Earlier this week, protestors came together in opposition to the government’s neglect to offer vaccinations to detained migrants in federal custody. Since the death of three detained migrants in the past year, there have been cries of national outrage. This three-day protest, observed by immigration activists, volunteer doctors, and demonstrators, lead to their arrest on Tuesday.
Bonnie Arzuga, one of the volunteer doctors, admitted to the Washington Post, “I’ve never had to fight so hard to give a vaccination to anyone, any patient, any population of patients who have needed it most.”
Despite the tactics aimed at guilting the Trump administration, protestors still found ways to ridicule and mock Doctors for Camp Closure (D4CC). The Department of Homeland Security took to twitter to say that, “Border Patrol isn’t going to let a random group of radical political activists show up and start injecting people with drugs.” The need for preventative medicine, especially in such crowded and shared spaces, is obvious. The practice of Customs and Border Protection to not vaccinate detained migrants since they are typically released from their custody within 72 hours of arriving at their facility is detrimental to the health of detained migrants; they currently spend twice this amount of time in Border Patrol custody. The blatant disregard for health conditions and the well being of detained migrants by the Trump administration speaks volumes to the anti-immigration sentiment that exists in The United States.
The American public’s view on undocumented immigrants is partially influenced by pre-existing prejudice, but overall, is shaped negatively through unfavorable rhetoric in the media. The speech used by news reporters and political journalists alike serves a greater purpose than to simply relay the next breaking news story. Whether intended or not, a specific stance on political issues can be detected through their speech. Specific networks can also be seen trying to shift the opinion of its viewers so that it aligns with their political beliefs and practices. This is where favorable and unfavorable rhetoric truly comes into play with the effect that it has on its viewers.
The power of language lies in the subliminal messages that news outlets and major corporations convey. Fox News, for example, came out with a story on September 27, 2018, with the title “Man arrested in Virginia, accused of multiple murders, is DACA recipient, sources say,” and another story from September 11, 2018, titled, “Border Patrol in Texas nabs more than 130 illegals in just over 24 hours.” In the first news story, a man was arrested as a murder suspect.
Keeping in mind that this man has yet to be convicted of any crime and by the tone of the headline, the reader already feels as if he is guilty. Furthermore, what role does the accused being a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient play in the event in and of itself? Did being the recipient of DACA flip a switch that caused this man to become violent? Is being a DACA recipient the only way that they could have identified this man? The answer to both of these questions is no.
There is a noticeable attempt here by FOX News to “subtly” bring awareness to the fact that this man is a DACA recipient and therefore was an undocumented immigrant.
From the start, FOX News is drawing to the attention of their audience to the fact that this man is not native to the U.S. In doing so, FOX supports Trump’s bold and often times uneducated statements, which link undocumented and documented immigrants alike to crime.
Whether or not this man is guilty is irrelevant because not only is he being labeled as a non-native person, but the association between him and corruption has been established. To a specific audience, they may take this information and run with it because it fuels their pre-existing prejudice. Their interpretation of this story, along with the growing anti-immigration sentiment that currently exists in the United States, may shift the opinions of its viewers, thus aligning it with their own.
In the second news story printed by FOX News, it is not so much the portrayal of immigrants so much as the comparisons to which they are being drawn. The usage of the words “nabs” and “illegals” is harsh. The way in which the immigrants are spoken makes it seem as if they are a contamination or form of pollution that should be contained or reversed. The importance of language cannot be stressed enough when it comes to the media’s influence. In their misguided representation of immigrants, FOX News is engaging in the form of systematic oppression known as “coded prejudice.”
The role that coded prejudice plays in regards to the attitude of Americans towards immigrants is that while it may not always be obvious, it provides an outlet for Americans to restrict opportunities for those who are already at a disadvantage. Coded prejudice is masked as the concern for the economic well-being or cultural preservation of the United States but is actually a way for Americans to pass off their “prejudice” as genuine interest. This is eventually leading to limitations being put not only on undocumented immigrants but on immigration in its entirety.