I. Introduction and Background Illegal immigration from Mexico to the United States is a social problem that has caused a great deal of debate. There are several pros and cons to having illegal immigrants in the U.S., and many people have very strong opinions on the topic. From traditional news organizations to members of special interest groups, there have been a great deal of news articles published on this issue. I chose this topic because it has recently become a very popular social problem in California, which is where I currently reside. Particularly in my hometown of San Diego, illegal immigration from Mexico is very prevalent.
I grew up seeing illegal immigrant workers outside of home depot, working in small taco shops by the beach, and doing various low paying jobs. Illegal immigration into the United States is a topic that is frequently discussed and covered by the media, and I thought it would be interesting to explore the different ways illegal immigration claims are covered and packaged by traditional news sources and members of special interest groups. Many individuals consider illegal immigration to be a social problem for various reasons.
To start, according to the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), it is believed that illegal immigration costs U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars each year. Money the government has received in the form of taxes is used to pay for illegal immigrants’ medical care, education in public schools, and imprisonment (FAIR, 2011). Also, illegal immigrants take jobs that could be occupied by unemployed American citizens. Due to the fact that these immigrants do not need to be paid minimum wage, employers are able to pay them much less than people living legally in the U.S. Another reason illegal immigration is considered to be a social problem is because it is often linked with identity theft. Finally, illegal immigration is considered a problem because many of these aliens commit serious crimes and endanger US citizens.
According to Liberty Pundits, “In the population study of a sample of 55,322 illegal aliens, researchers found that they were arrested at least a total of 459,614 times, averaging about 8 arrests per illegal alien,” (Liberty Pundits, 2010). For these reasons, many people consider illegal immigration in the United States to be a serious social problem. The news articles that I have selected to analyze for this paper come from a variety of sources. Half of them are from traditional news sources including ABC News, the Union Tribune, the examiner.com, buzzle.com, and darwinsmoney.com. I chose the articles from these sources because for the most part they presented the social problem without making a clear argument on the topic for the most part.
In general, these news sources presented the social problem of illegal immigration and showed both the pros and cons. The main focus of these articles is to draw attention to the claim. The rest of the articles are from special interest group members such as Liberty Pundits, FAIR, and three different blogs. I selected these articles because the authors had a very strong opinion on the social problem of illegal immigration. As a whole, the target audiences of these articles are very similar. The middle and lower classes are the main target audience because they are the ones who are most directly affected by illegal immigration. The middle and lower classes are losing jobs, paying to support, and dealing with the crime of illegal immigrants in the United States.
While the lower and middle classes are the target audience, many of the news sources also attempt to grab the attention of a much larger group, all U.S. citizens. By saying that illegal immigrants are costing all taxpayers lots of money and committing many crimes, some of these sources target the entire U.S. population. In my paper, I will analyze the different ways by which these articles present the social problem of illegal immigration. From the book “Social Problems” by Joel Best, I will specifically be talking about statistics used, domain expansion, balance, and the use of counterclaims (Best, 2008). Even though these articles all cover illegal immigration in the United States, the way the topic is presented and covered by each source is different.
II. Traditional news articles Overall, the traditional news articles tend to bring up and draw attention to the claims without giving their input or personal opinion on the topic. While certain articles may make it seem obvious that illegal immigration is a social problem by stating some of the downsides, they never outright say that something needs to be done. In fact, a couple of the articles not only state the claims, but also illustrate the counter claims as well. These articles are simply stating the facts in a way that draws the most possible attention from the target audience.
The ABC editorial “Expensive Aliens: How Much Do Illegal Immigrants Really Cost?” is a perfect example of an article that brings up a claim about illegal immigration, but also recognizes the counter argument. Instead of simply stating that illegal immigrants are costing the “U.S. taxpayers more than $100 billion each year,” this article also recognizes the positive economic impact that they have on our country (Fahmy, 2010, p. 1). By addressing both sides of this debate, ABC is able to capture a much broader audience. People on both sides of the social problem, as well as people who do not know much about this claim will be interested in reading the article. The article posted on Darwin’s Money is very similar to the ABC article in many respects.
The article starts out by saying, “There are two sides to every story…” and states that the article will attempt to be as objective as possible. The purpose of this article is to address both sides of the illegal immigration dispute and make the audience aware of this social problem. As stated in Best’s book “Social Problems,” these two articles attempt to have balance because they are written about a very controversial issue (Best, 2008). The articles want to address and bring up a problem without upsetting anyone in an effort to keep the largest possible audience. My next article from a traditional news source, “Illegal Immigration Problems,” takes a slightly different approach.
All but the last paragraph of this editorial are focused on the problems with illegal immigration. What Best calls domain expansion is used to draw attention to the fact that illegal immigration is a problem (Best, 2008). In this article, the problem is expanded to include disease, crime, deprivation of rights, and insufficient recourses. However, at the end of the article, the author says, “Is there a need to solve the issue of illegal immigration or are there illegal immigration pros and cons? Is it right to take immediate action about illegal immigration?” (Borkar, 2010). These questions imply that illegal immigration might not be a problem at all.
By doing this, the writer acknowledges the counterclaims and adds balance to the article. Although this editorial does not completely recognize illegal immigration as a social problem, it does spend the majority of the time discussing why illegal immigrants are such a problem to the United States. The final two articles from traditional news sources are written in a much different way. These two articles believe that illegal immigration is a problem, and fail to mention anything about counterclaims. The article in the Examiner, written by Joe Campana, focuses on the claim that, “There is an insidious connection between illegal immigration and identity theft,” (Campana, 2010) This tactic of using domain expansion helps to attract a wider audience of people not only interested in identity theft, but also illegal immigration.
