Student Scholar Symposium Abstracts and Posters

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 12-5-2018

Faculty Advisor(s)

Dr. C. Ann Gordon


Leading up to the 2016 election, popular rhetoric surrounding immigrants to the United States took a marked turn. This change can be partially explained using Piotr Cap’s proximization theory, a threat-based discursive model that relies on locating threatening events in proximity to the audience in order to justify preventative or protective measures. Quantitative public opinion data from the Chapman University Survey of American Fears suggests that a disbelief in immigrants’ ability to assimilate is strongly correlated with a fear of immigrants committing crimes. White Americans who hold these beliefs typically tend to favor or strongly favor preemptive punitive action against noncitizen residents, including but not limited to increased policing, raiding homes and businesses, and deportation. The anticipation of elevated criminal activity within the immigrant population is used to motivate both individual and state-level action against immigrants, irrespective of real-world statistics regarding citizen and noncitizen crime rates. Further, a comparison of attitudes toward changing demographics in Europe and America places the American immigrant and refugee situation in a broader global context. Finally, current and historical case studies of nations more and less hostile towards refugees and immigrants attempt to identify the present-day actors that stand to benefit from pushing the narrative of the immigrant as latent criminal and citizen as defender of the nation.


Presented at the Fall 2018 Student Scholar Symposium at Chapman University.