The Face of Immigration

Cultural Misconceptions Myths . April 6, 2013.

Every American has heard news reports of “the border problem” and constant unwavering rhetoric that Mexican immigrants specifically are “criminals” and “rapists”. What we don’t see, however, is the stories of these people we judge. I have yet to see segments on CNN, Fox, or any other large networks that humanize these immigrants by airing their personal narrative. Instead, the powerful dictate what we see and hear and ultimately change our perception over time. We seem to be numb to Donald Trump’s erratic and radical statements about illegal immigrants, and allow this sentiment to become normalized and accepted. If we take the time to learn about these people and exactly what is occurring at our southern border, we can become more compassionate to their plight. Rather than seeing numbers on a screen, we see people seeking better opportunities and fleeing one form of oppression.

Digital Storytelling

The University of Minnesota’s Immigration Research Center created a project called “Immigrant Stories”, and is an excellent resource that takes technology to provide viewers with a visual narrative. This form of contemporary archaeology allows immigrants to tell their own story without a middleman and is documented for future generations to see. 

Although this project features immigrants from around the world I chose to highlight Miguel Diaz’s story. With over an hour of interview material, I was given plenty to work with to gain more insight into his experience. If you’d like to listen to it yourself, I’ve linked the audio below. However, I will discuss the significant moments of his story.

Miguel was born in 1987 in Uriangato, Guanajuato, Mexico, a town with under 200 inhabitants. He is the second youngest of 9 children and has only met a couple of them in his life. Miguel currently has a degree in business administration and is working on his master’s degree in business administration at North Dakota State University. He explains that the reason why his family moved to California in the first place was that his dad got through the 1987 immigration law that occurred in the United States, he was able to get a residence for himself and his family. And as a result, they were able to get legal residence. He was working there, illegally, in the prior years, and then in that year, he was able to get residence for everyone. The very first time they immigrated to California as legal residents, it was only his oldest siblings that came with their dad. Simply because my dad had a strategy. He couldn’t afford to bring everyone at the same time… And so what he did is he brought those who were able to work… To be able to help him save some money so that he would be able to bring the rest of his children to the United States. Eventually, each of his siblings was married and bought homes for their families. He continues on discussing the Mexican traditions his family maintains, such as Las Posadas, he explains them as “each family gets an opportunity to participate by hosting a posada, where each family is in charge of having, you know, a food ready for those who attend the posada, and being able to participate in the readings and in the lectures that are going on”. By maintaining their roots as well as embracing American ways, they were able to assimilate and contribute to American culture. 

By hearing stories such as Miguel’s, we are able to feel more compassion for those who enter our country. He is able to tell his own story without a third party choosing what parts of his story they want to portray. Digital storytelling is an invaluable tool for people, especially immigrants to tell their stories.

Voices of Ballard

“Voices of Ballard: Immigrant Stories from the Vanishing Generation” was published in 2001 and is a collection of interviews as part of the Nordic American Voices Oral History Initiative, “an ambitious effort to collect, preserve, and share the life histories of Nordic immigrants and their descendants in the Pacific Northwest,” according to the Nordic Heritage Museum. Of the 29 volunteers that collected the stories, they found that most people believed their stories were unremarkable and rather ordinary. Through this project, they found that they were in fact very captivating, about their lives throughout the 20th century. I found this bottom-up approach to be enlightening, it’s not about the political leaders, it’s the stories of individuals who survived through two world wars, a great depression and the transition to life in a new world and the constant effort to retain ethnic traditions.

Although this isn’t about Hispanic immigrants, I found it to be a very interesting project done right next to us. It shows the value of immigrant stories and social and historical knowledge. The Pacific Northwest is full of immigrants who have amazing stories to tell of their journey and lives. 

An Anthropology of Familismo

Journals such as this one are important. They provide another narrative for Mexican immigrants, that Hispanic and Latino populations have a strong identification and attachment of persons with their nuclear and extended families (Moore, 1970), also known as familismo (Smith-Morris).

Familismo is theorized as a core cultural value that requires the individual to submit to a more collective, family-based form of decision-making, and responsibility for, and obligation to ensuring the well-being of family members (both nuclear and extended).” – Carolyn Smith-Morris

Rather than the narrative that immigrants are “criminals”, this journal shows the portrayal we don’t often see. The information for this paper was gathered by asking informants directly about the relevance and meaning of family in their lives, rather than through observations.

