Butler Journal of Undergraduate Research

Faculty Sponsor

Professor Maria Christina Garcia


This paper comprises of original research and analysis of contemporary news media discourse surrounding Central American immigration in the United States. Subjects of study included more than 50 news articles, images, and videos from a variety of major politically-unaffiliated news outlets for English-speaking audiences. Rhetoric was analyzed in representations of the Central American immigration “crisis” that sparked a trend of media coverage in 2014, as well as several articles that covered events leading up to the “crisis.” Common rhetorical analogies ascertained through media analyses include the representation of immigrants as aliens, diseases, parasites, floods, criminals, natural disasters, terrorists, and drug pushers. Such associations aggravate preexisting xenophobia, heighten domestic anxieties, forgo rationality and objectivity, foster monolithic dialogue, erode informed policymaking, and inspire nationalistic racism. The ubiquity of these racist and xenophobic metaphors underscores news media’s political nationalism that colors the language and mindset of journalism and media consumers. This paper contextualizes contemporary observations with a synthesis of larger-scale media studies, historical accounts of racism in immigration services and news media, the role of the “other” in US society, and critical media theory. The conclusive evidence derived from past studies and my contemporary analyses demonstrate a political predilection for biased diction in news coverage of Central American immigration in the US. The paper notes the work of news analysts, professors, and journalists towards ameliorating subjective, political xenophobia in the news, and calls upon media consumers to participate in a subversion of journalism's racist legacies.