Immigration laws and the effects of illegal immigration on U.S. communities have recently been the focus of several hot political debates. In California — the state arguably affected by illegal immigration more than any other — this issue has provided such intense political discussion at state and local levels that it thrust the issue into the national spotlight. The political hot button of immigration, however, certainly predates recent debates in California and elsewhere.
Since the 1880s, American immigration policy has worked to limit and control the increasing trend of people seeking to locate in the United States. The historic Foran Act in 1885, for example, prohibited businesses and individuals from recruiting unskilled labor from outside the U.S. with advance contracts. From 1890 to the mid-1920s, new literacy requirements further restricted immigration. In fact, the first Immigration Act in 1917 required literacy for immigrants over the age of 16. Many sociologists and political scientists contend that the restrictionist policies associated with immigration since the late 1800s have largely emerged from socially and politically sanctioned racism and a protectionist attitude among native-born American citizens.
Two important pieces of legislation are relevant here. The first is the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Signed into law by Ronald Reagan in November 1986, the bill contains the following noteworthy provisions:
● Employers would be forbidden to hire illegal aliens. The ban would apply to all employers, even those with just a few employees.
● Employers would have to ask all job applicants for documents, such as a passport or birth certificate and a driver’s license, to confirm that they were either citizens or aliens authorized to work in the United States. The employer would not be required to check the authenticity of the document.
● The government would offer legal status to aliens who entered the United States illegally before January 1, 1982 and have resided here continuously since then. For five years, they would be ineligible for welfare, food stamps, and most other federal benefits, with some exceptions.
● States would have to verify, through records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the legal status of aliens seeking welfare benefits, Medicaid, unemployment compensation, food stamps, housing assistance, or college aid under federal programs.
● Under a special program, illegal aliens who worked in American agriculture for at least 90 days in the period from May 1, 1985, to May 1, 1986, could become lawful temporarily residents in the United States. After two years of that status, they could become permanent residents, eligible for American citizenship after five more years.
● Employers would be forbidden to discriminate against legal aliens because of their national origin or citizenship status. A new office would be established in the Justice Department to investigate complaints of such discrimination.
The second bill, the Immigration Act of 1990, was signed into law by President George Bush (the first Bush president), in November of that year. The new law placed tighter restrictions on the number of immigrants allowed to enter the U.S. annually. According to the act, the number of visas granted to immigrants (excluding refugees) would drop from the 1992-94 figure of 700,000 annually to 675,000 beginning in fiscal year 1995. The history of American political attention to immigration issues has varied widely across the decades since the late 1800s; however, the legislative trends have leaned toward tighter restrictions and attention to economic and social effects of immigrant populations on American communities.
The Situation and Your Role
You were hired just yesterday as a researcher and speechwriter for Brian Lindeman, candidate for U.S. Congress from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Lindeman is running as an Independent. New on the political scene, he has spent most of his career in higher education teaching political science and ethics. He cultivates his Washington “outsider” status and is just in the process of getting his campaign (and fundraising) off the ground. Though you have yet to meet Lindeman personally — you were hired by his chief of staff, Shaswana Bahktu — you feel strongly that this opportunity is a good chance to keep your professional communication skills polished as well as to enhance your portfolio. You have read most of what has been written about Lindeman (which is not much) and feel there is nothing in what Lindeman has articulated concerning his position on various issues with which you vehemently disagree, although your interest in politics is certainly secondary to your interest in professional communication.
On your first day of work, you are anxious to get started on a project and Shaswana, your immediate supervisor, does not disappoint you.
“We’re trying to get a handle on several issues that the media have targeted as most important in this election,” she explains as you sit down with her at her cluttered desk. “I think I’m going to get you started out with some research and see what it tells us.”
You’re a little disappointed because you hoped you’d start right away with some writing, but you nod. “What are we investigating?”
“We’re starting out with immigration,” she responds. “Immigration has been a hot national issue, but it is also important in Minnesota, and especially in Minneapolis/St. Paul. What we need is to collect some data and sift through it to see specifically what it tells us in terms of trends. I am speaking here of both legal and illegal immigration”
“For Minneapolis? The state? The nation? What kind of trends are we looking for?”
