Human Rights Careers

5 Essays About Xenophobia

The word “xenophobia” has ties to the Greek words “xenos,” which means “stranger or “guest,” and “phobos,” which means “fear” or “flight.” It makes sense that today we define “xenophobia” as a fear or hatred of strangers or foreigners. Xenophobia has always existed, but the world has experienced a surge in recent years. The essays described in this article provide examples of xenophobia, its ties to anti-immigration and nationalism, and how diseases like COVID-19 trigger prejudice.

“These charts show migrants aren’t South Africa’s biggest problem”

Abdi Latif Dahir  | Quartz Africa

Between March 29-April 2 in 2019, violence broke out in a South African municipality. Foreign nationals were targeted. Even though people were killed and businesses looted and destroyed, the police didn’t make any arrests. This represents a pattern of violence against foreigners who are mostly migrants from other places in Africa. Reporter Abdi Latif Dahir explains that these recent attacks are based on a belief that migrants cause South Africa’s economic and social problems. In this article from Quartz Africa, he outlines what people are blaming migrants for. As an example, while politicians claim that migrants are burdening the country, the data shows that migrants make up a very small percentage of the country.

Abdi Latif Dahir reports for Quartz Africa and speaks multiple languages. He also holds a master’s of arts degree in political journalism from Columbia University.

“Opinion: A rise in nationalism could hurt minorities”

Raveena Chaudhari | The Red and Black

Nationalism is on the rise in many countries around the world, including the US. The election of Donald Trump signaled a resurgence in nationalism, including white nationalism. In her essay, Raveena Chaudhari explains that far-right politics have been gaining steam in Western Europe since the 1980s. The US is just following the trend. She also uses the terms “patriotism,” which is an important part of the American identity, and “nativism,” which is closely linked to a fear of immigrants and diversity. Xenophobia easily emerges from these ideas. Minorities feel the consequences of a rise in nationalism most keenly. Raveena Chaudhari is a junior accounting major and staff writer for The Red and Black, a nonprofit corporation that circulates the largest college newspaper in Georgia. For 87 years, it operated under the University of Georgia but is now independent of the college.

“The Deep Roots of Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Policies”

Daniel Denvir | Jacobin

In this essay, author Daniel Denvir digs into the background of President Trump’s anti-immigration policies. At the time of this piece’s writing, the Supreme Court had allowed the administration to exclude certain groups from entering the United States. The travel ban has been labeled the “Muslim ban.” Where did these anti-immigrant views come from? They aren’t original to Donald Trump. Denvir outlines the history of racist and xenophobic policies that paint immigrants as a threat to America. Knowing that these views are ingrained in American society is important if we want change.

Daniel Denvir is the host of “The Dig” on Jacobin Radio and the author of All-American Nativism, a critique of nativists and moderate Democrats.

“Nationalism isn’t xenophobia, but it’s just as bad” 

Jeffrey Friedman | Niskanen Center

If you’re unsure what the difference is between nationalism and xenophobia, this essay can help clarify things. Written in 2017, this piece starts by examining surveys and studies measuring how xenophobic Trump supporters are. They also explore the reasons why people oppose illegal/legal immigration. The core of the essay, though, takes a look at nationalism vs. xenophobia. While different, Friedman argues that they are both irrational. The distinction is important as it reveals common ground between Trump supporters and Trump opponents. What does this mean?

Jeffrey Friedman is a visiting scholar in the Charles and Louise Tarver Department of Political Science at the University of California. He’s also an editor and author.

Xenophobia ‘Is A Pre-Existing Condition.’ How Harmful Stereotypes and Racism are Spreading Around the Coronavirus 

Jasmine Aguilera | Time

As COVID-19 spreads throughout the world, there’s been a surge in racism against people of Asian descent. In her essay, Jasmine Aguilera relates examples of this discrimination, as well as responses as people take to social media to combat xenophobia. Reacting with racism to a disease is not a new phenomenon. It’s happened in the past with SARS, Ebola, and H1N1. Society always looks for a scapegoat and minorities usually suffer. This has an impact on a population’s health, livelihood, and safety.

Jasmine Aguilera is a contributor to Time Magazine. She has written several articles about COVID-19 for the publication.

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About the author, emmaline soken-huberty.

Emmaline Soken-Huberty is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. She started to become interested in human rights while attending college, eventually getting a concentration in human rights and humanitarianism. LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, and climate change are of special concern to her. In her spare time, she can be found reading or enjoying Oregon’s natural beauty with her husband and dog.

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Xenophobia: The Fear of Strangers

Adah Chung is a fact checker, writer, researcher, and occupational therapist. 

how to write an essay about xenophobia

 PBNJ Productions/Blend/Getty

  • Fighting Xenophobia

What Is the Opposite of Xenophobic?

Xenophobia, or fear of strangers, is a broad term that may be applied to any fear of someone different from an individual. Hostility towards outsiders is often a reaction to fear. It typically involves the belief that there is a conflict between an individual's ingroup and an outgroup.

Xenophobia often overlaps with forms of prejudice , including racism and homophobia , but there are important distinctions. Where racism, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination are based on specific characteristics, xenophobia is usually rooted in the perception that members of the outgroup are foreign to the ingroup community.

Whether xenophobia qualifies as a legitimate mental disorder is a subject of ongoing debate.

Xenophobia is also associated with large-scale acts of destruction and violence against groups of people.

Signs of Xenophobia

How can you tell if someone is xenophobic? While xenophobia can be expressed in different ways, typical signs include:

  • Feeling uncomfortable around people who fall into a different group
  • Going to great lengths to avoid particular areas
  • Refusing to be friends with people solely due to their skin color, mode of dress, or other external factors
  • Difficulty taking a supervisor seriously or connecting with a teammate who does not fall into the same racial, cultural, or religious group

While it may represent a true fear, most xenophobic people do not have a true phobia. Instead, the term is most often used to describe people who discriminate against foreigners and immigrants.

People who express xenophobia typically believe that their culture or nation is superior, want to keep immigrants out of their community, and may even engage in actions that are detrimental to those who are perceived as outsiders.

Is Xenophobia a Mental Disorder?

Xenophobia is not recognized as a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). However, some psychologists and psychiatrists have suggested that extreme racism and prejudice should be recognized as a mental health problem.

