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Xenophobia in Modern America: Fear of the Immigrant

“Remember, remember always that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists. ” —Franklin D. Roosevelt What would make people assume that innocent people who move from one country to another are in need of any type of forgiveness for doing so? Xenophobia is best known as an irrational fear of foreign, including fear of race and the immigrant. In looking at recent American history, it is clear that racism and fear of the supposed outsider has been a disturbing part of American culture for generations.

The continuing struggle of Native Americans, African Americans, and Latin Americans to obtain civil rights, as well as the ongoing struggle for immigrants to attain warm acceptance are evidence that xenophobia continues to play a large part in the dysfunction of American culture. As a nation, the citizens of the United States should be embarrassed of their unjust fear and apprehension with regard to racist attitudes towards both minorities and people who are considered to be new and different.

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These actions are racist. Pernicious patterns of violence and intimidation in many parts of America are driven by racism and xenophobia.

Members of minority groups are sometimes victimized because of the color of their skin or other physical attributes. Such prejudice is sometimes exacerbated by religious intolerance or cultural stereotypes. The principal victims of racist and xenophobic violence are often described as “visible minorities,” though this term may be misleading. Even a minority that is not easily distinguished by physical characteristics may stand out as “different” because of differences in language, religion, and a variety of other cultural indicators, as is the case with many immigrants.

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Opposing some main thoughts, such as European superiority over other people, it is good to meditate the vicious acts that have been imposed on minorities by the mainstream cultures. The killing and forcible extraction of Native Americans from their lands, the forced slavery and of African Americans, and the harassment and fencing off of immigrants such as Latin Americans all lend credibility to the idea that the mainly European American culture has had and still has serious defects in regard to the application of civil rights for all people.

If one takes the idea of amnesty and pardon for what some people term “illegal aliens,” one must also laugh to oneself at the silliness of the idea. According to Portes and Rumbaut, it should be American society, who often stands on a podium of intimidation and fear, who apologizes to all of the people she terms “illegal aliens” (Portes & Rumbaut 32). The current issue of amnesty for undocumented immigrants (“illegal aliens”) is probably the most relevant contemporary example of abomination and xenophobia perpetuated on a foreign minority by prejudiced culture.

Some people claim that immigrants use too much of the social tax money for the lower classes. However, before being so quick to cast the blame, those sharing such perspective should first evaluate the government and tax system for ethical problems. Is it right to forcibly take tax money from citizens in the first place? Would not charity for the lower classes and social systems work much better if it were a free choice to give? If citizens are primarily concerned about the social burden of taxes that go to the poor, it makes far more sense to rid the government of unethical taxation before it rids the country of innocent people.

A recent study conducted in Texas, shows that immigrants in cities and urban areas tend to drain the tax system more than they contribute to it; however, when the relationship of immigrants to tax dollars consumed was evaluated for the state as a whole, immigrants actually contribute more to the tax system than they receive, thereby creating a tax surplus simply due to their presence. Therefore, even if taxation is either unethical or a point of concern for citizens, there is still no reason to be fearful of a drain on the economy by immigrants (Weintraub 733).

American makes their citizens believe that each time the United States has an economic problem that they can blame on immigrants. However, they should thankful everyday by immigrants be here. In addition, deporting illegal immigrants back to their countries would cost more than giving them citizenship or authorization to become legal. According to Huddle, a professor at Rice University, the cost of deporting illegal immigrants would be at least $70 billion a year. The cost of permitting illegal immigrants to stay is about $10 billion a year.

Also, besides they are illegal, they have to consume and spend money; so, the economy gains more with illegal immigrants inside the country than out of the country. Racism and fear of the foreign has likely been a part of cultural interaction since the earliest times of human civilization. However, in this modern time of widespread global communication and awareness and international mixing of people and cultures, it is increasingly vital to rid injustice and wrongful discrimination.

The fear of someone speaking another language, practicing other religions, having different physical features such as hair and skin type, or behaving safely in any way other than the norm, has no rightful place in modern culture, or historical culture. What brought humanity to so low of an ethical standard that some people could be disliked from society for reasons such as having dark skin, being Catholic, or speaking Spanish is very difficult to understand. However, it not vital for people to recognize their prejudices against foreign people for reasons centering on unjust discrimination (Coutin 5).

