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Rhetoric In The American Immigration Debate

1649 words - 7 pages

According to Aristotle, a speaker could frame any debate using three approaches: an appeal to logic, an appeal from credibility, or an appeal to emotions. All speakers and writers use the tripartite approach to rhetoric in varying degrees and ultimately the audience judges their effectiveness in the context presented. In America, few topics are as hotly debated as that of undocumented migration, and it can be difficult to pick through the partisan and often vitriolic rhetoric in order to come to a rational conclusion. Politicians frame the debate using elements of the American mythos. While the evidence they present to back their conclusions may be factual, it necessarily omits the full truth in order to present a partisan political front. As such, politicians predominantly rely on the reader or listener’s emotional satisfaction. And even the most scrupulous journalists—meant to impart objective fact to the public—are not free from personal bias, making the discourse even more convoluted. In analyzing three prominent voices in the immigration debate, US president Obama, journalist Sonia Nazario, and Arizona congressman J.D. Hayworth, we can evaluate the effectiveness of the different rhetorical approaches by whether or not they reach their intended audiences. Nazario fulfills her journalistic raison d’être by succeeding at objectivity, while Obama and Hayworth as politicians succeed by lying by omission in speeches and in writing in order to pursue policy goals and appease supporters.
Sonia Nazario, herself an immigrant, was aware of the acrimonious debate on undocumented migration through her work as a prominent Los Angeles journalist. The issue was brought to a head when her housekeeper’s son arrived unannounced from Guatemala having made the perilous—and illegal—journey on the top of freight trains. As Nazario writes in Enrique’s Journey, the true story of another young man, Enrique, making the same perilous trip, “I thought I understood… the immigration experience… Still, my parents arrived in the United Stated on a jet plane [and] I had no true understanding of what people are willing to do to get here" (xxiii). Nazario undertook the writing of Enrique’s Journey—an account of an undocumented migrant boy trying to reunite with his mother who had left him for a job in the States—to herself better understand the human aspect of the debate.
The story of Enrique is fundamentally a story that stirs the emotions. While we may find reasonable the logical arguments laid out by the Nazario’s sources, and while Nazario’s ethos is backed by extensive notes, the tale is fundamentally an anecdotal account in the larger debate over immigration. Its appeal is pathetic in that it viscerally shows the life and travails of an immigrant from Central America, following the protagonist through drug addiction and beatings, danger and deportations, poverty and exploitation, and finally the thorny reunion with his mother. Nazario intentionally writes an...

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