Popular culture offers a different way to evaluate the immigration experience


By Paola Chavez

EL PASO — Immigration on the U.S.-Mexico borderland is portrayed in popular culture as criminal and illegal to audiences that are disconnected from the reality of immigrants who cross the border to save their families from poverty and widespread violence.

“Would you risk everything to come to the Unites States?” Dr. Richard D. Pineda asked an audience at the University of Texas at El Paso.

He followed this thought with the example of an immigration raid in northern Iowa. Workers at several meat-packing plants were apprehended and taken to deportation facilities.


Dr. Richard Pineda.

(Courtesy of Andres Gonzalez)

“Even though that force was essentially gutted on that day, they’ve been replaced,” he added, explaining that those plants now show record outputs, “and I can assure you those are not workers working in high level jobs, but workers working for a minimum amount of pay.”

The economic incentive for immigration is too high in the United States and a variety of tasks require a “disposable workforce,” one that comes in the form of undocumented immigrants, explained Pineda, an associate professor of communication at UTEP.

No matter how much U.S. policy in immigration is modified, immigration to the U.S. is a fact of life, he said. Despite efforts on the part of the government and “a baker’s dozen of law enforcement agencies and entities it is impossible to remove undocumented immigrants from the United States,” said Dr. Pineda.

Pineda said that popular culture offers a unique insight into a society’s perspective. Popular music, television, and literature offer a way to evaluate an immigration experience, he said, however most media emphasize the negative…

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