Covering Immigration: Popular Images and the Politics of the Nation

By Leo R. Chavez | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Discourses on Immigration
and the Nation, 1986–93

We increasingly face a racism which avoids being recognized as such because it is able to line up “race” with nationhood, patriotism and nationalism. A racism which has taken a necessary distance from crude ideas of biological inferiority and superiority now seeks to represent an imaginary definition of the nation as a unified cultural community.

Paul Gilroy, “The End of Anti-Racism”

Two magazine covers featuring the Statue of Liberty appeared in July of 1986, the only relevant covers to appear that year. This year marked the one-hundredth birthday of the Statue of Liberty, and both magazines took the opportunity to devote a great deal of space to celebrating America as a nation that provides opportunities to immigrants. This is also the summer (in August) that both houses of the U. S. Congress finally passed immigration bills that would be signed into law and become known as the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986.

Although often raising distress signals concerning immigration for most of the early 1980s (see chapter 5), U. S. News and World Report's 7 July 1986 was a beautiful and colorful painting of the Statue of Liberty's head. The caption reads: “Only in America. ” Inside is an essay by William Broyles Jr., “Promise of America, ” which is a sympathetic rendering of America as an immigrant nation. As we might expect from a July issue, retelling America's immigrant narrative is a reaffirmation of America: “Violence, repression, persecution and poverty may encircle their lives, but they dream of something better—of freedom. Almost five hundred years old, the dream still works on the imagination like a magnet. The dream has a magic name: “America” (25). The article places current immigration in a historical context, showing that immigration

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