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The Cultural Politics of U.S. ImmigrationGender, Race, and Media$
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Leah Perry

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781479828777

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479828777.001.0001

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Immigration as Emergency

Immigration as Emergency

(p.34) 1 Immigration as Emergency
The Cultural Politics of U.S. Immigration

Leah Perry

NYU Press

This chapter discusses the 1980 Mariel Boatlift to show how policy and popular culture worked dialectically in matters of immigration. Media coverage was initially positive, framing President Jimmy Carter’s welcoming of Cuban refugees as an example of America’s generosity in contrast to Cuba’s Communist regime. Yet when news broke that the Mariel Boatlift included refugees who had been released from Castro’s prisons and mental health facilities—and as refugee numbers grew—the media spectacle became alarmist. News media and popular culture made it clear that the United States was under siege in an “immigrant emergency” that originated south of the border, manifested itself in gendered ways, and necessitated action. This chapter explores, in conversation with media, the proposed solution, the Immigrant Emergency Powers Act of 1982, which would have given the president unilateral powers in the face of an “immigration emergency,” and situates these developments in immigration history.

Keywords:   immigration emergency, Mariel Boatlift, Immigrant Emergency Powers Act, media, gender, race, communist, Cuba, immigration

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