The Union Tribune article, “The human, financial costs of illegal immigration,” also makes it much more clear to the audience that illegal immigration is a problem. The reason the Union Tribune is able to write about how terrible illegal immigration is for our country is because the audience of this newspaper is comprised mostly of people living in San Diego, where illegal immigration has many negative affects on the people. In San Diego, many individuals have lost jobs due to the recent economic downturn, and the high prevalence of illegal immigrants gives the unemployed someone to blame.
Domain expansion and statistics, specifically, are used in this article to help show the negative effects of illegal immigrants on the people of San Diego. By saying that uncompensated emergency room costs alone are around $154.9 million a year, it makes people upset that they must pay this money in the form of taxes (Bilbray, 2011). It almost creates resentment towards the illegal immigrants. The domain expansion is also exemplified by bringing in job loss and unemployment and saying that at least part of it is caused by illegal immigration.
III. Special Interest Articles Special interest articles tend to use a much different approach than traditional news articles when writing about the social problem of illegal immigration. In general, special interest articles are likely to be much more radical in the way that they address the social problem. Rather than just stating a problem and trying to gain attention, they also attempt to persuade the audience that something must be done to fix the issue or there will be negative effects on society. The articles written by Liberty Pundits and FAIR use crime and public safety as a way to convince people that something must be done to stop illegal immigration. FAIR even calls illegal immigrants a, “public safety issue,” in the article (FAIR, 2011).
By using domain expansion, the articles are able to gain a larger audience by instilling fear in the U.S. citizens who read this article. Saying that illegal immigration causes crime will make people want to get rid of illegal immigration because it will make them feel as though their safety is being jeopardized. FAIR also makes the audience scared that illegal immigrants cause danger and crime by giving a very long list of crimes that illegal immigrants have committed. Liberty Pundits also uses statistics to convince the audience that illegal immigrants, as a whole, are mostly criminals. In a study of 124 alien arrests, Liberty Pundits reports that 103 had prior arrests, 85 of the 103 had a felony, and 49 of those had multiple felonies (Liberty Pundits, 2010).
Although these statistics may not be a good representation of all illegal immigrants, to the average reader these statistics seem very convincing and makes it seem as though almost all illegal immigrants are dangerous. In these ways, the two articles cause people to believe illegal immigration must be stopped, which also causes some of the audience to become activists on the issue. By using statistics and domain expansion, the blogs “Where Do All the New Jobs Go?”, “Economic costs of illegal immigration”, and “Illegal Immigration” attempt to convince its audience that illegal immigration needs to be stopped. The article “Where Do All the New Jobs Go?” use statistics to show how illegal immigration almost doubles the number of jobs that need to be created to support the number of people in the labor force.
Two million jobs need to be created to support U.S. born labor force entrants, 5.7 million jobs must be created when legal immigrants are added to that number, and a staggering 10 million jobs need to be created per year when we add illegal immigrants to that number (Stop Illegal Immigration Now, 2007). The article “Economic costs of illegal immigration” states that, “An estimated 1,880,000 American workers are displaced from their jobs every year by immigration,” (The American Resistance, 2003). Along with piggybacking the social problem of unemployment, these statistics are intended to magnify the number of jobs illegal immigrants are taking from U.S. citizens.
Expanding the domain by piggybacking the social problem of unemployment helps to gain the support of the unemployed and those whose jobs are threatened by illegal immigrants. In addition, it is interesting that the blog “Where Do All the New Jobs Go?” not only attempts to gain support on the issue of illegal immigration, but also attempts to gain activists by saying, “Ask your Congressman and Senators and local elected officials exactly what they are doing to stop our problem with illegal immigration and vanishing borders.” (Skymail, 2010). Unlike the traditional news sources, this article makes its views on illegal immigration clear and states that people need to do their part to fix the problem.
IV. Comparison, Analysis, and Conclusion Traditional news sources and articles written by activists had many similarities and differences in the way that they discuss the issue of illegal immigration. While traditional news articles tend to simply bring up an issue to the audience and let them form their own opinions, the blogs and articles written by activists not only attempt to spread information about the issue, but also try to convince people that something needs to be done and to get the audience more involved with the problem. The goal of the activists is to gain support on an issue, and ultimately to have something done to eliminate the problem. On the other hand, the goal of traditional news articles’ goal is simply to find and write about interesting stories that will appeal to the largest possible audience.
These articles often have balance and discuss both sides of the problem. Instead of just saying that illegal immigration is an issue and it must be solved, traditional news articles also talk about the positives that illegal immigrants bring to our country. On the other hand, the two types of articles also had many similarities. For example, both traditional news sources and articles written by activists used domain expansion and statistics. Both types of articles attempted to use these techniques in order to show the magnitude of this social problem and to gain the audience’s interest.
By using domain expansion, both types of articles are able to relate the problem to a larger group of people on a much more personal level. By doing this, the editorials gain the interest of a much bigger audience, which is equally important to both types of articles. In addition, both traditional news articles and articles/blogs written by activists have similar audiences. Illegal immigration most directly affects the lower and middle class, therefore those are the people that these articles attempt to attract. Traditional news articles and articles written by activists also shape the public perception of illegal immigration. For articles written by activists, shaping the public perception is very important.
The goal of these articles is to make the audience believe that illegal immigration is a serious problem and something needs to be done to stop it. By using various methods, the activists shape the public’s opinion about the issue and convince them that illegal immigration is a serious problem. On the other hand, traditional news articles tend not to do the same.
These articles present the issue, and let the public form their own opinions on the problem. Overall, it is clear that the way in which social problems are constructed directly relates to the writer of article. While activists attempt to gain support for their cause and beliefs on an issue, traditional news sources simply attempt to present an issue and captivate the largest possible audience. Even though articles written by various sources may cover the same topic, the way the issue is constructed is generally very different.