Nevertheless, then illegal immigrants come to United States; they bring with them their culture. The term “melting pot” is usually used to describe the United States because it is a place full of different cultures, and it experiences a larger scale of immigration. The mix of different cultures in the United States provides new ideas and worthwhile benefits such as food, sports and clothes. Different ideas from other countries produce new concepts and new points of view; otherwise, Americans would believe and do the same thing with a “closed” mind for their own and for the world. Illegal immigrants should not be viewed as negative.

America needs to find ways to live with immigrants because “unity through diversity” will strengthen American culture. In looking to other reasons for the criminalization of immigration, one also has to note the fear of competition in the hearts of Americans. Although many Americans support free enterprise and healthy competition, there are also a group of Americans who feel threatened by the incoming flow of labor into the country. Some of these Americans want to hold onto their jobs and the status quo at any cost, even if it means the rejection of certain people from their country.

Although making immigrants social outsiders seem a very harsh way of dealing with the fear of competition, there is still an element of society that would rather not have the competition at all, putting a wall up against the principle of free markets. In this sense, fear of the outsider, the newcomer does not necessarily have to be tied to a race but is rather tied to the unkind idea of resisting something incoming which is foreign and undesired (Ngai 161). According to Barack Obama, America is a stronger and better nation because of the hard work, faith and entrepreneurial spirit of immigrants, including illegal immigrants.

The hard work of illegal immigrants helped American economy to become one of the largest in the World. For example, Mexican-Americans won more medals of Honor in World War II than any other ethnic group (Immigration 2006). More illegal immigrants than natives believe that hard work and determination are the keys to success in America. “A new survey of the nation’s Hispanics finds that they are far more optimistic about life in United States and their children’s prospects than are non-Latinos…nearly 70 percent of foreign-born Hispanics say they identify more with United States than with their country of origin”(Hispanics in U. S). What some Americans perceive as an immigration crisis may very well be the incredibly sick contradiction and lying within the hearts of citizens and governmental policies. Many of this country’s 12% immigrants are Mexican, and in what Massey terms as a “schizophrenic” effect, Americans are striving for both an integrated North America with permeable borders in regard to the flow of money, goods and services, yet impermeable to the movement of workers.

In America’s fear and selfishness, she desires Mexican business, but not the people, and in a vain attempt to integrate markets and not people, Americans spend billions dollars in taxes on border enforcement which is “worse than useless—it is counterproductive. ” Many desire the business and work of the immigrants, yet their actual presence often is not (Massey 310). In looking back into history and following up to modern day, it has always been that the foreign, different minorities were in some ways valued for their work by some citizens. What makes a person worthy of labor yet unworthy of being a part of the club?

The fear of being equal and having a fair chance has always been a part of elitist societies and often lies in the weak hearts of mainstream citizens. What people need to do is to confront their apprehensions one by one and see how they themselves can make changes personally. Resistance to other people is only marked by incapability in knowing the true meaning of benevolence and goodwill. Although some immigrants are valued for their work ethic, some selfish people who believe that should belong to a European American or other more highly deserving person also holds some immigrants guilty.

Immigrants are an integral and indispensable part of American society, they help America to develop becoming a better country. The fear of competition, of crowding and of differences has no place in a modern world that espouses to support the values of freedom, fraternity, and diversity. American society becomes so competitive in her way of dealing with others, especially perceived outsiders, which she has forgotten how to work as a team and get along. Many people, not only in the United States, perceive some Americans as being difficult to work with, greedy, selfish, and even brutish.

In looking back at American distant and recent past history, the citizens deny that the Unites States has issued many severe attacks against the innocent. As long as irrational fear of the different or unknown has a place in the midst of modern societies, xenophobia will continue to run uncontrolled and cripple the culture and economy of America. Advancing the protection of immigrants and refugees in the face of xenophobic hostility, discrimination and violations of human rights requires common approaches, strategies, coordination and ability to mobilize human and material resources.

Officials and institutions of government, international organizations and immigrants groups should contribute to make it. Americans of the 21st century should avoid repeating some of the mistakes of the last and then the rights and dignity of all migrants must be respected. The recurrence of racial discrimination and xenophobia can be attributed to the lack of political will, weak legislative measures and a lack of implementation strategies of existing legislation, as well as the prevalence of both negative stereotyping and racist attitudes.