Throughout my research on this project, this is the only study I found that focuses on Hispanic identity and what contributes to their close family ties. This lack of knowledge (and unwillingness to want to learn) regarding immigrants plays into the “criminal” stigma we often see portrayed in the media and by our own President. 

By using these case data to highlight the complexity of core values, and how they are influential in the lives of informants, we hope to promote greater sensitivity in studies of culture change in migrants and to promote complementary of contextual and qualitative data in social scientific research.”  – Carolyn Smith-Morris


Whether you view America as a mixed salad or melting pot we are, and always will be, a land of immigrants. There is no single way to define American culture and traditions and to me, that is truly what makes America great. Technology has made it possible for us to see and hear Immigrant stories and experiences first hand. It is our moral obligation to do our own research and form our own opinions, we cannot hide behind this false ideology of nationalism and blindly believe everything we are told. We are all humans, everyone deserves to be treated as such despite our race, gender, sexual orientation or legal status.


Cultural Misconceptions Myths . April 6, 2013.

“Immigrant Stories.” College of Liberal Arts | University of Minnesota. Immigration History Research Center, March 9, 2017. 

Edwards, Haley Sweetland. “A Close Look at Migration and the People Risking Everything.” Time. Time, January 24, 2019. 

Moen, Lynn. Voices of Ballard: Immigrant Stories from the Vanishing Generation. Seattle, WA: Nordic Heritage Museum, 2001.

Moore, Joan W. “Colonialism: The Case of the Mexican Americans.” Social Problems 17, no. 4 (1970): 463–72.

Smith-Morris, Carolyn, Daisy Morales-Campos, Edith Alejandra Castañeda Alvarez, and Matthew Turner. “An Anthropology of Familismo.” Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences 35, no. 1 (2012): 35–60.

US Immigration Policy Throughout Time

America is a land of immigrants, to ignore that is to ignore the foundation of our society. In current news, immigration has been a hot topic for many presidential candidates and elect alike. The ambivalence of laws and public opinion regarding immigrants has made it very difficult for immigrants to feel any sense of security. America often forgets that there are many forms of and reasons for migration (refugee, work, the reunion of families, opportunity, education, etc.). At some points, we seem to realize and understand this, yet other times we turn on people in their time of need. To understand the archaeology of immigration we must first understand the history of immigration patterns, perception, and laws in the United States. In this article, I will outline a brief history of significant immigration laws and policies beginning in the 17th century, to our current reality.


During this time, the United States of America had recently gained independence from Britain and was a young country trying to find its way. Immigration was dramatically encouraged at this time, as people were needed to settle on the empty lands. As states were established throughout the century they each adopted their own immigration policies. The first significant law restricting immigration in the United States was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Chinese workers were blamed for declining wages and economic failures on the West Coast. To placate workers and maintain “racial purity”, congress passed the exclusion act ( In 1876, the Supreme Court declared that the regulation of immigration was a federal responsibility. Legislation in 1891 and 1895 created the Bureau of Immigration (Historical Overview of Immigration Policy). 

1900 to 1950’s

From the early 20th century until the 1950s, 24 million immigrants arrived in the United States in what is called the “Great Wave”. Immigration from Europe was largely reduced following World War I, but mass immigration from other parts of the world resumed (Historical Overview of Immigration Policy). As a result, Congress passed the national-origins quota system, which established the nation’s first numerical limits on the number of immigrants who could enter (Closing the Door on Immigration (U.S. National Park Service)). This was designed to keep out “undesirable” ethnic groups and maintain America’s largely northern and western European population. The following 20 years had very little immigration due to the Great Depression, so labor from Mexico was imported through the Bracero Program.


In 1965 congress replaced the quota restrictions with the Immigration and Naturalization Act which was designed to unite immigrant families and attract skilled workers. Policymakers vastly underestimated the number of people that would immigrate, immigration nearly tripled each year following the legislation (“Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965”).


Preferential treatment of Europeans continued throughout immigration laws and policies, however, congress responded to refugees with special legislation. It wasn’t until 1980 that the Refugee Act was passed to specifically govern refugee admission. 

Another major law was passed by congress in 1986, the Immigration Reform and Control Act. This granted legalization to millions of unauthorized immigrants, mainly from Latin America, who met certain conditions (Cohn).


The Immigration Act of 1990 increased annual limits on immigration, revised visa category limits to increase skilled labor immigration and expanded and revised the grounds for removal and inadmissibility (Rasmussen). In addition, a diversity lottery was introduced to aid people who had been adversely affected by the quota restrictions enacted in 1965. 

