Immigration and Fallacies -- Do They Belong Together?

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“Immigration and Fallacies –

Do They Belong Together?”

Critical/Analytical Paper

Critical Thinking (HU 101)


We didn’t talk about this topic in class, nor did I read an article which made me think of writing about this. But I heard the following conversation (simplified) about illegal immigration in the U.S. on campus: Anti: "I believe that illegal immigration is not good for our country." Pro: "Of course you would say that, you're a racist."

Anti: "What about the arguments I gave to support my position?" Pro: "Those don't count. Like I said, you're a racist, so you have to say that illegal immigration is bad. Further, you are also a bigot and a hater as well as a racist, so I can't believe what you say." After we talked about fallacies in class and with just using my common sense, I was very stunned about the pro-person’s argumentation. This conversation made me think about the topic of immigration in the U.S. and Europe and somehow, the arguments pro and contra are always the same – no matter if in the U.S. or in, say, Germany. Most people just don’t have the knowledge to discuss a matter like this, thus they come up with many fallacies in order to back-up their argumentation. I shortly want to describe some basic fallacies regarding immigration in the U.S. and then quickly describe the current situation and my opinion (incl. fallacies!) on this topic.

Common Fallacies in the Area of Immigration Matters

The conversation I cited above contains an “Ad Hominem” fallacy (irrelevant conclusion). Person A makes claim X. Person B makes an attack on person A. Therefore A's claim is false. An Ad Hominem is a general category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the person presenting the claim or argument.[1] Here are a few more examples of fallacies[2] used in regard to immigration:

1. Appeal to Pity: Almost every newspaper article on immigration will make an argumentum ad misericordiam (usually at the beginning): “Widowed Maria Vargas, who works two jobs and sews her own clothes, only wants to make a better life for her baby girl. She heard that in America, if she works hard, she can give her daughter the life she could only dream of as a child.” By focusing our emotions on the plight of the individual, the author distracts from the overall effect of a million Maria Vargases.

2. Accident, that’s the fallacy caused by over-strict adherence to a rule or principle, e.g.: “Hardworking people are good for the economy. Immigrants are hardworking people. Therefore, immigrants are good for the economy.”

3. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc (literally, after this, therefore because of this) is a causal fallacy. One thing happening doesn’t mean it caused the other. For example: “After our huge wave of immigration at the turn of the century, America went on to greatness.” This may be true, but it does not follow that such greatness was caused by the huge wave of immigration. In fact, greatness may have been achieved despite immigration.

That are just a few examples, but basically every single fallacy can be and is used in regard to immigration (which answers the topic of this paper). And again, as I mentioned before, this is not just the case in the U.S. but also in Germany, France, Great Britain etc. Also, you won’t find it only in connection with topics like immigration but especially with all topics which are very controversial and emotional.

Immigrants – Welcome or Not?

Now I shortly want to outline my opinion on immigration. But since immigration is a widely used term and since we often hear from immigration opponents that illegal workers, for example, are stealing work places and cost a lot of money, I just want to focus on this issue in regard to undocumented workers.

35.7 million is the number of foreign-born people in the United States as of 2005, including 12.8 million naturalized citizens,...
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