Some have argued, for example, that extreme forms of prejudice should be considered a subtype of delusional disorder .   It is important to note that those who support this viewpoint also argue that prejudice only becomes pathological when it creates a significant disruption in a person's ability to function in daily life.

Other professionals argue that categorizing xenophobia or racism as a mental illness would be medicalizing a social problem.  

Types of Xenophobia

There are two primary types of xenophobia:

  • Cultural xenophobia : This type involves rejecting objects, traditions, or symbols that are associated with another group or nationality. This can include language, clothing, music, and other traditions associated with the culture.
  • Immigrant xenophobia : This type involves rejecting people who the xenophobic individual does not believe belongs in the ingroup society. This can involve rejecting people of different religions or nationalities and can lead to persecution, hostility, violence, and even genocide.

The desire to belong to a group is pervasive—and strong identification with a particular group can even be healthy. However, it may also lead to suspicion of those who are perceived to not belong.

It is natural and possibly instinctive to want to protect the interests of the group by eliminating threats to those interests. Unfortunately, this natural protectiveness often causes members of a group to shun or even attack those who are perceived as different, even if they actually pose no legitimate threat at all.

Xenophobia vs. Racism

Xenophobia and racism are similar in that they both involve prejudice and discrimination, but there are important differences to consider. Where xenophobia is the fear of anyone who is considered a foreigner, racism is specifically directed toward people based on their race or ethnicity. People can be both xenophobic and racist.

Examples of Xenophobia

Unfortunately, xenophobia is all too common. It can range from covert acts of discrimination or subtle comments to overt acts of prejudice or even violence . Some examples of xenophobia include:

  • Immigration policies : Xenophobia can influence how nations deal with immigration. This may include hostility and outright discrimination against immigrants. Specific groups of people may be the target of bans designed to keep them from moving to certain locations.
  • Displacement : In the U.S., the forcible removal of Indigenous people from their land is an example of xenophobia. The use of residential schools in the U.S. and Canada was also rooted in xenophobic attitudes and was designed to force the cultural assimilation of Native American people.
  • Violence : For example, attacks on people of Asian descent have increased in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Causes of Xenophobia

There are a number of different factors believed to contribute to xenophobia: 

  • Social and economic insecurity : People often look for someone to blame in times of economic hardship or social upheaval. Immigrants and minorities are often scapegoated as the cause of society's ills.
  • Lack of contact : People with little or no contact with people from other cultures or backgrounds are more likely to be fearful or mistrustful of them.
  • Media portrayals : The way immigrants and minorities are portrayed in the media can also influence people's attitudes towards them. If they are only shown in a negative light, it can reinforce people's prejudices.
  • Fear of strangers : In general, people are more likely to be afraid of unfamiliar things. This can apply to both physical appearance and cultural differences.

Impact of Xenophobia

Xenophobia doesn't just affect people at the individual level. It affects entire societies, including cultural attitudes, economics, politics, and history. Examples of xenophobia in the United States include acts of discrimination and violence against Latinx, Mexican, and Middle Eastern immigrants.

Xenophobia has been linked to:

  • Hostility towards people of different backgrounds
  • Decreased social and economic opportunity for outgroups
  • Implicit bias toward members of outgroups
  • Isolationism
  • Discrimination
  • Hate crimes
  • Political positions
  • War and genocide
  • Controversial domestic and foreign policies

Certainly, not everyone who is xenophobic starts wars or commits hate crimes. But even veiled xenophobia can have insidious effects on both individuals and society. These attitudes can make it more difficult for people in certain groups to live within a society and affect all aspects of life including housing access , employment opportunities, and healthcare access.

The twisting of a positive trait (group harmony and protection from threats) into a negative (imagining threats where none exist) has led to any number of hate crimes, persecutions, wars, and general mistrust.

Xenophobia has a great potential to cause damage to others, rather than affecting only those who hold these attitudes.

How to Combat Xenophobia

If you struggle with feelings of xenophobia, there are things that you can do to overcome these attitudes.

  • Broaden your experience. Many people who display xenophobia have lived relatively sheltered lives with little exposure to those who are different from them. Traveling to different parts of the world, or even spending time in a nearby city, might go a long way toward helping you face your fears.
  • Fight your fear of the unknown. Fear of the unknown is one of the most powerful fears of all. If you have not been exposed to other races, cultures, and religions, gaining more experience may be helpful in conquering your xenophobia.
  • Pay attention. Notice when xenophobic thoughts happen. Make a conscious effort to replace these thoughts with more realistic ones.

If your or a loved one's xenophobia is more pervasive, recurring despite exposure to a wide variety of cultures, then professional treatment might be in order. Choose a therapist who is open-minded and interested in working with you for a long period of time.

Xenophobia is often deeply rooted in a combination of upbringing, religious teachings, and previous experiences. Successfully combating xenophobia generally means confronting numerous aspects of the personality and learning new ways of experiencing the world.

While xenophobia describes a fear of strangers, foreigners, or immigrants, xenophilia, or the act of being xenophilic, describes an appreciation and attraction to foreign people or customs.

History of Xenophobia

Xenophobia has played a role in shaping human history for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks and Romans used their beliefs that their cultures were superior to justify the enslavement of others. Many nations throughout the world have a history of xenophobic attitudes toward foreigners and immigrants. 

The term xenophobia originates from the Greek word xenos meaning "stranger" and phobos meaning "fear.

Xenophobia has also led to acts of discrimination, violence, and genocide throughout the world, including:

  • The World War II Holocaust 
  • The internment of Japanese Americans during World War II
  • The Rwandan genocide
  • The Holodomor genocide in Ukraine
  • The Cambodian genocide

Recent examples in the United States include discrimination toward people of Middle Eastern descent (often referred to as "Islamophobia") and xenophobic attitudes towards Mexican and Latinx immigrants. The COVID-19 pandemic also led to reports of xenophobia directed toward people of East Asian and Southeast Asian descent in countries throughout the world.

Suleman S, Garber K, Rutkow L. Xenophobia as a determinant of health: An integrative review . J Public Health Policy . 2018;39(4):407-423. doi:10.1057/s41271-018-0140-1

Choane M, Shulika LS, Mthombeni M. An analysis of the causes, effects and ramifications of xenophobia in South Africa . Insight Afr . 2011;3(2):12-142.

