Title page for ETD etd-01292008-133109

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Cooper, Jeffrey T.
URN etd-01292008-133109
Title US Labor Demand: a Discourse Analysis on the “Hidden Force” behind Illegal Immigration
Degree Master of Arts
Department Political Science
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Nelson, Scott C. Committee Chair
Taylor, Charles Lewis Committee Member
Toal, Gerard Committee Member
  • discourse analysis
  • labor demand
  • illegal immigration
Date of Defense 2008-01-24
Availability unrestricted
The dominant ideology within the illegal immigration discourse in the US primarily faults illegal workers for the problem by highlighting the act of illegally entering the US as the origin of the problem. As the dominant ideology goes, illegal immigrants evade law enforcement at the border; they deceive employers to secure work. They disrupt labor markets by lowering wages which displaces lower class US workers. The illegal immigrants and their families abuse social services that they do not pay into at the US taxpayers expense. They form ethnic enclaves, and those who remain in the US resist assimilation into US culture. So the story goes. This thesis challenges this dominant ideology, a subset of the illegal immigration discourse, by documenting decades of immigration law in the US created to serve US employers’ demand for labor, and alternately, closing the immigrant worker pipeline when it suited the government’s political objectives or the special interests of employers. Loopholes in the immigration laws have tended to insulate employers from prosecution. Meanwhile, undocumented workers have faced lower wages and increased risk. This thesis examines what constitutes the dominant ideology of the illegal immigration discourse. It also includes a discourse analysis of illegal immigration by reviewing national, regional, and local media coverage of the simultaneous raids in December 2006 of six Midwest meat processing plants operated by Swift & Company. The discourse analysis explores media coverage of the raids conducted by the Department of Homeland Security’s Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The raids led to the arrest of 1,282 suspected illegal immigrants, and the analysis will attempt to understand to what extent media coverage supports or challenges the dominant ideology of the illegal immigration discourse.
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