Monday, 9 July 2012


DEFINITION: Immigration (derived from Latin: migratio) is the act of foreigners passing or coming into a country for the purpose of permanent residence.

Immigration takes place for many reasons. Pundits from various disciplines have found multiple reasons why people immigrate. The top seven reasons are: 

Financially Secured Future: When we see it from an economist point of view, the picture is quite clear – people immigrate to gain financial stability and better future prospects. It is as simple as that! Here is an example – if another country is offering people a better future, higher wages and a more comfortable lifestyle, any person would think of immigrating to the other country! And why not!

High Standard of Living: Now some people give high emphasis on high standard of living. Parents send their children abroad to get a better lifestyle. The reality is that they try to provide their children better career prospects and lifestyle than the one they themselves have acquired in their lives. And immigration is the perfect answer to their concerns.

Education: Other countries have a huge range of educational opportunities. Be it top-class universities, high schools, colleges, professional institutes or no matter what, students can enroll in any of them in accordance with their preference levels.

Start of a Series: This is a chain of events. That is to say, the first person immigrates and sends happy news and information to his loved ones living in the native country. And then… others also immigrate to the same country (or probably a better one) to enhance their future prospects.

Political Reasons: People immigrate to other countries to maintain their freedom, or their thoughts. Some change their citizenship to gain a new identity, some to get political rights and others for a better living surrounding. 

War or Environmental Disasters: Sometimes immigration takes place due to war or nature disasters. People emigrate because of lack of essential services as water or food, lack of safety, high crime, crop failure, drought, flooding, etc.

Soul Mate: Various people are finding the prospect of getting married in other countries. So, they emigrate to find the love of their lives.


As we have read immigration takes place due to many
reasons. Many singers have written about this topic in their songs. Your work is to find a song in English which you can use to deliver a lesson about this subject.

You must:
  1. Work in groups of three or four students.
  2. Select a song in English about immigration or a song which you can relate in any way with the topic of immigration (legal or illegal immigration; in favour or against). Download the lyrics and the video to show them to your classmates in your public presentation.
  3. Make a general background about the topic: the cause why they could have decided to emigrate or could have in mind the idea of immigration (economic, education, love, etc.); or the problems the face at the moment of immigration; etc.
  4. Prepare a Power Point Presentation (PPP) with different slides about the song to show to your classmates. If your group is formed by three students, your presentation must include nine slides at least. If your group has four members it must include twelve slides at least. Each student is going to talk about three slides at least.
  5. Present a written paper with the explanation you have to deliver and extra material if you want to include it in your paper (optional). Copy and paste the lyrics of the song, the author, and the singer. Do not include information about the singer or the band at least it is completely relevant for the topic of immigration. Provide the references with which you have worked with.  
  6. Write and explain about the meaning of the lyrics you selected and a final conclusion about it.
  7. Include at least ONE sentence is Present Perfect Tense in your work (underline it.)
  8. Add pictures both to the PPP and your final paper (there is  no need of pictures in the draft).
  9. You will hand in this written paper to your teacher as a draft and she will help you to correct mistakes to elaborate your final paper. 

If you cannot prepare a PPP for any technical problem, talk to your teacher and you can replace this educational resource by poster papers for your final presentation.

Here you have a presentation I have prepared for you and a paper with information as a guide to prepare your project. This presentation is meant for four students and it includes: the video, the paper with the background of the topic, the explanation of the lyrics (some of them), the conclusion, the PPP, and the references.

This paper is about discrimination against immigrants in the United States. At first, we are going to set a framework for this topic because immigration has held a major role in shaping the United States of America. In fact, the United States is a Nation born of immigrants.  Immigrants have always come to America looking for a better life and Americans are always forgetting that their forefathers were once looking for that same life (pilgrim’s fathers: they travelled to America from Britain in the Mayflower and founded colonies. People from all parts of the world, from different ethnic, political, religious, and cultural backgrounds populated the country.

At the beginning of the twentieth century the South of the U.S.A. wanted immigrants because businessmen considered them cheap laborBy 1940, the World War II forced Washington to look abroad for recruits to support a wartime economy. Bilateral talks between the States and Mexico resulted in a special program, called the “Bracero” program that allowed migrant laborers to work on American farms and railroads. The "Bracero" program lasted 22 years and mobilized more than five million temporary workers. 

In 1964, Washington cancelled this program and migrant laborers continued to arrive without papers. Thus, an era of undocumented migration began with "irregular" migrants who worked temporarily under the threat of deportation. The border became the primary filter and control point to regulate the flow of migrants. 