Poussaint AF. Is extreme racism a mental illness? Yes: It can be a delusional symptom of psychotic disorders .  West J Med . 2002;176(1):4. doi:10.1136/ewjm.176.1.4

Bell C. Racism: A mental illness? . Psychiatr Serv . 2004;55(12):1343. doi:10.1176/appi.ps.55.12.1343

Baumeister RF, Leary MR. The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation . Psychol Bull . 1995;117(3):497-529.

National Cancer Institute. Let's talk about xenophobia and anti-Asian hate crimes .

Klein JR. Xenophobia and crime . In: Miller JM, ed. The Encyclopedia of Theoretical Criminology . Oxford: Blackwell Publishing; 2014. doi:10.1002/9781118517390.wbetc094

Merriam-Webster. ' Xenophobia' vs. 'racism .'

Romero LA, Zarrugh A. Islamophobia and the making of Latinos/as into terrorist threats . Ethnic Racial Stud . 2018;12:2235-2254. doi:10.1080/01419870.2017.1349919

American Medical Association. AMA warns against racism, xenophobia amid COVID-19 .

By Lisa Fritscher Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer and editor with a deep interest in phobias and other mental health topics.

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Essay on Xenophobia

Students are often asked to write an essay on Xenophobia in their schools and colleges. And if you’re also looking for the same, we have created 100-word, 250-word, and 500-word essays on the topic.

Let’s take a look…

100 Words Essay on Xenophobia

Understanding xenophobia.

Xenophobia is the fear or hatred of strangers or foreigners. It’s a complex issue that can lead to discrimination, violence, and social conflict.

Causes of Xenophobia

Xenophobia can stem from various factors like cultural differences, economic competition, or historical conflicts. It’s often fueled by stereotypes and misinformation.

Impacts of Xenophobia

Xenophobia can harm individuals and communities, leading to social division and conflict. It can also hinder cultural diversity and mutual understanding.

Addressing Xenophobia

To combat xenophobia, it’s important to promote tolerance, diversity, and understanding. Education and open dialogue can play a key role in this process.

Also check:

  • 10 Lines on Xenophobia

250 Words Essay on Xenophobia

Defining xenophobia.

Xenophobia, derived from the Greek words ‘xenos’ (strange) and ‘phobos’ (fear), is the irrational or unreasoned fear of that which is perceived as different or foreign. It is a social phenomenon that manifests in numerous ways, primarily through attitudes of prejudice and discrimination.

The Roots of Xenophobia

Xenophobia is deeply rooted in human psychology and societal structures. It can be traced back to our evolutionary past, where in-group favouritism and out-group hostility were survival mechanisms. In modern times, xenophobia often arises from economic, political, and social insecurities, creating scapegoats for complex issues.

Xenophobia’s Impact on Society

Xenophobia’s impact is far-reaching and detrimental. It fosters social division, fuels hate crimes, and hinders cultural exchange and mutual understanding. Additionally, it can lead to policies that are discriminatory and violate human rights.

Combating Xenophobia

Addressing xenophobia requires a multi-faceted approach. Education plays a crucial role in challenging stereotypes and fostering understanding. Policies promoting diversity and inclusivity can also help. Moreover, media has a responsibility to portray diverse groups accurately and sensitively.

In an increasingly globalized world, xenophobia is a hurdle to unity and progress. As we strive for a more inclusive and understanding society, it is paramount to confront and challenge xenophobic attitudes wherever they appear.

500 Words Essay on Xenophobia

Introduction.

Xenophobia, derived from the Greek words ‘xenos’ meaning ‘stranger’ or ‘foreigner’ and ‘phobos’ meaning ‘fear’, is an intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries. It manifests in many ways, ranging from bias and prejudice to violence and hate crimes. Xenophobia is a complex and multifaceted issue that has significant socio-cultural and political implications.

Historical Context and Causes

Xenophobia is not a new phenomenon. It has been prevalent throughout history, often exacerbated during times of economic hardship, political instability, or when a society feels its identity is under threat. The causes of xenophobia are multifaceted, often rooted in ignorance, misinformation, and fear. It can stem from a perceived threat to a community’s economic status, cultural identity, or social cohesion.

The impacts of xenophobia are far-reaching and destructive, affecting individuals and communities on multiple levels. At an individual level, victims of xenophobia can experience psychological trauma, social isolation, and economic disadvantage. On a societal level, xenophobia can lead to social division, conflict, and can undermine social cohesion. It can also negatively impact a nation’s reputation and relationships with other countries.

Xenophobia and Globalization

In the age of globalization, where the world is more interconnected than ever, xenophobia poses a significant challenge. As people move across borders for work, education, or refuge, they often encounter unfamiliar cultures and societies. This increased diversity can lead to tension and fear, fueling xenophobia. However, globalization also provides an opportunity for increased understanding and tolerance, as exposure to different cultures can challenge pre-existing stereotypes and biases.

Addressing xenophobia requires a multifaceted approach. Education plays a crucial role in combating ignorance and misinformation that often fuels xenophobia. Schools and universities should promote cultural understanding and tolerance, encouraging students to challenge their biases and stereotypes. Governments have a responsibility to enact and enforce laws that protect individuals from hate crimes and discrimination. The media also plays a critical role in shaping public opinion and should strive to present balanced and accurate depictions of different cultures and communities.

Xenophobia is a complex and pervasive issue with significant implications for individuals and societies. It is a product of fear and ignorance, often exacerbated by economic hardship and political instability. However, through education, legislation, and responsible media representation, it is possible to challenge xenophobia and promote a more inclusive and tolerant society. In the age of globalization, it is more important than ever to address xenophobia and strive for a world where diversity is celebrated rather than feared.

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Unpacking Xenophobia, or the Fear of Outsiders

how to write an essay about xenophobia

Xenophobia is an extreme, intense fear and dislike of customs, cultures, and people considered strange, unusual, or unknown.

The term itself comes from Greek, where “phobos” means fear and “xenos” can mean stranger, foreigner, or outsider. Yet in Greek, xenos carries some ambiguity. It can also mean guest or wanderer.

In fact, ancient Greeks maintained a tradition of xenia, or extreme hospitality to strangers, in case an unexpected guest should happen to be a god or goddess, walking among everyday people in disguise. This hospitality to strangers was essential, and violation carried serious repercussions, as you’ll learn in the “Illiad,” the “Odyssey,” and other Greek literature.

The “x” in xenophobia is pronounced like a “z,” so to pronounce xenophobia correctly, you’d say “zee-nophobia.”

