Is America in a Boiling Fury About Immigration? Not the America I Have Seen

Entrepreneur Alicia De La Torre, of Dodge City, Kansas (Nicolas Pollock / The Atlantic)
Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Over the past year-plus my wife Deb and I have been arguing that the “build a wall!”-style anti-immigration furor in Republican party politics does not match the lived reality of the parts of the United States where immigration is having the biggest and most obvious effect.

That’s part of the case I made in a cover story in March; that I wrote about in Dodge City, Kansas, in July; and that Deb chronicled in a visit with a Syrian refugee family in Erie, Pennsylvania, in August. Through American history, immigration has always been disruptive—at many periods, much more disruptive than it is now. At nearly every point in its history, people already present have viewed whatever group is most recently arrived as “different” and “worse” than the groups that had previously assimilated and generally succeeded. But compared with most other societies, the process of assimilation has continued to grind on in the United States, and overall (as I argue elsewhere) has been to the country’s enormous benefit.

Now the Atlantic’s video team has put out a great video treatment of this theme. It’s produced by Nic Pollock and was shot this summer in Dodge City, Erie, and also the San Joaquin Valley of California around Fresno.

I’ll have more to say about the video and the theme soon, but for now I say: I hope you’ll watch this.  It’s the first of a series of videos that match national-level rhetoric on an election-year issue with the city-by-city reality of these difficult questions. I hope you find this interesting—and, well, moving, as we did in meeting the families you see here.

Again, think of the actual people you see in this video, as Deb and I cannot help doing, as you listen to the next “build a wall” speech.

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This screenshot from the video is (a good) part of the on-the-road reporting experience, in this case at Ms. De La Torre’s tortilleria. With me is Ernestor De La Rosa, the city administrator in Dodge City whom I wrote about here.

Nicolas Pollock / The Atlantic