Around 1983, there was a heavy flow of Mexican immigrants to the South because of an economic crisis in Mexico associated with and a lower valuation for the peso relative to the dollar. Illegal immigrants constituted a pool of exploitable labor who worked long hours, hard, and cheap, in the fields, restaurants, and small factories in the southwest and California. For this reason, the States developed an economy in which the prices of the everyday goods were low because of the undocumented workers. 

But many Americans wanted to halt the flow of illegal people. Americans believed immigrants competed for jobs and tended to depress wages and job standards in some sectors of economy. Mexicans migrated to the States for the opportunity to build a better life for their families. In the States they called themselves Mexican-Americans, Latinos, Chicanos, Latin American, among other names.

The primary attack on illegal migration came from labor Unions and liberal politicians. The most political opposition came from employers groups, who relied on illegal immigrants to continue working at a low cost. Unauthorized immigrants were especially popular with many employers because they could pay illegal immigrants less than the legal minimum wage or make them work in unsafe working conditions, secure in the knowledge that few unauthorized workers would report the abuse to the authorities for fear of deportation.  As a result, no action was taken to impose penalties against employers who hired illegal immigrants. 

The song we selected to work with is Illegal Alien by Phil Collins. This is a cheerful, humorous look at the frustrations an illegal Mexican immigrant faces when he attempts to illegally enter the United States. Even though the lyrics are satirical, some listeners perceive it to be racially offensive. 

First of all, the name of the song in itself, ILLEGAL ALIEN, is in a way odd. We found in our Cambridge dictionary that the term ALIEN means ‘somebody coming from a different country, race, or group’. Up to this point everything is OK. The term ‘illegal alien’ commonly refers to a foreign who resides in another country unlawfully, either by entering that country at a non-designated port-of-entry or as a result of the expiration of a non-immigrant visa and the person intends to remain in the country indefinitely. But we didn’t really like the word ALIEN and we searched in a Longman dictionary and we found that, apart from the same definition, the word had a second entry that read: ‘very different in nature or character, esp. so different as to cause dislike or opposition.’ So, we think the word alien may have a negative connotation and it may be misunderstood. It sounds weird and people who listen to the song may consider the phrase ‘illegal alien’ in a dehumanizing aspect. In our opinion, maybe the phrase ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT would have been more accurate for a song and a video.

Secondly, the video uses imagery of the way Mexicans are stereotypically portrayed, with the participants drinking as drinkers, sleeping late as lazy people, playing Mariachi music, wearing a toupee[1] or huge sombreros and serapes[2], and singing using a strange accent. Phil Collins is British and he has a really clear and tuned accent but in this song we can say that he is using a mock-Mexican accent. And even there is a part when a lot of people in an ‘officina de pasaportes’ in Mexico are speaking in gibberish[3] Spanish which we couldn’t understand. 

Let’s pay attention to the opening lines in the first stanza:
Got out of bed, wasn’t feeling too good
With my wallet and my passport, a new pair of shoes
The sun is shining so I head for the park,
With a bottle of tequila, and a new pack of cigarettes

We have a Mexican Phil Collins getting up with, what I think a bad hangover, late enough to the sun be shining brightly (he obviously doesn’t have a job) and he immediately heads to the bar with a bottle of Tequila. 

In the chorus Phil Collins insists that
It’s no fun being an illegal alien, no
It’s no fun being an illegal alien

Of course, illegal immigrants don’t have fun in trying to enter the States. They expose themselves to dangers while trying an illegal entry to another country. Aside from the possibility that the police can intercept and deport them, or that big organizations can traffic them for exploitation.

Moreover, women expose themselves to be raped when entering the country. After the ‘coyotes’[4] get the women across the American-Mexican border, safely on American soil, they gang rape them to show they have total control over them. If the women are young and pretty, they keep immigrant women in houses of prostitution. Of course, none of them testifies against this because the coyotes know where they are from and could seek revenge on their families in Mexico. 

And you may feel it is embarrassing when Collins sings:
Over the border, there lies the promised land
Where everything comes easy, you just hold out your hand

It is attractive for people living in complete poverty to try to enter a country in search of higher wages than those achievable in their own countries, dreaming in fulfilling the ‘American Dream’[5]. But when these illegal immigrants arrive in the States, they face a different situation from that expected. They experience maltreatment from their fellow men, they are exploited and harassed. They are confined to the poorest areas of the country, at a certain distance – or outside – from the cities, in slums. They live exclusion from society benefits. They become in unfortunate victims. They don’t have access to social care or public schools. Americans are suspicious against them, the intolerance of difference, the resentment against strangers, and the demands to banish them make them live in racially, ethnically-segregated communities. 

In my opinion, the group Genesis – that’s the name of the band Phil Collins, the singer of this song, leads – intended to show solidarity with Mexicans who had terrible problems trying to make a good life for themselves going to the States. But the execution gets a bit confusing especially when we hear it.