Is it ever considered a mental health condition?

Phobias fall under the umbrella of anxiety disorders .

True phobias trigger anxiety symptoms when you encounter whatever you’re afraid of. For example, if you have a fear of clowns — coulrophobia , to be precise — you might begin to experience nausea or dizziness, sweating, shaking, or shortness of breath when you:

  • see an actual clown
  • look at pictures of one
  • see a clown suit
  • notice advertisements for a circus

Even reading the word “clown” might make your heart beat a little faster.

While it’s not impossible to have a clinical phobia of strangers, this phobia would differ from the colloquial meaning of xenophobia in a few key ways:

  • You’d fear all strangers.
  • When you even thought about encountering a stranger, you’d probably experience some physical and emotional symptoms of anxiety.
  • Your fear would eventually get in the way of your daily life, most likely by leading you to avoid public places and anywhere else you might encounter strangers.

In this article, we’ll focus not on a clinical fear of strangers but the accepted definition of xenophobia. Mental health professionals don’t consider xenophobia a mental health condition.

How it shows up

Xenophobic beliefs and behaviors show up in multiple contexts across everyday life.

The so-called “melting pot” of America is liberally spiced with xenophobic attitudes, and it’s possible to express xenophobia without outright hatred.

You can be xenophobic without realizing it. Maybe you’ve thought (or said) something along these lines before:

  • “Those clothes are so weird. She’d fit in so much better if she’d just dress like an American.”
  • “No way, I’m not going to your neighborhood after dark. There are way too many strange people lurking around.”
  • “I don’t trust those weird spices. Can’t we eat something normal, like a sandwich?”

These thoughts might not center on any specific person, but they still reflect a fear and dislike of things and people you consider strange or different.

You can further divide xenophobia into two main categories:

  • stranger/immigrant xenophobia
  • cultural xenophobia

Someone expressing stranger or immigrant xenophobia might:

  • avoid and reject anyone they consider outsiders — people who come from other countries, who have a different skin color, who practice other religions, or who speak a different language
  • consider the people who belong to their social or cultural group superior to everyone else
  • avoid stores and businesses where “foreigners” or “other outsiders” shop
  • avoid neighborhoods mostly populated by immigrants or people of different skin colors, or describe those neighborhoods as “dangerous” or “going downhill”
  • make negative or derogatory remarks about people of other cultures or countries
  • make an effort to keep “outsiders” out of their neighborhood and social circle

Cultural xenophobia extends beyond people to reject all elements of other cultures or “outsider” groups.

Someone expressing cultural xenophobia might:

  • make rude or negative remarks about someone’s traditional clothing
  • refuse to listen to music from other cultures or watch TV shows and movies in other languages
  • reject food from other cultures without trying it
  • believe products or materials manufactured in other countries are inferior
  • make derogatory or negative remarks when people speak a different language

Is it the same thing as racism?

Racism is the belief that physical characteristics, like skin color and hair type, determine someone’s traits, abilities, and overall worth. People with “desirable” racial traits are considered superior to those who lack those traits.

As a practice, racism also involves systemic oppression of those groups deemed inferior.

In America, racism and white supremacist ideology elevate white Americans to the “superior” position. Members of other groups, including Black and Indigenous Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders, along with people who haven’t yet attained American citizenship, are automatically considered inferior, even subhuman.

While xenophobia and racism often intersect, xenophobia doesn’t automatically focus on the physical characteristics, behavior, or abilities of a specific group of people.

Instead, xenophobic thinking separates people into two groups: “insiders” and “outsiders.”

Insiders fear, avoid, and reject all outsiders because they represent some type of threat, from “taking jobs” to “carrying a deadly virus.” The criteria separating those who belong from those who don’t can vary, depending on the group, and these criteria don’t always center on racial differences.

What’s more, racism doesn’t necessarily mean avoiding all elements of a culture. Many racist groups actually benefit from the ideas or contributions of people from other cultures, rather than rejecting them entirely.

Does it only apply to white people?

Xenophobia does often involve racism or cultural discrimination, but anyone can express xenophobic ideas.

For example, a Korean student adopted as a baby by American parents might insist to their classmates, “I was raised here. My parents are white, so I’m American like you. I’m not Korean. I don’t even speak Korean.”

In doing so, they reinforce their sense of themselves as an insider. They belong with “other insiders” — their American peers — rather than “foreign outsiders.”

Real world examples

Xenophobia exists around the world, though you can find any number of examples of xenophobia in United States history, from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to widespread anti-Muslim sentiment following 9/11.

Current events feature plenty of examples of present-day xenophobia in the hate crimes and violent verbal and physical abuse hurled at Asian Americans as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

These examples help illustrate other ways xenophobia might show up in day-to-day life.

Learning a foreign language

During your last weeks of middle school, your homeroom teacher provides a packet of information on registration for high school classes. Over dinner one night, you tell your parents you’re having a hard time choosing between the six foreign language options.

“We have to take two full years, but I’m not sure what I want to study,” you say. “Most of my friends want to take Spanish or French, since they’re ‘easy,’ but I think I want to do something different. Maybe Korean or Chinese.”

“Take French,” your mother recommends. “That, at least, is a language of culture. I don’t understand why they offer those…” she pauses. “ Other languages. It’s not like you’ll ever want to go to those countries. Anyway, they all speak English over there anyway.”

Ordering dinner

You and your two roommates used to go out for dinner together every Friday night. During the pandemic, you’ve started getting takeout and eating at home instead. You take turns choosing the restaurant, and when your turn rolls around, you suggest your favorite Taiwanese restaurant.

“Ehh, that doesn’t sound good to me,” one roommate says. The other agrees.

“It’s my turn,” you remind them. “Anyway, I know you both like that restaurant. Why not tonight?”

“Well, you know,” your roommate hedges. “What with COVID and all… maybe we should skip Asian food for a while. Just to be safe. I mean, you never know, someone who just came from China could be working there, spreading the virus.”

Islamophobia

You’re having lunch with your partner and their parents at an outdoor cafe. As you eat, two women wearing hijabs walk down the street, talking to each other and laughing. You don’t recognize the language they’re speaking, but it isn’t English.

Your partner’s father shakes his head. “If they’re not going to dress like normal Americans, they should just stay home where they belong. They should all have to speak English, at the very least. Who knows what they’re secretly plotting, right out in the open?”

What causes it?

