represent the continuation of a history that’s as old as the United States itself.”

According to Pierce, issues of racial tension are so deeply rooted in society because they have persisted for centuries.

“We often hear that the United States is a nation of immigrants, and that’s true,” he said. “It’s also true that the nation has been forged in the flames of race and racism.”

To address modern-day racism, Pierce said people must understand the complexities of American history and the ways in which white individuals attempted to justify the mistreatment of minority groups.

“Throughout our history, ideas about race have shaped our immigration policies, and vice versa,” Pierce said. “Nowhere is this more apparent today than in the panicked reporting of the ‘fact’ that whites are slated to become a minority.”

Pierce said several logical fallacies surround the common prediction that whites will be considered a minority group by the year 2050.

“What they’re interpreting as being a minority is non-Hispanic whites dropping below 50 percent of the population,” he said. “They’re measuring minority as falling under 50 percent. That only makes sense if you think of whites as being one group, and you lump all non-whites together.”

According to Pierce, most people who immigrated to the U.S. until 1965 originated from Europe or Canada, but in 1965, immigration to the U.S. from Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, South America and Asia increased significantly. This demographic shift continues to persist, which adds some credibility to the proposal that whites will become a minority in the U.S.

“There is something statistically accurate about this claim — that because of the shifting pattern of migration, that whites will become a minority if these patterns continue,” he said. “The assumption behind these predictions about whites becoming a minority is that people from Europe are white, and people from Central America and Asia and other places in the world are not. It’s not that simple.”

The prediction loses validity because people cannot necessarily be neatly sorted into racial groups since race is a social construction, Pierce said.

“[Race] is an idea that society has invented in order to categorize and, ultimately, control people,” he said. “It doesn’t have a biological basis.”


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About Martha Reilly

Martha is a senior majoring in English literature and political science. She currently serves as Saint Mary's editor but still values the Oxford comma in everyday use.

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