In order to be able to fully eradicate xenophobia and racism, there must be a willingness on the part of both the citizenry and the government to achieve this paramount goal. It is essential that the citizens of the United States work together so that racism can finally be eliminated. This desire must be more than mere a superficial call to action, but must be coupled with an open-mind and the readiness to make compromises. Likewise, the government must be supportive of this desire for change. Without the commitment and involvement of either the citizens or the government, true and lasting change is impossible.

American governance must continue to be responsible and accountable so as to ensure that human rights and fundamental freedoms are available to all people; citizens, immigrants and illegal immigrants alike. These guarantees are essential for the effective prevention and elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The battle to eliminate must take a three-prong approach. First, current racist action must be suppressed and penalized. Secondly, there must be a concerted effort to prevent future racist attitudes and actions.

Finally, steps must be taken to reduce the prevalence of reverse racism. Although some xenophobic and racist actions can be considered tantamount to criminal activities, in many instances, such actions go unpunished or are overlooked. This is because many people would prefer to turn a blind eye rather than get involved, while others are too afraid to speak up, despite the fact that they are victimized. As such, it must be recognized that any form of impunity for crimes motivated by racist and xenophobic attitudes only serve to undermine democracy and equality.

The formation of support groups for victims of racism must be encouraged. Community activities that promote the appreciation of other cultures, such as cultural fairs and parades must also be supported. In this manner, there will be a rising appreciation for other cultures, and racist actions that take place on a daily basis will gradually decrease, and will eventually cease to be tolerated. In order to ensure this positive behavior is perpetuated, measures that address future racist attitudes and actions must also be implemented. The ideal place to indoctrinate the evils of xenophobia and racism is in our schools.

Young children are generally less biased than adults. Schools should require or encourage academic subjects and school activities that inspire students to learn about other cultures and their merits. The awareness and appreciation of other cultures and how they have contributed and ameliorated American culture will promote an understanding between the various races. The education system must also teach young children that differences are not necessarily a bad thing, instead placing more emphasis on fundamental freedoms and basic human rights.

In this manner, instead of negatively judging other cultures, people will learn to instead accept and appreciate them. This change in attitude will greatly contribute to the eradication of racism. It must not be forgotten that American citizens are not the only ones susceptible to having xenophobic views. Despite the fact that many people choose to move to the United States, they often do so in search of better employment opportunities, and not because they share an appreciation for American culture.

In response to the discrimination that they face, many immigrants, both legal and illegal, feel that their own cultures and beliefs are superior to that of American culture. Immigrant groups are often racist towards each other. In order to prevent this, new immigrants should be required to participate in seminars that promote the cultural understanding and encourage an appreciation of American culture. This will not only educate and inspire a more open-mind among new immigrants, but it will also assist in their smooth integration to American culture.

Despite the fact that xenophobic and racist attitudes and actions have attacked the moral fiber of our country for generations, these views persist in today’s society. These negative beliefs can be attributed to fear and a lack of understanding among American citizens with regard to foreign cultures. Instead of being so quick to blame immigrants for the country’s problems, American citizens and the American government should work together to cease the tolerance of racist activities, and instead strive to promote cultural appreciation and understanding.

Works Cited

Coutin, S. “Contesting Ciminality: Illegal Immigration and the Spatialization of legality.” Theoretical Criminology, 9.1 (2005): 5-33.
Hoefer, Michael, Nancy Rytina, and Brian C. Baker. “Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigration Population Residing in United States: January 2008.” Department of Homeland Security | Preserving our Freedoms, Protecting America. Feb. 2009. 08 Apr. 2009 <>.
Massey, D. “Understanding America’s Immigration ‘Crisis’”. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. 151.3 (2007), 309-327
Ngai, M. Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America. Princeton University Press, 2004.
Portes, A. & Rumbaut, R. Immigrant America: A Portrait. University of California Press, 2006.
Romero, Simon, and Janet Elder. “Hispanics in U.S. Report Optimism – The New York Times.” The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. 08 Apr. 2009 <>.
Weintraub, S. “Illegal Immigrants in Texas: Impact on Social Services and Related Considerations. International Migration Review, 18.3 (1984): 733-747.

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Xenophobia in Modern America: Fear of the Immigrant. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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