In general, a fear of “outsiders” tends to emerge from perceived threats to the “in-group.” This group could be small — a family unit moving to a new neighborhood, for example. The group could also be a larger one, such as a town where most adults have lost their jobs and blame “foreign” workers for their unemployment and poverty.

Xenophobia is a learned response. If you grow up absorbing xenophobic ideas from parents, peers, and other people you spend a lot of time with, you may be more likely to subscribe to these beliefs yourself. Xenophobic attitudes can also develop following trauma or a crisis, including burglary, acts of terror or violence, or a global pandemic.

Political propaganda frequently promotes xenophobia. Some politicians weaponize xenophobia, manipulating emotional tensions within a community to further their own agenda.

Xenophobia and personality traits

A study from 2020 suggested a link between xenophobia and certain personality traits.

Researchers gave 422 university students three different tests: the Xenophobia Scale, the Adjectives Based Personality Test, and the Dirty Dozen Scale.

According to the results, participants who scored high in agreeableness, a Big Five personality trait , tended to display less xenophobia. This makes sense, since agreeableness tends to suggest other traits like compassion, cooperation, and kindness.

Participants who scored higher on measures of psychopathy and narcissism tended to show more xenophobic attitudes.

Both psychopathy and narcissism typically involve low empathy, or difficulty understanding what other people think and feel. It’s not a huge leap to imagine people with these traits might feel threatened by those they deem “outsiders,” if they have a hard time putting themselves in their shoes and considering their experiences.

How can it be addressed?

These strategies can help you counter xenophobia, whether you witness it in others or experience it yourself.

Stand up instead of standing by

Calling out xenophobic comments lets people know their behavior is problematic.

It can feel a little scary to call out harassment, even in a public place. Remembering the 5 D’s can help you do it safely.

  • Distract. Don’t feel comfortable calling someone out directly? An indirect approach is just fine — and sometimes safer. You might distract the person by asking them an unrelated question, for example, or pretend you know the person they were harassing and strike up a conversation with them instead.
  • Delegate. Locate someone in a position of authority who can back you up. This might be a teacher, the owner of a restaurant, or the library manager.
  • Delay. If you can’t do anything to stop the harassment, take a moment to make sure the person is alright. You might ask, for example, if they need help or other support.
  • Direct. Politely but firmly tell the person doing the harassing that their behavior isn’t OK.
  • Document. If you have your phone handy, film what’s happening in case the person being harassed needs later legal support. You may want to make sure others are present before filming and maintain a safe distance. Avoid posting your footage anywhere without getting permission from the person experiencing the harassment.

Acknowledge and embrace differences

People often feel drawn to those they consider similar, but keep in mind, no one is exactly the same.

Searching for similarities between yourself and someone else might only serve to emphasize how different you actually are. But instead of letting these differences set you apart, ask yourself what you could learn from someone with an entirely different perspective and life experiences.

The more you get to know people from different walks of life, the less unknown they become — and the less likely you are to feel uncomfortable around them. Plus, you might even learn you have more in common than you originally believed.

Have open conversations with kids

Just as you encounter subtle (and not-so-subtle) messages of xenophobia in your daily life, your kids also receive similar messages from their peers.

Speaking honestly with kids about xenophobia and refuting stereotypes with facts can go a long way toward helping them learn to challenge prejudice on their own — and speak up for friends and classmates who become targets.

One helpful step? Encourage them to consider other people as individuals rather than groups. Generalizations and stereotypes only highlight differences, and they can fuel xenophobic attitudes.

You’d say “your friend Hina” instead of “your Japanese friend,” for example.

It’s also important to start with some close exploration of your own behavior. Do you make prejudiced or discriminatory remarks without realizing? Do you make an effort to include everyone, or overlook people you assume “won’t fit in”?

Check out our guide to anti-racism resources for parents and kids.

Get support

Recognizing and working through xenophobia can take some effort, and it isn’t always easy. If you don’t know where to start on your own, a therapist can help you take the first steps toward addressing xenophobia.

Therapy offers a safe, nonjudgmental space to explore the root of your fears and learn to challenge and reframe them.

The bottom line

Xenophobia often stems from ignorance. Educating yourself with facts, instead of simply accepting what you’ve always heard, and taking time to explore other cultures is key in confronting biased beliefs.

Ready to learn more about quashing xenophobia and becoming anti-racist? These resources can help:

  • How to Stop the Racist in You
  • Inclusivity Minute
  • Stop AAPI Hate
  • Talking to Kids about Xenophobia

Crystal Raypole has previously worked as a writer and editor for GoodTherapy. Her fields of interest include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. In particular, she’s committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues.

Last medically reviewed on July 27, 2021

How we reviewed this article:

  • Becoming an UpStander — the importance of ByStander power. (2020). https://oitecareersblog.od.nih.gov/2020/06/08/becoming-an-upstander-the-importance-of-bystander-power/
  • Bell C. (2004). Racism: A mental illness?  https://ps.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.ps.55.12.1343
  • Choane M, et al. (2011). An analysis of the causes, effects and ramifications of xenophobia in South Africa.  https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0975087814411138
  • Huang J, et al. (2020). Xenophobia in America in the age of coronavirus and beyond. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7188638
  • Johnston P. (2018). “All strangers and beggars are from Zeus”: Early Greek views of hospitality.  https://fpuscholarworks.fresno.edu/bitstream/handle/11418/1252/PacJournal2018-8.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
  • Kocatürk M, et al. (2020). Xenophobia among university students: Its relationship with five factor model and dark triad personality traits. https://pdf.ijem.com/IJEM_6_3_545.pdf
  • Poussaint AF. (2002). Yes: It can be a delusional symptom of psychotic disorders. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1071634
  • Sundstrom RR, et al. (2014). Xenophobia and racism.  https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5325/critphilrace.2.1.0020?seq=1
  • Xenophobia. (n.d.).  https://dictionary.apa.org/xenophobia

Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.

Current Version

Jul 27, 2021

Kelly Morrell

Medically Reviewed By

Joslyn Jelinek, LCSW, CYT

Copy Edited By

Delores Smith-Johnson

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Globalization and Xenophobia Argumentative Essay

Introduction.

