Tirman, John. Dream Chasers: Immigration and the American Backlash. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2015. ix + 205 pages. Paperback, $28.95.
Barack Obama implied that advocates of southern border security were racists even though Mexico is not a race. Likewise, Donald Trump once thought it was politically, legally, morally, and/or logistically possible to deport the undocumented population. Congress has yet to replace the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, leaving President Obama's tenuous DACA to symbolize thirty years of failed "comprehensive immigration reform."
Into this morass steps John Tirman's Dream Chasers: Immigration and the American Backlash (2015). Backlash includes chapters on public education in Tucson, factory workers in New Bedford, Dreamers, turmoil and migration from Mexico and Guatemala, and Congress. Tirman links chapters through the idea that post-2001 immigration raids disperse and intimidate migrants, but accomplish little else. Highlights include a digression on classic liberalism in Chapter 2, rich descriptions of Tucson and New Bedford, and running comparisons of Black and Latino historical migrations. A timely element is the contrast between high-achievement Dreamers and Latino criminals.
Readers interested in lighter treatment of the Mexico-U.S. border could watch South Park's Last of the Meheecans (2011), which lampoons Arizona's Joe Arpaio; NatGeo's Border Wars; and the 2004 film Day without a Mexican. Darker visions come from the documentary Cartel Land (2015); the film Sicario (2015); Robert Kaplan's Empire Wilderness (1998), which foresees psychological Balkanization based on geography, race, language, reservations, and crime; and X-Files' El Mundo Gira (1997), where an undocumented migrant contracts a chupacabra virus.
Some may share Tirman's hostility and befuddlement towards those who would defend Anglo-Protestant culture or the southern border, despite the persistence of similar problems across virtually all nation-states. Indeed, the index includes multiple entries for "right-wing extremists" and "right-wing media," but zero for "left-wing" anything. Tirman's unwillingness to label the immigration Left as he does the Right, and unintentional nationalism and ethnocentrism that traces major problems back to the U.S. or Anglos without fail, make it hard to recommend Backlash to casual or novice readers.
Chapter 1 sets the tone by placing quotes around legal and illegal (p. 1-3), which signals...