The Proposal is a 2009 movie about Margaret, an executive editor in chief of a book publishing company in the United States. She learns that she is being deported to Canada, her home country, because she has an expired visa. The following video clip shows the moment when Margaret is informed that she faces deportation.
As a result of this revelation, she convinces (or, rather, forces) her assistant, Andrew, to marry her. An immigration agent suspects that Margaret and Andrew are not in love and that they are solely getting married to prevent Margaret from being deported. Margaret and Andrew repeatedly deny this accusation, even though it is true.
The immigration agent informs Margaret and Andrew that he will question them separately about one another to determine whether their marriage is legitimate. If their answers are incorrect, Margaret will be deported to Canada and Andrew will be fined $250,000 and will spend five years in prison for committing a felony. This type of situation is one that happens frequently. An American citizen marries an immigrant so that the immigrant can remain in the country and become a legal citizen. Thus, instances like these make it easier to understand why Americans are rather hesitant to welcome immigrants into the country. If immigrants are successful in outsmarting Americans on their soil, there is likely to be a sense of fear and anger that generates within American citizens because they cannot even maintain authority over their own land.
Source: The Joshua Blog
In one of my previous posts regarding immigration in the early 1900s, I found a poem written by Emma Lazarus. It is titled, “The New Colossus”. The poem is engraved into a plaque on a pedestal on which the Statue of Liberty stands. In the past, this poem was a symbol of hope for immigrants as they entered America. It assured them that their journey was well worth it and that they were on their way to becoming accepted as citizens of America.
I found the above picture from a blog (published in 2010) regarding progressive political news. The picture shows several lines from the poem as a means of depicting the changing public opinion on immigration. While Americans were rather welcoming in the past, people are currently much more hesitant to allow immigrants to enter our country and eventually become citizens. For example, one of the lines above is corrected to read the following: “After eight years, send these, the homeless, back to their home country”. Thus, it appears that many Americans are not keen on the idea of allowing immigrants to eventually become legal citizens. The negative views toward immigration are largely evident in this particular moment, but it is worth noting that positive views regarding immigration are currently prevalent in the United States as well.
In thinking about public opinion surrounding the issue of immigration, it appears as though there is not a sense of urgency for immigration reform. While Americans do acknowledge that there are insufficient laws in place regarding immigration, they do not view it as a top priority for Barack Obama to attend to in his second term of presidency. In a poll conducted right after the election by Gallup in November of 2012, Americans were asked the following question: “How important it is that President Obama provides a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants living in the U.S.?” In response, 37% said that this is extremely/very important, 33% said that this is somewhat important, and 29% said that this is not too/not at all important. Thus, it appears as though immigration reform is not a major concern for Americans. In fact, on a list of twelve different issues, immigration reform ranked as number eleven in importance.
On a similar topic, 67% of Americans said that it was extremely/very important that President Obama stop illegal immigration into the U.S., whereas only 14% said that it is not too/not at all important. While this issue still only ranked number eight out of twelve, it was still a higher priority than that regarding immigration reform. Why is it that Americans feel the need to stop illegal immigration altogether rather than finding a path to citizenship for these illegal immigrants? I wonder if it is simply out of fear, laziness, or a combination of the two.
I carry nothing but hope and a Bible. I open it.
An outdated photograph. An unfamiliar face. My father.
My favorite church dress is mutilated,
soiled by my own bodily fluids.
My stomach angrily speaks to me. Why can’t you help me?
Food is placed before me. I am not hungry anymore.
I feel trapped. I gasp for air, but the
putrid smell of shit and vomit is overwhelming.
The wind begins to howl, and as it does, so do I.
Mama shushes me, telling me that I have to be brave.
Children ask me to sing with them. Sing for what?
There is nothing harmonious about this journey.
I see a lady dressed in green, a torch resting in her hand.
I reach out to touch her, but the fog prevents my success.
Free at last. Free at last.
Is that you, father? Is this really freedom?
In order to begin to better understand what immigration was like in the past, I was curious to hear immigrants discuss their experiences. In a video found on the History Channel’s website, immigrants from the early 1900s reflected on the moment when they first arrived to America, recalling their emotions during that time. During the early and mid-1900s, more than 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island. The first thing that they could see was the Statue of Liberty. It was the sign that they had made it. The immigrants interviewed in the video recall the screaming and crying that occurred once they could see the Statue of Liberty. It was a moment unlike any other, because it was an affirmation that they were about to experience firsthand America’s reputation as the “land of the free and the home of the brave”.
Furthermore, to the immigrants, the Statue of Liberty embodied an actual person; they desired her acceptance. Immigrants perceived the Statue of Liberty as welcoming, which contributed to their extreme excitement as they arrived to America. The fact that the Statue of Liberty faced the incoming ships with her back turned to America exhibited her acceptance of the immigrants. In listening to the stories of immigrants from the past, it is evident that their own opinions on immigration erred on the side of positivity. They were hopeful and exhilarated by the possibility of a new life.
She takes small steps,
unsure of what she is getting herself into.
The swarm of people guides her path.
She slowly looks up toward the sky,
blinded by the sun,
and the intensity of her hope.
She takes her eyes off her feet. This time, she looks forward.
An American flag waves in the distance.
She tiredly smiles and waves back.
As she inches her way closer to the building,
she is ushered into a line. Single file.
Where she is going, she is not quite sure.
As she enters inside, the light fades.
She tries to find clarity in the darkness,
but her future looks so hazy.
She is inspected. Her body and her background are
She is cleared and she has received clarity.
Now it is her turn to inspect. She surveys the land.
Everything is clear. It passes her inspection.
The arts delved into public opinion on immigration, especially in the early 1900s. Jake’s exploration of the arts with his post regarding Middlesex generated a curiosity within me to see if any plays reflected similar ideas. I was successful. In 1909, a play called The Melting Pot debuted on Broadway. It was produced by Israel Zangwill and was received well by the public. The play touched base on one of the most important concepts that I have repeatedly noticed in respect to immigration: American exceptionalism. The metaphor of a melting pot connects to this concept. The melting pot suggests that Americans are accepting of immigrants “if they would but suffer to be melted in the pot.” Public opinion in the early 1900s largely leaned toward the side of forcing the immigrants to give up their previous lifestyles in order to adopt the lifestyle of a typical American. This often rings true today, but I was struck by how typical this was in the early 1900s. In the early 1900s, people were largely supportive of the melting pot, which is reflective of the popular opinion that immigration was accepted as long as the immigrants were willing to give up their pasts in order to adopt the American way. Is this right? Should we “force” immigrants to dissolve into the American way in exchange for acceptance? Is there a happy medium that we can reach? As Americans, can we find a way to make sacrifices ourselves?