(Gains the audience’s interest) Xenophobia is defined as a strong feeling of dislike to other people who are from other countries. Thus xenophobia is an absurd fear and refuse to consent people from foreign countries. It is believed that man’s evolution is characterized by xenophobia. With time, psychologists suggest that all forms of discrimination based on nationality, sex, religion and race will be tossed out of man’s reminiscence. These aliens are normally people from diverse ethnicity and cultural background. Al- Rodhan states categorically in his book that aliens are never receive a cordial welcome in xenophobic nations. If such kind of discrimination culminates into serious repercussions such as hatred and violence, then xenophobia will inevitably become a security concern in such nations (Demonstrates the topic’s relevance.).  “When the differences between people seen as a problem they risk becoming the vector of discrimination, violence and conflict” Al Rodhan said.

Globalization is the act of making the whole world accessible in economic, social, political and technological realm. With increased levels of hostility towards foreigners in host countries, there is need to cut down on xenophobia to promote safety and security of aliens in the host countries. (Provides a thesis that clearly contains SOS). Some would say that globalization and xenophobia are likened to robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Background Information

(Incorporates the audience survey results) According to the U.N, it is estimated that the rate of immigration in developed country will reach a steady rate of 2.2 million per year by 2050. How would one feel if all the businesses in town are owned by foreigners? When people meet foreigners in their host country, the question that rings in their minds is what must have made them leave their native country. (Answers most obvious audience questions). The feeling of dislike that crosses one’s mind at such a time is what is referred to as xenophobia. Globalization is the conversion of the world into a global village.( Provides enough background information to establish baseline knowledge) It has been the answer to the increased immigrations in the developed nations. Thus globalization has facilitated xenophobia in the host countries. (Details multiple perspectives) Globalization changed the public societies that made racism, ethnocentrism as well as xenophobia as an unacceptable or inappropriate attitude. Even though, it doesn’t eliminate them, it just made them, to some extent, hidden in the public while the majority of people still hold these attitudes. As have mentioned, globalization have an effect on xenophobia and this effect is contradictory. The contradiction is that globalization can both increase and decrease xenophobia. (Provides a clear statement of the problem.) It increase it by making media that inflame xenophobia such as criminal and hate publication widely available and increasing the chance for different cultures to clash in certain situations. However, globalization also decreases xenophobia by making the learning in immersion much easier.

First Argument

(Provides one argument for your topic from your T-chart.) The media and mass communication has promoted globalization and so dos it to xenophobia. To begin with, the media has made public how different political leaders view other countries. For instance, countries that are known to have high prevalence for HIV/ AIDs tend to be a disgrace to the whole world. So to say that those immigrants from such nations are thought to spread the dangerous malady to the host countries and this impression worsens the already existing xenophobia. (Supports the argument with no less than one valid and reliable source.)

The use of the media therefore has promoted the spread of people’s views, attitudes and perceptions about people from other nations thus aggravating xenophobia, especially the crimes publications or extremist groups. The print media in South Africa for example is known to publish more than what the public can stomach about foreigners. This act of negativity has cultivated a soiled relationship between the native and the foreigners. This is not different from what xenophobia is.

Second Argument

(Provides a second argument for your topic from your T-chart.) Globalization has promoted migration of people from their native countries to other foreign nations. It is thus inevitable that the diversity of culture and international relation will determine whether xenophobia is exhibited or not. For instance, students who get a chance to study in the U.S are looked down upon. They reciprocate the same to the host citizens can become xenophobic too. Supports the argument with no less than one valid and reliable source.

The second type of culture clash, that lead to xenophobia, is not because the cultural differences or ignorant but because of conflict between this cultures or countries. Nations in the Middle East for instance Israelites and Palestinians have war conflict that has culminated into xenophobia. This is not news as such nations cannot have good relation any time soon for obvious reasons. “RAW: Pro-Palestinian protesters clash with Pro-Israelis in Berlin” Published by RT. 

Objection and Responses

Identifies one audience objection to your argument from your T-chart. In contrast, globalization has promoted human interaction in various ways. First, it has promoted a sense of understanding between different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. It is presumed that students who study in foreign countries have a better understanding of the natives and so do the natives get to learn more pertaining the way of life of such students in their respective native countries. According to research conducted by Crampton, Dowell, Parkin & Thompson “Cultural immersion, an approach based on the principle that immersion in culture and language is an effective means of learning about oneself and about another culture, provides opportunities for students to learn some of the principles associated with cultural safety.” These students will understand and learn the culture that they immerged on it as well as give an opportunity to the people in where they study to understand their culture, which will reduce xenophobia in both sides.

However, some cultural differences cannot be immersed. For instance Israel and Palestine. Responds and supports your rebuttal with at least one valid and reliable

On the same note, travelling to foreign countries has promoted cultural immersion among different states. As a matter of fact, xenophobia has been perceived to be a normal way in which man views people on their first encounter. “If we unaware of the cultural system that inform identity and behavior, it can be all too easy to prejudge behavior before we understand the basis of it. This may lead to xenophobia and ethnocentrism.” Al Rodhan. Identifies a second audience objection to your argument from your T-chart.

Globalization has promoted xenophobia by exposing people of different cultures to new cultures through the social media, education system, travelling and other written materials. This exposure is a viable breeding ground for xenophobia as cultural clashes result into hatred and hostility between diverse ethnicities.     The previous video, and too many others, shows examples of the clash cultures because of the conflict between them. These clashes wouldn’t happen before the globalization. Travel, as mentioned, became easy and necessary in some situations, which led these cultures to clash in many in different parts of the world, which increase xenophobia. Language difficulties thus create a complex xenophobia, where both native people and foreigners are xenophobic.

“LEP [limited of English proficiency] made social interactions with Americans difficult… speaking to Americans was reported as nerve-wracking. Some teenagers perceived that their “poor English” could irritate Americans peer.” Hsin and Tsai wrote.  Responds and supports your rebuttal with at least one valid and reliable source.

Best Argument

Provides your best argument for your topic from your T-chart. When you ask people why they dislike foreigners, most of them say that the foreigners are a source of unfair competition to the host citizens. For instance, foreigners who tend to excel both academically and economically in foreign countries are disliked. Imagine all businesses in a close town being owned by foreigners. The natives would miss the opportunities for investments and thus become resentful to the aliens. Some of the well renown public speakers in the U.K such as John Mills, underscores that the foreigners put unabated strains on the local resources and social amenities such as schools and hospitals. “There is a huge immigration flow coming into this country and it puts an enormous strain on all our public services – our hospitals, our (doctors’) practices, our schools,” Mills says.