However, in 1994, the United States took a controversy stand against illegal immigration south of the border. Prevention Through Deterrence, De León states, “relies on the use of hyper-security measures such as high fencing and hundreds of agents on the ground in unauthorized crossing areas around urban ports of entry” (A View From the Train Tracks). Illegal traffic was forced to travel a more hostile terrain, in honor of the lives lost, De León and many others have created projects to commemorate them (link Adriane’s case study article). Despite this, more than 5 million undocumented migrants have crossed into America, yet the journey killed more than 7,000 people, basically outsourcing border patrol agents jobs to the harsh environment.


On September 11, 2001, the public perception of immigration was sharply affected. A terrorist attack in which 20 foreign-born people caused the largest attack on American soil, illuminated the issues in America’s immigration system. As a result, there was an emphasis on American immigration law enforcement regarding border security and removing criminal aliens to protect the nation (Post-9/11). 

In 2007 the American senate attempted to pass the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act which “would have given a path to citizenship to the large majority of illegal entrants in the country, significantly increased legal immigration and increased enforcement” (Historical Overview of Immigration Policy). However, this bill was largely unpopular among the American public as views of immigrants steadily became more and more negative.

2010’s – Obama

Throughout Barack Obama’s 2010 presidential campaign he made many promises to reform America’s immigration system, however much of his plans were halted by the intransigent congress. Unfortunately, great immigration reform in America will not be what Obama is remembered for, but he did enact some legislation to protect DREAMERs (American Immigration Council Staff). 

DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)

In 2012, President Obama signed an executive order creating DACA. DACA changed the lives of many young immigrants, specifically those brought into the United States as children, and were raised and educated here. This initiative removed the constant threat of deportation and fear that these individuals faced every day. As of this year, 740,000 people have benefitted from this program (American Immigration Council Staff). However, this legislation has been battled by congress, the following president, and people who don’t think migrants should be granted these rights


In the past, immigration enforcement in the United States has looked like workplace raids and targeting all undocumented immigrants. He refocused America’s enforcement by instead penalizing employers and targeting people that posed threats to society (American Immigration Council Staff). In the book titled Collateral Damage: an Examination of ICEs Fugitive Operations Program, the authors put it best by stating the United States apprehended “the easiest targets, not the most dangerous fugitives” (Page 2). 


Despite Obama’s seemingly pro-immigration stance throughout the media, America actually saw record-high deportation numbers. During his 8 years in office, there were more than 2.7 million deportations, of which 91% were previously convicted of a crime (Marshall). “Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids. We’ll prioritize, just like law enforcement does every day,” Obama said in November 2014 when he first announced his executive action.


Thousands of migrants mainly from Central America flee the violence ensuing in their home countries, seeking asylum in the United States. A study from the UN’s refugee agency estimated that 65.3 million people worldwide have been displaced due to persecution and conflict (Edwards).

Although Obama is the leading president of deportations in the United States, a large majority were criminals. He believed in keeping families together and making this country just a bit safer. His policies such as DACA made immigrants in America feel safer for a short time.

2010’s – Trump & The Wall

Donald Trump’s radical presidential campaign was propped up on the back of immigration policy. He united the right with his anti-immigrant rhetoric and infamous “Build the Wall” slogan. His remarks gained publicity throughout the country and sparked countless debates and unrest. Perhaps Trump’s most controversial quote was proclaimed on June 16, 2015, in Trump Tower, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. . . They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists” (Phillips). However, a study by the Migration Policy Institute in 2015 found that “evidence indicates that immigration does not correlate with higher crime rates” (Maciag). We’ve become numb to this rhetoric, we are no longer surprised by his outrageous and harmful words.

Birthright Citizenship

Birthright citizenship is also referred to by many as ‘anchor babies’. Birthright citizenship is citizenship to any child born in the US, regardless of parents’ citizenship, under the citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment. On October 30th, 2018 Trump stated by means of an executive order that he planned to remove this (Silva).

Border Security & Wall

Trump made border security and illegal immigration a cornerstone of his presidential campaign. His solution? Build a wall and make Mexico pay for it. An idea that millions of American’s fully supported, despite the lack of an actionable plan. However, Trump managed to get his wish of a wall (with some fences), paid for by American’s. On September 12th, 2017 the United States Department of Homeland Security issued a notice that they would be waiving certain laws and regulations to begin construction of the wall (Hand). What certain laws were bypassed you may ask?