“Well, we’re starting sort of from ground zero here, so I can’t really tell you what sort of trends we’re looking for. The information we come up with will need to be organized and clearly articulated so that Brian can take a public stance on the issue if asked. We’re interested in what the immigration statistics can tell us about changes in the U.S. population, the implications-mostly economic and social effects-of both legal and illegal immigration, and any special focus you can find on this area, obviously, since we’re working to sell what we say to the voters here.Voters will obviously be interested in information about Minneapolis/St. Paul, and greater Minnesota, though we cannot ignore national trends.”
You believe your assignment is really no different than creating a research database, so you feel confident that this is something you can accomplish. First, you will want to find pertinent data on this topic, and then analyze and interpret that data. Shaswana continues: “Then I think it would be good to briefly outline whatever arguments you feel like you can make, given the numbers you’ve uncovered.”
“Obviously, not all of the numbers are going to be relevant to what Brian says about this issue, so you need to make this as accessible as possible for him. Tables are sometimes sort of hard to read, so figure out how to make your point quickly, so that I can glance at this and know what you’re trying to show. And simply gathering visuals from the Internet is not going to be terribly helpful – we’ve seen them numerous times. You can use whatever means feel right depending on the data and what it is you’re trying to show, but I would like to see this as your own work rather than just material you gather elsewhere. I’d like you to organize what you come up with and put it on my computer by the end of the day tomorrow — is that enough time?” Shaswana glances at her watch and begins searching her desk for something.
“Tomorrow? Well, sure,” you answer hesitantly. “Urh…”
She grabs a stack of folders and throws a purse over her shoulder. “I’ve got to be out of the office most of today, so if you have any questions, ask Greg Fait. He’s doing something similar with abortion and has been with us for several months.” She gestures to a bookcase with several large volumes in it. “You can use our resources for research, head to the library, or search the Internet. I don’t really care how you get the info; just make sure it’s correct information.”
With that, Shaswana quickly leaves the office, and you make your way back to your new desk. Just as you begin to write some notes about the project, Greg Fait wanders over to your desk.
He holds out his hand to shake. “Nice to meet you,” he says. “So you and I are working on similar projects, eh?”
You nod. “I’m working on immigration.”
Greg shakes his head. “That’s a toughie. Lindeman hasn’t made up his mind where he stands on that one, so you’re probably starting from scratch, aren’t you? At least with abortion, he already had an ideological stance figured out. My job has been easy enough just because I know what position to look for in the data. Need any help?”
“Well, I guess I need to collect some statistics first, but it might be good to know what Shaswana is looking for in my report tomorrow. She didn’t really have time to tell me.”
“She only gave you until tomorrow?” Greg laughs and shakes his head. “It’s the classic test. See how much the new kid can come up with in the shortest amount of time. Well, I can tell you that she’s going to look for you to understand what the trends in the statistics are saying. If I were you, I’d carve out three or four good arguments that you can back up with the numbers and have those outlined for her. You know, like welfare benefits in X community have risen proportionately with the rise in suspected illegal immigration, something like that. You will have to figure out what to say about legal immigration.”
“Wait!” You hold up your hand to stop him as you’re taking notes. “I don’t want to perpetuate stereotypes here. Are you suggesting that the arguments I’m making are going to be advice to Lindeman for his stance?”
“Not directly, but the research you do is the foundation on which he will base whatever stance he takes. My example was just off the cuff, really.”
You shake your head. “But if these arguments are the foundational research, how can Shaswana expect me to have this to her tomorrow?”
Greg laughs. “Aw, don’t worry about it. She’s not really expecting spit and polish or even a complete report. She wants to see what you can do in the time she’s given you. It’s indicative of what we’ll face once things come down to the wire around here. Anyway, I’d say she’s probably looking for evidence that you can write a good summary and create effective visuals and documents. Don’t mess around with a huge amount of detail.”
