Polarized Toward Apathy: An Analysis of the Privatized Immigration Control Debate in the Trump Era
By Emily P. Estrada, State University of New York at Oswego, Kim Ebert, North Carolina State University and Wenjie Liao, Rochester Institute of Technology
Unlike recent predecessors, President Trump has used explicitly racist language to rationalize the criminalization of immigrants. This is a curious development given that overt racism has largely been discredited in the public sphere, replaced with “color-blindness” that justifies inequalities through seemingly race-neutral language. Although recent studies have documented the virulent racism of the Trump administration, it remains to be seen if it is reflected in public narratives about immigrants. We address this gap through a comparison of narratives from two distinct periods (1995-2015 and 2016-2018) derived from the news media. Our findings indicate that although they do not reflect the racist rhetoric of the Trump administration, recent arguments about privatized immigration control have become more polarized. The overall pattern in the two timeframes is the same, however. In both eras, actors on both sides of the debate, and the journalists who report on them, remain largely apathetic to those adversely affected—here, mostly Latina/o/x immigrants.