  • The National Environmental Policy Act
  • The Endangered Species Act
  • The Clean Water Act
  • The Clean Air Act
  • The National Historic Preservation Act
  • The Migratory Bird Treaty Act
  • The Migratory Bird Conservation Act
  • The Archaeological Resources Protection Act
  • The Safe Drinking Water Act
  • The Noise Control Act
  • The Solid Waste Disposal Act
  • The Antiquities Act
  • The Federal Land Policy and Management Act
  • The Administrative Procedure Act
  • The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act
  • The American Indian Religious Freedom Act 

All of these acts and laws that we have determined to be fair and justified are now overlooked and violated by the United States government to build a wall a large majority of people don’t even support.

As public opinion on immigration changes throughout the decades, laws are changed to reflect this. First, we have a land of immigrants, all are welcome (at least if you’re European), then all immigrants are criminals. What is it that determines who we consider to be “outsiders”? Aren’t we all born from immigrants (excluding Native Americans) who journeyed to the “land of opportunity”? It is clear that every country needs restrictions on immigration, but it is the way we perceive and criminalize people based on the color of their skin and country of origin. Some people would say that legal status is what makes you an “insider”, others say shared language or even political and social engagement (Jones-Correa). But this is not always true. African American’s were imported as goods to be bought and sold, even hundreds of years of forced assimilation into American culture they are perceived by many as “outsiders”. Even Hispanics that legally migrate to the United States are told they are “rapists” and “criminals”, by someone who claims to be the leader of this nation. We must remember that America was built on the backs of immigrants, that we are a land of immigrants, and on that basis, to turn them away is inherently unamerican. So what can we do? Be critical of what you hear. Stay educated. Speak up for marginalized and oppressed groups. And above all, in a time of so much unrest, try to be compassionate. It is easy to be caught up in all the anger and confusion we are faced with every day, but remember that we are all people. We all want a better life, and turning on one another is not the solution.

We will never be a united nation until we realize the harm our actions and words have on others. All men are created equal, and as such under the American Constitution, have equal opportunity and pursuit of happiness. If we have learned anything from our history, let it be “a nation divided against itself cannot stand” (Lincoln). 


American Immigration Council Staff. “President Obama’s Legacy on Immigration.” Immigration Impact, Jan 20, 2017., accessed May 7, 2020.

“Closing the Door on Immigration (U.S. National Park Service).” National Parks Service. U.S. Department of the Interior. Accessed May 28, 2020.

Cohn, D’Vera. “How U.S. Immigration Laws and Rules Have Changed through History.” Pew Research Center. Pew Research Center, September 30, 2015.

Edwards, Adriane. “Global Forced Displacement Hits Record High.” The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, 20 June 2016,

Hand, Mark. “Homeland Security Waives Environmental Review for California Border Project.” ThinkProgress, 12 Sept. 2017,

Historical Overview of Immigration Policy Center for Immigration Studies ., accessed May 22, 2020 Staff. “Chinese Exclusion Act.” A&E Television Networks, August 24, 2018.

“Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.” US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives. Accessed May 28, 2020.

Jones-Correa, Michael. “Crossing the Line Between ‘Immigrant’ and ‘American’.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 18 Nov. 2012,

León, Jason De, and Eduardo García. “A View From the Train Tracks.” SAPIENS. Austin Shipman, October 2, 2018.

Lincoln, Abraham. “Political Debates Between Hon. Abraham Lincoln and Hon. Stehen A. Douglas … : Abraham Lincoln , Stephen Arnold Douglas : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming.” Internet Archive, Follett, Foster Andcompany, 1 Jan. 1860, 

Maciag, Michael. “The Mythical Link Between Immigrants and High Crime Rates.” Governing, 2 Mar. 2017, 

Marshall, Serena. “Obama Has Deported More People Than Any Other President.” ABC News, ABC News Network, 29 Aug. 2016, 

Mendelson, Margot, Shayna L. Strom, and Michael Wishnie. Collateral Damage: an Examination of ICEs Fugitive Operations Program. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute, 2009.

Mohamed, Heather Silber, and Emily M. Farris. “Immigration Politics and Policy in the United States.” Oxford Bibliographies Online Datasets, 2017.

Moritz, John C., Aileen B. Flores, Brandon Loomis, Daniel González, and Gustavo Solis. “The Wall – An in-Depth Examination of Donald Trump’s Border Wall.” USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network. Accessed May 22, 2020.

Office of the Press Secretary. “FACT SHEET: Immigration Accountability Executive Action.” The White House, Nov 20, 2014., accessed May 19, 2020.