After a few more minutes of chatting, you and Greg talk about getting a pizza after work. When he leaves, you return to your notes. You are just getting ready to head to the library when Connie Reagan introduces herself to you as one of the head writers for Lindeman. She seems interested in your background and wants to chat, but you are feeling the pressure of time to get at the research as quickly as you can. After about 10 minutes of discussion about backgrounds and interests, you explain to Connie that you need to get started on your project for Shaswana. Connie asks you about what it is that you are researching.
“I’m doing some base research on immigration.”
“Ah,” she nods. “You’re on base detail, huh? Want some free advice?” she asks, smiling.
“Yes, of course. I can use any help I can get,” you answer, hoping she’ll give you the same insight into Shaswana’s preferences that Greg provided earlier.
“Present your information as economically as you can and focus as much as possible on the graphics and visuals that you create to make your point. Also, Shaswana’s a stickler for detail and completeness, so don’t bite off more than you can chew. When did she ask you to get it to her?”
Your heart sinks a little at the apparent contradiction you’ve just heard between Greg and Connie. “Late tomorrow.”
Connie smiles. “Hope you weren’t planning on getting any sleep tonight.”
Consider the following exercises as a way to fine-tune your understanding of the case and its details. Answer the prompts in order to give yourself some background on the issues. Feel free to draw on your responses to inform any of the tasks that follow.
● This case has asked you to research and assimilate some statistical data in order to form an argumentative stance on immigration issues. Such a challenge requires that you do background research. My suggestion is that you begin by scanning the Internet or accessing the U.S. Census Bureau’s website. You might also consider searching through statistical abstracts or census reports. When you have completed some preliminary research, think carefully about the information you have amassed. Scan the information for trends. Record at least five assumptions you feel you can make based on the data you have uncovered.
● Because you must ultimately narrow your field of inquiry with this data, you must begin with some questions you are interested in answering with the data. Write down three or four questions pertaining to immigration that you would like to see if you can answer with the data.
● Statistical data are sometimes difficult to talk about and even understand unless they are offered in a way that summarizes a primary argument. For example, if you are interested in knowing what the trends are in arrests made at three strategic border crossings over the past ten years, you will likely have to sift through a great deal of statistical data in order to get to your answer. As a result, making data accessible is often of chief concern to workplace communicators. Choose one of the trends you wish to highlight and think about how to simplify the information visually. Consult your text on visual strategies you may employ. Experiment with two or three different visual appeals (e.g., charts, graphs, lists). Then examine your work carefully for clarity, reading ease, and visual appeal.
Based upon the statistics you uncover through your own research, write out a list of five questions you would like the data to answer and possible corresponding trends you feel are supported by the numbers. These are only to serve as personal notes, (not to be handed in), so you may use this task as a prewriting journal, if you wish.
Greg’s and Connie’s appraisals of what Shaswana is after for your report seem on the surface to conflict with one another. Make an outline for your report using your best judgment about what Shaswana is after and what would be most beneficial for the candidate as he creates a public statement. Again, this outline may be a part of your prewriting preparation and should not be handed in.
Writing Assignment – To be submitted to D2L as a single .doc or .docx file
You have decided to use a balanced approach to the final report Shaswana has assigned you, so you have determined to use approximately half visuals and half text. Design three or four visuals you believe would be most accessible and appropriate for communicating the trends from the statistical data you have uncovered and write complementary text summaries to accompany them.
Finalize your report (in memo form to Shaswana Bahktu) that discusses/explains the four or five visuals you have provided and that also explains the rationale you used to highlight the visuals. Your report should include an explanation of how the information you have provided can help Lindeman determine a political stance on the issue of immigration.
As you complete this writing assignment, pay very careful attention to allof the material you have read in the narrative part of this writing case. In other words, keep in mind what your supervisor, Shaswana Bahktu has asked you to do, as well as the seasoned advice of people like Greg Fait and Connie Reagan. All of the material above is important, but pay very special attention to the material that appears in red text.