This first chapter argues that both the news media and the social sciences have contributed to misperceptions about contemporary immigration in ways that have raised the public's anxieties and hindered effective policymaking. For different reasons, journalists and academic researchers have tended to focus on individual narratives or group characteristics in rendering portrayals of immigration. The cumulative effect is to depict the immigrant as the protagonist who drives all of the action. Meanwhile, little attention is given to the many ways that the host society is structuring the trajectories of immigrant flows. The immigration story is thus robbed of context, and the results are evident in public policies that focus almost exclusively on trying to affect the migrants' behavior—for example, physically preventing them from crossing the border, apprehending and deporting those without authorization, and the like—rather than acting on causal factors in the United States.
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