From This Side: Images on Immigration from the United States
by George Rivera
After 9/11 the United States became increasingly aware of “terrorists” entering the country. There evolved a new focus on immigration, especially on the border between the United States and Mexico. Homeland Security was formed, surveillance of the border became more important, and plans for building a “fence” or “wall” between the United States and Mexico came center stage.
In a presidential election year, politicians began talking of passing comprehensive immigrant legislation to deal with the influx of Mexicans coming into the United States without legal documentation. Much was made of Mexicans taking jobs away from American citizens. Moreover, raids on businesses where Mexican citizens worked, like packing plants, were conducted throughout the United States.
The people noticed Mexicans working in agricultural jobs, the service industry, and construction. They noticed Mexicans immigrating into all regions of the United States. Some also noticed how hard Mexicans work, how cheap their labor was, and how many of them were working in jobs that most Americans would not take.
U.S. citizens also responded by taking stands for or against immigration. Good human beings stood up to be counted through whatever support they could offer to Mexican immigrants. There were marches and demonstrations, as recent as at the National Democratic Convention in Denver. The ugly side of this issue also emerged. Discrimination and prejudice increased not only toward Mexican immigrants, but also against Chicanos who were American citizens. Vigilante groups, like the Minutemen, began patrolling the border.
Today we are in the New Millennium, and it is 2011. The issue of immigration is evident in many parts of the world, i.e., Austria, the Netherlands, etc. It is part of the human condition. We must intervene on this reality. Artists must do their part too. We cannot stand blindly looking from afar. Otherwise, the new Nazis will rise again.
George Rivera teaches in the University of Colorado at Boulder, Department of Art & Art History