The strain on resources secondary to increased immigration has bred Xenophobia in many countries. South Africa is best cited example for this. It is documented that  substantial number of the local population ganged up to attack foreigners with the claim that they put strain on the country’s economy and post a stiff competition in the job market to the local population. 

Unique Solution

Reducing the levels of xenophobia will be the best way to foster human interaction. It hurts to say that we cannot reduce globalization to counter xenophobia yet globalization is said to be the mother of xenophobia. The best way to counter xenophobia is by encouraging interaction between different nations through sports and settling the disputes in the most peaceful why possible. This will reduce cultural clashes between nations. More importantly, the number of immigrants and emigrants should be regulated in each state so as to avoid resentful sentiments between states. More evidently, nations such as Britain, France and Australia have opted to reduce the number of immigrants in their countries annually. According to the U.N, it is estimated that the rate of immigration in developed country will reach a steady rate of 2.2 million per year by 2050. Reminds readers of your unique solution from the thesis.  It thus becomes necessary to cut short the number of immigrants to prevent exploitation of host resources. This will reduce xenophobia to zero rates. Presents a source that demonstrates how and why the solution is likely to work.

Identifies the weaknesses in the currently existing solutions. There is no clear record on the existing ways that have been put in place to counter xenophobia. However, improved security to the foreigners has been one of the ways. This has reduced the risks of attacks by the resentful local population. However, provision of adequate security to foreigners may not happen especially for the developing countries. Thus cutting down on the number of immigrants and emigrants should be regulated in each state so as to avoid resentful sentiments between states.

Addresses and responds to any potential objections to the unique solution. In contrast, objection to this idea of limiting immigration and emigration has come up strongly. Some nations say that it will reduce exposure and thus increase the level of strangeness between people of diverse cultural backdrops. However, research has shown that too much connectedness is the major source of conflict just like the way familiarity breeds contempt.

Implementation of Solution

Achieving the goal of zero xenophobia rates is not easy. Bryan S. T. supposes that the struggle needs to come from the state government to limit the number of emigration in each year. Besides, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) will be of great importance if it provided a hand of help to the developing countries about this idea of emigration.

Presents a brief overview of the actions necessary for the implementation of your solutions First, the state government for developing countries would give an order that the citizens who are in foreign countries without a substantial reason to return home. Thereafter, the number of immigrants and emigrants would be recorded and a certain threshold drawn so that it becomes binding to the state on the actual number of immigrants and emigrants that the country can sustain without economic challenges. Social cohesion between nations would as well be encouraged to avoid cultural clashes among nations.

Reduction of emigration can be done by increasing the flight rates to the levels where only a few can afford. This will definitely force the local population to remain in their states due to increased travelling expenses. For those who can afford, a maximum number of emigrants as well as the frequency of travelling should be agreed upon. This will also limit the rate of immigration.

Provides suggestions for future research. Future researchers have a task to undertake. There is need to determine the various reasons for xenophobia and thus a discussion on how to curb the most common causes. Conferences have to be dealt to aid in brainstorming on how this issue can be dealt with accordingly.

In conclusion, xenophobia is a common kind of phobias that might its root back to human survivor. Xenophobia and its composition has changed nowadays because of the changes of human’s life throughout the history. One of these major changes was globalization. Globalization changed xenophobia in contradictory way, where it increases and decreases it in the same time. Media that publish stuff that inflame xenophobia such criminal and hate publications, which is widely available now, as well as the high chance of clash cultures are increase xenophobia. In contrast, globalization made learning and immersion in cultures easier, which reduce xenophobia. Reminds the audience of the relevance of the problem.  If it is said that xenophobia has its bad and negative effects that may lead to serious consequences every individual should head.  Everyone should unite and cooperate against xenophobia. The media should deal with its publication wisely and focusing on publications that build communities’ awareness and rationality. Also, authorities and governments should provide good educational opportunities such as quality education that give a good picture about the different cultures and studying abroad programs.

This proposed solution if implemented will impact positively by releasing the strains on the natural resources and social amenities in the host countries. Thus the local population is anticipated to resent much less.  Summarizes the benefits of your proposed solution

If this issue remains unattended to, the rate of xenophobia is likely to escalate to levels where every foreigner will be a threat to the host state security thus increased mistrust and suspicion I the entire human race. Identifies potential negative consequences if your solution is not implemented

Globalization has worked to the disadvantage of the developing nations. First, those affluent citizens migrate to foreign developed countries to enjoy their wealth and lifestyle changes. On the other hand, the affluent individuals in the foreign nations migrate to the developing countries to grab opportunities for investments. This has created a vicious cycle and thus multiplied the xenophobia that existed before. As stated earlier, man cannot reverse globalization. Instead, restrictions based on immigrations and emigrations would work for better outcomes as far as xenophobia is concerned. It is also thought that xenophobia, being man’s way of reacting to strangers, will soon submerge with continual connectedness and interactions with people from diverse ethnic and cultural backdrops. (Ties your conclusion to the introduction in a powerful and memorable way)

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Xenophobia: Meaning, signs, examples, and more

how to write an essay about xenophobia

Xenophobia (ZEE-no-foe-bee-uh) is dislike, hatred, or fear of outsiders. This can manifest as hostility toward immigrants, but it can also manifest as hatred toward members of another tribe, culture, or religion.

A person does not have to actually be from another place or culture to become a target for xenophobia. People can distrust or hate others based purely on assumptions about their accent, appearance, or behavior.

Racism can play into this, too. Racism is discrimination based on a person’s race or ethnicity, which people sometimes use as justification for xenophobia toward immigrants from certain backgrounds.

Read on to learn more about xenophobia, including types, examples, causes, and how to challenge it.

Is xenophobia a medical diagnosis? 

Shadows on a wall showing people walking up and down stairs. While most people are walking down, one person is walking up.

No, xenophobia is not a medical diagnosis. Although it contains the word “phobia,” which means “fear” in Greek, xenophobia is not a true phobia.

True phobias, such as agoraphobia or arachnophobia, are a type of anxiety disorder. They cause symptoms that can significantly interfere with a person’s life. They are also medically treatable.

By contrast, the word “xenophobia” refers to a range of aggressive, fearful, and hostile beliefs. It comes from a person’s ideology and worldview rather than from a disorder.