Phillips, Amber. “Analysis | ‘They’re Rapists.’ President Trump’s Campaign Launch Speech Two Years Later, Annotated.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 16 June 2017,

“Post-9/11.” USCIS, September 23, 2013.

Rasmussen, Scott. “Immigration Act of 1990.” Ballotpedia. Ballotpedia, March 21, 2017.

Silva, Chantal Da. “Trump Says He Plans to Sign an Executive Order to End Birthright Citizenship.” Newsweek, Newsweek, 30 Oct. 2018,

Garbology Amid COVID-19

Stop Food Waste Day

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, what we discard in our households has drastically changed. Personally, I was unable to spend time at home, as I have a young brother, an elderly grandmother, as well as an immunocompromised mother. I didn’t want to stay in Seattle, near a larger epicenter, so I decided to stay in a cabin out in Grayland, Washington. This change in the environment has led me to evaluate a couple of ways my household’s garbology has specifically been effected.

How have the things your consuming changed over the past month (compared to before COVID-19 impacts)?

Since my arrival in Grayland, the first thing I noticed is the lack of recycling and compost. This was very odd for me since all my life I’ve lived in urban locations and have always had what I can now refer to as a luxury. In response to this, I decided to collect all of our recycling and load it up in my car to bring back with us to the city.

Regarding food waste, I’d looked everywhere for compost bags but none of the local grocery stores carried them. In response, we decided to reduce our food waste by purchasing more non-perishable items. In our reading, Why We Buy Weird Things in Times of Crisis by Stephen E. Nash, he noted that people have not been buying non-perishable, but instead, toilet paper (Nash & Gusterson 2018). This made me more aware of what I personally have been consuming, and in response stocked up on more canned goods, so I could reduce compost that ends up in landfills.

Since I’ve largely referred to food waste throughout this blog post, this image immediately stood out to me. It claims that over 100 tons of food have gone to waste in response to panic buying. I looked into this further and found that households are usually the largest contributors to this large amount of waste. However, amid our current crisis, farmers are the ones contributing the most. According to the New York Times, “After weeks of concern about shortages in grocery stores and mad scrambles to find the last box of pasta or toilet paper roll, many of the nation’s largest farms are struggling with another ghastly effect of the pandemic. They are being forced to destroy tens of millions of pounds of fresh food that they can no longer sell”. In light of this information, I learned my new eating habits have actually been counterintuitive. By buying non-perishables, the amount of food waste of fresh foods has increased dramatically.

What behaviors or activities are reflected in the items you discarded over the past week?

As aforementioned, my eating behaviors have changed quite a bit in an attempt to reduce waste. I have also noticed that my purchasing habits have drastically changed. While monitoring my waste and comparing it to what was disposed of pre-pandemic, I noticed there is much less packaging from nonessential items. For example, amazon packages, store bags, and other nonessentials. In an attempt to save money, I have stopped spending on many luxuries, which in return has changed my personal discarded items.

What have I learned?

From this assignment, I have learned how buying habits have changed in response to COVID-19. In exploring my own purchasing habits, and therefore waste, I was able to understand that I am not helping the problem. By balancing my purchases, trying not to participate in panic buying, and further, learning more about expiration dates, I can decrease my waste. We could all stand to do a little more research on small ways to change our habits (in turn garbology), to do a little good during these hard times.

Below is a list of what can be done to reduce food waste (Royte 2020).

  • When cooking at home, learn how to maintain everything you’ve bought
  • Freeze food
  • Better understand date labels
  • Avoid panic buying


Coe, Linford. “Like Climate Change and Covid-19 Wasn’t Enough or like What?” 9GAG, 2 Apr. 2020,

Nash, Stephen E., and Hugh Gusterson. “Why We Buy Weird Things in Times of Crisis.” SAPIENS, AP Images, 3 Apr. 2018,

Royte, Elizabeth. “Food Waste and Food Insecurity Rising amid Coronavirus Panic.” National Geographic, 31 Mar. 2020,

“Stop Food Waste Day.” Days Of The Year,

Yaffe-bellany, David, and Michael Corkery. “Dumped Milk, Smashed Eggs, Plowed Vegetables: Food Waste of the Pandemic.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 11 Apr. 2020,

About me: Alycia

Hello all, my name is Alycia and I’m from Seattle, Washington. I am currently a medical anthropology major at the University of Washington. I love history and learning about peoples and societies throughout time, it’s like a glimpse in the past. Aside from my education, I love going to concerts and festivals, hiking and traveling to new places when I can!

This image is from my recent trip to Waikiki, Hawaii with my friends.