The video shows a lot of stereotypes about Mexican people which is a signal of prejudice towards them. Prejudgments watching Mexicans as drinkers and lazy people are in the video. These stereotypes are irrational because of their exaggeration, and their insensibility caused by nothing more than their distinctiveness or saliencies. 

Sometimes these stereotypes lead to discrimination, because American people don’t offer immigrants the same opportunities than to native Americans just because their national origin. 

Phil Collins makes an allusion to the intolerance American people feel towards illegal immigrants when he sings:
Keep your suspicions, I’ve seen that look before
But I ain’t done nothing wrong now, is that such a surprise

Even if he has ‘done nothing wrong’, people look at him suspiciously. Americans have negative attitudes against his ethnic group only because he is a member of that group. On the other hand, Phil Collins sings ‘ain’t done nothing wrong NOW’, Does it mean he is going to do anything wrong in the future or just that he has done something wrong when he crossed the border illegally?

This issue of being ‘suspicious’ has to do with the discourse of ‘security’. American people consider illegal immigrants ‘dangerous people’, ‘criminals’ and this allows governments to control them. It starts a dichotomy between security and freedom. The suspicion against others, the intolerance of difference, the resentment of strangers, and the demands to separate and banish them, produced an ethnic and class segregation. 

Due to the effects of September 11th, 2001 panic, xenophobia, and anti-Muslim sentiment have swept the United States. People call for the formation of more severe laws concerning the United States immigration policy. Right now, American government consider the border a threat involving terrorism. The problem is that there is no reliable way of identifying who has entered and who has left the United States. In this light, it would be silly to expect support from American legislation to find a clear path for the immigrant population to “earn” legal resident status in the United States. Immigrants and their needs aren’t really important for them.

Finally, we can wonder: What’s next? In our opinion, difference defines our world. Race, gender, and sexuality are everywhere. In an ideal world, difference shouldn’t matter. Yet our world is far from ideal, and so we must confront difference, regardless of how painful and complex this confrontation can be. Difference is difficult, and people often use it to oppress and exploit others. It is a labyrinth, though, in which we must necessarily get lost if we are to ever find our way to understanding.

[1] Toupee: a small specially shaped piece of artificial hair which is worn by a man to cover an area of his head on which he does not have any hair.
[2] Serapes: a colourful wooden shawl worn over the shoulders, especially by Mexican men
[3] Gibberish: words, spoken or written, which are nonsense and have no meaning.
[4] Coyotes: smugglers who smuggled Mexicans across the border.
[5] American Dream: It refers to the ideals of freedom and opportunities for everyone on which the United States was founded.

Power Point Presentation

Illegal alien by genesis
View more PowerPoint from Liliana Lo Preiato


Song: Illegal Alien by Genesis
Got out of bed, wasn’t feeling too good
With my wallet and my passport, a new pair of shoes
The sun is shining so I head for the park,
With a bottle of tequila, and a new pack of cigarettes

I got a cousin and she got a friend,
Who thought that her aunt knew a man who could help
At his apartment I knocked on the door,
He wouldn’t come out until he got paid.
Now don’t tell anybody what I wanna do
If they find out you know that they’ll never let me through, ‘cos

It’s no fun being an illegal alien, no
It’s no fun being an illegal alien

Down at the office had to fill out the forms
A pink one, a red one, the colours you choose,
Up to the counter to see what they think
They said it doesn’t count man, it ain’t written in ink.
I don’t trust anybody, least not around here, cos

It’s no fun being an illegal alien, I tell ya
It’s no fun being an illegal alien, no no no no no
It’s no fun being an illegal alien, I mean it when I tell ya that
It’s no fun being an illegal alien,
An illegal alien, o.k.

Consideration for your fellow man
Would not hurt anybody, it sure fits in with my plan
Over the border, there lies the promised land
Where everything comes easy, you just hold out your hand

Keep your suspicions, I’ve seen that look before
But I ain’t done nothing wrong now, is that such a surprise

So don’t tell anybody what I wanna do
If they find out you know that they’ll never let me through, because

It’s no fun being an illegal alien, I tell ya
It’s no fun being an illegal alien, and its getting me down
It’s no fun being an illegal alien, no no no no no
It’s no fun being an illegal alien, yeah yeah yeah

It’s no fun (not much fun) being an illegal alien, I tell ya that
It’s no fun being an illegal alien, I tell ya
It’s no fun being an illegal alien, no no no
It’s no fun (not bloody much fun) being an illegal alien,
It’s no fun being an illegal alien, and that’s what I am.

Papademetriou, D. (2004). The Mexico Factor in US Immigration Reform. Retrieved August 21, 2008. Website:

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