The Problem With the Good Vs. Bad Immigrant Narrative

All throughout the Democratic National Convention, immigration was brought up in two contexts: good vs. bad. Certainly this discourse will be repeated during the RNC.

“Good” immigrants, according to the politicos and the mainstream media that parrots them, are the ones who follow the laws, and when they don’t face the consequences, in the form of raids, separation from families, deportation, incarceration and fear. “Good” immigrants work hard and don’t make too much noise. They don’t have more children then they can afford and they don’t live on welfare. They speak English and study hard and get good grades and try to go to college. Within this context there are bills. Bills so that “good” immigrants and their children can go to college and pay in-state rates (like the DREAM Act).


But in order to have good you must have bad and it’s too easy for any person once deemed good to fall into the other category. The “bad” immigrants, like the ones portrayed in the ad above, test the compassion of people. They look like gang bangers and obviously cannot assimilate or fit in. The obviously “bad” ones commit horrible crimes only against “white” like rape and murder (because whites apparently don’t do things like that). More minor crimes aren’t placed in context like say poverty, racism or global policies.

It’s this discourse that allows people to say they love immigrants and the nation of immigrants the United States is, while muttering under their breaths (but only the good ones). This is the same discourse that allows people to say things like ” I don’t see color”, “Some of my best friends are (insert race, ethnicity here)”, and “you’re so articulate for a (insert race, ethnicity here)” .

The problem is that so-called progressive organizations are taking this rhetorical line, that they need to “teach” activists and people in the grassroots how to speak on the immigration issue, as if people weren’t living it in the first person as if we weren’t the good and the bad.

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