Since Sunday, a lot of people have been discussing the 84 Lumber commercial that featured a mother and daughter on journey north to be greeted by a border wall with a ‘big, beautiful door’.
My heart was pounding as I had my eyes glued on my computer screen. The mother and daughter were on an unpredictable journey. The storyline was nostalgic to the times when I was a little kid and I heard my father tell me his story of crossing a desert and swimming across a river. I knew that this story could end in a tragedy or could end in the case like that in which my father’s had ended, it will end with facing illegality in the United States. However, this didn’t go quite like that. The mother and daughter came across a wall. Then, the daughter took out an American flag — a symbol that both the mother and daughter had become Americans in meaning that they gained citizenship — which ultimately led to both of them finding the doors in which they now entered the land of opportunity. But, wait, this doesn’t make sense? How can this happen? Nobody simply walks through a beautiful door at the border. Here is why I believe this video is problematic:
- It is unrealistic.
The video depicted a story in which many immigrants from Latin America could relate to. However, the video itself was unrealistic. The reality of stories like the one depicted is that they sometimes end in tragedies. People die on that journey, people are detained and deported along the way, or people come to the United States only to find out that they have to work jobs in which they will be exploited and face the repercussions of being labeled illegals. The journey of an immigrant from Latin America is rarely one in which they are welcomed with open doors or could obtain citizenship easily. The only exception to this would be the policy that Cubans recently had access to where with ‘Wet Foot, Dry Foot,’ where they would be welcomed into the US. President Obama ended that policy last month.
- It is a political statement, it’s pro-Trump.
I have read that many people think that this wall mocks Trump’s wall or is a political statement in favor of undocumented immigrants. Interestingly, the CEO of this company publicly stated that she supports Trump, his wall, and the construction of a beautiful door. This is not saying, “We need reform to allow people like this to come in.” If it was, then why didn’t the CEO explicitly state that? No, she stated, “I am all about those people who are willing to fight and go that extra yard to make a difference and then if they have to, you know, climb higher, go under, do whatever it takes to become a citizen.” What the hell is “do whatever it takes to become a citizen” when our laws make it nearly impossible for people from Mexico and Central American to obtain citizenship just by working hard? The CEO of 84 Lumber makes it seem that if people are simply willing to fight and go the extra yard, that there’s an opportunity to become a citizen. There are thousands of Mexicans and Central Americans in detention along the border who fought to enter this country, only to be detained and most likely deported. There was no beautiful door greeting them, only armed agents ready to transport them to a detention facility.
- It is exploitative.
This company exploited the story of these individuals to attract workers, and they publicly stated that they wanted to attract workers because of a labor shortage.
- There is a message but not the one you want.
This company has explicitly stated that they don’t condone illegal immigration. However, in condemning illegal immigration, are we condemning the unjust policies that have caused people to migrate without documents? Or are we condemning the lives of those who law enforcement labels as “illegal”? I think we all know the answer to this question. The message is clear, and it is one in which shows that immigrants will only be accepted if they come in the right way. In making a statement like this we must understand that American foreign policies have caused economic and political turmoil in the Americas that have uprooted people, and at the same time, our immigration policies have become more punitive and harsh. 84 Lumber explicitly supports building the border wall, but we have seen that the militarization of the border has negative consequences for migrants.
- This won’t change people’s hearts.
The pathos or emotional appeal in this video is so strong that people believe others will have a change of heart. However, I believe most won’t change their perspectives. Illegality has clouded people’s perception to the point where undocumented immigrants are merely ‘aliens’ or ‘illegals’. Illegality is not just how people perceive others. Illegality was constructed by the government’s policies which have ultimately led to the criminalization of immigrants. De Genova’s academic paper, The Legal Production of Mexican/Migrant ‘‘Illegality,’’ states, “The legal production of ‘‘illegality’’ provides an apparatus for sustaining Mexican migrants’ vulnerability and tractability – as workers – whose labor-power, inasmuch as it is deportable, becomes an eminently disposable commodity.” Illegality is deeply ingrained in this country’s demand for labor, and its exploitation of immigration laws to meet labor quotas. I urge people to read De Genova’s academic paper to understand that the policies we have in place are what need to change in order to alter the way we see undocumented immigrants.
- It reaffirms a white man savior complex.
The video ends with the girl and mother finding the wall. However, the video at the end highlights the white male driving away with the lumber in his pickup truck. Hence, the reason why this girl and mother made it through was because of this individual (not the brown individual that was working on the door). While many may take this as saying he constructed the door and this is just supporting the lumber company’s advertisement, I took it to be a subliminal message that is shown in history: the white male will saves the less fortunate. History is testimony that colonization and events like Manifest Destiny were justified by the white male claiming to civilize and save others. This video is no different. Who showed mercy and built that door, which saves the women and girl from dying in that desert? The white man.
- This video does not help undocumented communities.
Some may think that because we have this video, then the undocumented community is better off. There have been movies released and documentaries that cover the migration in more depth. A commercial cannot do this issue justice or even begin to get into some of the larger forces causing people to migrate in these times. This commercial could potentially backfire on undocumented communities because people will believe that citizenship attainment is as easily as it was shown in this video. This video also romanticizes the illusion of Trump’s wall to be one where people will have to risk their lives to arrive to a big door and then be welcomed in. This is most likely will not happen. The experiences people have crossing the border are horrendous and at times end tragically.
In praising this video, we are doing a disservice to those who have embarked on this journey and have not been welcomed with open arms. I understand that we want to think things will be positive and this simple. But the history of our immigration laws tell us otherwise. Please, reconsider sharing this video and promoting it as something beautiful. For the sake of our communities, we can’t allow stories like these to be hijacked by Trump supporters. My father’s deportation status, after more than 20 years living here, is testimony that what is promoted in this commercial is far from the truth.
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