The playing out of class bias in the national debate over immigration reveals the paradoxical nature of the American Dream and the ways in which it is invoked. Recent media coverage of the legal obstacles to obtain H1-B visas for highly skilled workers (see article below) highlights the class component of immigration. On the one side we have educated immigrants singing the praises of the American Dream, of the opportunities which drew them to this country. On the other hand we have the discourse of exceptionalism surrounding such visa requests. Couched in terms of the promise such excellent workers hold and the assets they will be to the United States, ultimately this is about hand-picking future American citizens based on racial, ethnic, and class criterion. Does anyone mention the incredible contributions (possible and future) that working class Mexicans make? In essence, we can not draw on notions of an American Dream to simultaneously encourage exceptionalism and deny entrance to those who have the most to gain from such ideology. Veit Bader’s work on the ethics of immigration offers important insights into these contradictions that lie at the heart of immigration debates. Framed within the context of normative criterion of citizenship, belonging, and universal rights, Bader offers important insights into the philosophical dilemmas that ultimately anchor issues of immigration, migration, and citizenship.
As of today, according to msnbc.com, 43 people have died in the last 30 days in mass-shooting incidents across the U.S. There are several sociological theories that could potentially explain this. Messner and Rosenfeld’s “American Dream” structural strain theory posits that when there is a gap between what one wants to achieve and what seems possible, violence increases. For the immigrant who shot 13 people and himself in Binghamton, NY last week, there is evidence that points to an American Dream that could not be realized. His letter to the media contained complaints about people mocking him for his poor English skills, and being unable to find employment. Other shooters have also been said to have “snapped” after the stress of job loss.
Does this fully explain the situation? Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), who ran for office after family members were shot during a mass murder on the Long Island Railroad 15 years ago, points to the need for stricter gun laws. Additionally, we have to consider the effect of media coverage – does its extensive coverage of violent incidents encourage so-called “copycat” killings? The question of the media is further complicated when one looks at violent incidents as social performance (Eyerman, 2008).