Our Fear of Foreigners

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Historically, Americans are frightened of immigrants and people alleged that newcomers have an impact that culminates in significant social issues. Cultural differences between the migrants and the citizens, economic tensions arising from changes in the work situations and the influence on power have been cited to be underlining cause of fear. People in a given community bond together and in the end they tend to develop prejudices against the others. Notably, economic and power motives play a major role in enhancing racial and ethnic elements (Pekkala 34). Outcries on the effect of immigrants on American nation dates back to colonial times. Moreover, stereotypes against foreigners peaked around 1900s. Postulations hold that new entries and crackdowns on immigration policies have become loud and frequent. The fear for newcomers is reflected in the prejudices, which American hold against immigrants, including the fear of diseases, influence on resource distribution and the ability to upset power hierarchies.

Article Summary

The article “Our Fear of Immigrants” written by Smith tries to draw critical insights into the reasons, why Americans dislike foreign people. The author elucidates that in the modern world, many children are crossing the border without their parents or guardians. Furthermore, the number of undocumented immigrants in the nation denotes to be increasingly disturbing. The fear that arises from the humanitarian crisis has provoked empathy and revulsion. Additionally, the prejudice against outsiders is universal, as America is not the only victim. Advocated of the immigrant rights face numerous psychological barriers due to condemnation. The distress of foreigners is obstinate to all human prejudices. Smith mentions that the stereotypes emanate from the idea of survival and natural selection (Pekkala 23). Immigrants are thought to cause instabilities in the nation and influence on the resource distribution. Therefore, citizens develop fear over competition for the available resources

Immigrants, as Smith remarks, are thought to bring diseases. Individuals hailing from various nations carry different pathogens long with other communicable diseases. The fear has been highlighting in excluding people, who have health concerns and thought to be contagious. Perhaps, what is more important, as mentioned in the article, that newcomers are thought to have the ability to upset power hierarchies, which is one of the biggest threat? In that case, people, who have power and wealth are likely to reject immigrants. The result of this has been mistreatment of the newcomers. Discrimination against the immigrants reinforces the status quo bias. According to Smith, the conservatives are majorly affected, as they do not favor dynamic social systems and social change as opposed to the liberals. The document goes ahead to allude that diversity is fundamental in schools as it enriches the educational experiences of students.

I agree that immigrants strengthen the community, as they bring new ideas and energy into the community. Hence, diversity is not a threat to integrity, but rather a form of promoting cultural enrichment. The leadership should be people that listen to people and look for solutions. When good governance is incorporated, it helps in mitigating fear. That means that immigrants will enter the nation without infringement. Smith clearly states that ethics of power is essential in the modern world. Indeed, great leaders such as Abraham Lincoln will confirm that a leader has to be humble and have an ear to listen to the people being led. In addition, ethical code call for one to serve with dignity and integrity. Explanation holds that the forces of power and push individuals in the opposite direction (***). Smith correctly advises that one needs to find goodness in other people and not be tied to stereotypes. In order to overcome the innate fear of the outsiders, one requires cognitive-behavioral therapy. The rule of law is supposed to be observed and applied with equality to all people whether they are immigrants or not.

Smith in his argument goes ahead to allude that xenophobia is responsible for the evolutionary and psychological roots associated with immigrants. Incentives alleged that embracing undocumented immigrants is caused by an inexperienced, childish perspective. On the other hand, Liberals are suggesting that children are born without prejudices and thus hate is taught. However, according to Smith, the Conservatives and the Liberals are wrong, as young people begin to sort themselves into in-groups and out-groups and that leads to the development of prejudice. Children take the multicultural perspective into their adulthood.


Arguably, I found Smith’s article to be informative and educative on matters to do with immigration. I agree with the underlying thesis that the fear for immigrants emanates from the threat of contagious disease, influence on resource distribution, and the ability to upset power hierarchies. I confirm that these stereotypes justify abuse and exploitation. The fear of immigrants has been the source of mistreatment for the newcomers. Again, the undocumented immigrants are given substandard housing and dangerous jobs as they are said to be illegal and lazy. Perhaps, what stands out as a key strength lies in the way the author explains the ideas coherently. Smith even presents examples using school children and hence the help reader understands the message.

Whereas the threat for immigrants is a key social issue, it is also fundamental to note that immigrants bring in new skills and resources that aid in the growth of the nation. Dehumanization of outside groups is rampant, and this is emotionally overwhelming. I also second Smith’s argument that when shaping the immigration policy, the formulators have to take into consideration the families of new people who come having high hopes of making a living. Certainly, people who are wealthy and have power do not think that other people can have a contribution to the society and thus will always view immigrants to be of no value.

I settle with the liberal thought that children are born without prejudices, and thus children are taught these stereotypes as they grow up. Children have common goals and thus need to be treated equally and impact on them that in order to make them have non-competitive interactions with one another. An important aspect is that corporation should be promoted over the competition. One will agree that the value of diversity cannot be ignored in society and tolerance reduces anti-immigrant protests (Eren et al. 3). I feel that the cultural segregation has been a major impediment to enabling the nation to become a multi-cultural superpower.

However, Smith in his article failed to explain the fear that arises from the threat of terrorism, and this is a major weakness. In the modern world, terrorist evoke horrific emotions (Koslowski 6). People from other nation’s especially Muslim related countries are seen to be a danger to the national security. The need in national security has made people to develop approaches that are geared towards enhancing internal security. Amid numerous terrorist attacks is a central focus of worry over immigration. Indeed Immigration has become a vital part of the political discussion.

Works Cited

Eren, Selcuk et al. "Effects of Legal and Unauthorized Immigration on the US Social Security System." SSRN Electronic Journal, 2011, Elsevier BV, doi:10.2139/ssrn.1939380.

Koslowski Rey. Immigration, Crime and Terrorism. Oxford University Press. 2012. https://www.albany.edu/~rk289758/documents/Koslowski_Immigration_Crime_Terrorism_OUP_handbook.pdf. Accessed February 1, 2018.

Pekkala Kerr, Sari, and William R. Kerr. "Economic Impacts of Immigration: A Survey." SSRN Electronic Journal, 2011, Elsevier BV, doi:10.2139/ssrn.1228902.

Smith Jeremy Adam. Our ear for immigrants. Pacific standard. July 23, 2014. https://psmag.com/social-justice/fear-immigrants-science-empathy-politics-86430. Accessed on January 6, 2018.

August 21, 2023




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