The people xenophobia affects most are not the people who hold xenophobic views themselves, but the targets of those views. This can include:

  • religious minorities
  • people from different cultures

Types of xenophobia

There are two broad types of xenophobia: immigrant xenophobia and cultural xenophobia.

Immigrant xenophobia is the dislike or fear of people who are, or who are perceived to be, immigrants. Anti-immigration policies are a manifestation of this type of xenophobia.

Cultural xenophobia is dislike or hostility toward different cultures. Assuming that products, foods, or movies from other cultures are inferior to one’s own is an example of this.

Xenophobia may also be implicit or explicit. Implicit xenophobia includes anti-outsider views a person is not aware they have, but that still affect their beliefs and behavior in subtle or unintentional ways.

Explicit xenophobia means that a person holds explicit, conscious anti-outsider views. Political rhetoric that targets immigrants is an example of this type of xenophobia.

Differences between xenophobia and racism 

While there is significant overlap between xenophobia and racism, they are not the same thing.

Xenophobia specifically relates to a person or group having “outsider” status within a society. Racism specifically relates to race or ethnicity, whether the person or group has “outsider” status or not. These two forms of prejudice can occur separately, or together.

For example, a white American citizen feeling resentful toward white immigrants, solely due to a belief they are stealing local jobs, is an example of xenophobia on its own.

That same citizen feeling hatred toward all immigrants due to their assumptions about their ethnicity, skin tone, and their impact on the local economy is xenophobia and racism combined.

Signs of xenophobia

A person or institution may have xenophobic views if they:

  • express distrust or disgust toward perceived outsiders
  • express distrust or disgust toward that group’s food, music, or other aspects of their culture despite having little knowledge of it
  • avoid interacting with perceived outsiders
  • blame perceived outsiders for local problems, such as a lack of new jobs or inflation
  • believe that perceived outsiders think, behave, live, or feel significantly differently from non-outsiders
  • treat perceived outsiders differently from non-outsiders, such as by being rude or hostile to them
  • treat perceived outsiders as dangerous or criminal with no evidence that they are

Examples of xenophobia

Xenophobia exists on a continuum, from subtle comments to overt and explicit discrimination. It is also present at all levels of society, from individual beliefs to laws and government policy.

Some examples of how xenophobia can manifest include:

  • Microaggressions: Xenophobic microaggressions are subtle comments that imply someone is an outsider. For example, a person might hear that someone has a different accent to them, and immediately ask where they are from or compliment their English. These might seem like innocent comments, but they emphasize a person’s “otherness.”
  • Exclusion and discrimination: Xenophobic discrimination can occur anywhere, from relationships to workplaces. For example, an employer might not hire or promote people who they view as “foreign” due to implicit or explicit beliefs about how deserving, capable, or trustworthy they are.
  • Medical xenophobia: This occurs when medical professionals treat perceived outsiders differently. They might spend less time with patients, view them as untrustworthy, fail to get them a translator if they need one, or report them to immigration authorities. This often means that people perceived as outsiders get lower quality medical care, delay access to medical care, or have a higher risk of stress-related health conditions .
  • Journalistic xenophobia: This is when implicit or explicit xenophobia affects how journalists portray religious or cultural groups. For example, they can present religious minorities as part of a multicultural society or as outsiders, or refugees as “deserving” of help or as a threat. Publications can also focus on negative stories about certain groups in order to sow fear and attract more readers, or to sway public opinion.
  • Violence: Xenophobic violence can come from individuals or institutions. For example, in South Africa, xenophobic attacks against Congolese migrants are a serious problem, but the Human Rights Watch reports that some witnesses say that local authorities are complicit in this too.
  • Hostile immigration policies: Harsh immigration policies, such as forcibly taking children from their parents at the Mexican border, are the result of xenophobia and racism. The aim of these policies is to deter a specific ethnic group from trying to move to the U.S. and punish those that try. Other examples of these policies include the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the Muslim travel ban of 2017 .
  • Displacement: This is when a more powerful group or institution forces a less powerful group out of their home. An extreme example is the Trail of Tears, in which the U.S. government forced approximately 100,000 Native American people off of their land.
  • Genocide: Genocide is an attempt to destroy or kill a religious, racial, or ethnic group. An example of genocide is the Holocaust, in which the Nazis imprisoned and executed millions of Jews based on a racist and xenophobic ideology.

Causes of xenophobia 

Similar to other forms of oppression, xenophobia keeps certain groups in power and disempowers others. However, the factors that contribute to this are complex.

Sometimes, people engage in xenophobia intentionally for their own gain. They may be motivated by:

  • Power: Political leaders sometimes use xenophobia as a tool to get votes. They may use perceived outsiders as a scapegoat for societal problems that they then promise to fix. They may also use xenophobia to create an in-group and out-group, creating an illusion of unity among the most dominant group of voters.
  • Insecurity: A number of studies suggest that perceived insecurity plays a significant role in xenophobia. When a person or group feels that they have less access to resources or are in danger, they can want someone to blame. This is one of the factors fueling xenophobic violence in South Africa.
  • Greed: Sometimes, resources are not scarce — they are just highly valuable. A gold rush on Cherokee land in 1829 was one of the reasons the U.S. government displaced Native Americans from their lands during the Trail of Tears.
  • Other prejudices: Xenophobia can stem from racism , Islamophobia, antisemitism, and other forms of oppression, which can fuel xenophobia toward specific out-groups.

There are also other factors that can contribute to xenophobia that are less explicit, such as:

  • Lack of diversity: People from areas with little immigration or diversity may feel unsure about the arrival of people who seem different to them. It can also create a strong sense of in-group versus out-group, or “us versus them,” when there is a strong majority of people from the same background.
  • Education: When schools do not teach students about a range of cultures and religions, or avoid discussing the influence of immigration in a country’s history, they deprive students of knowledge that can foster understanding between people of different backgrounds. Some curriculums may even encourage xenophobia by presenting one culture as superior to all others.
  • Fear of strangers: Some experts believe xenophobia may have some basis in an innate fear of strangers. Babies fear strangers, which may explain why it is easy for people to absorb xenophobic beliefs. However, prejudice is something a person learns from others, meaning it is not inevitable.

Challenging xenophobia

On an individual level, people can challenge xenophobia via:

  • Education: Take time to learn about xenophobia, including the myths and stereotypes, as well as its impact on marginalized groups. Look for articles, books, and other media that come directly from marginalized people.
  • Self-awareness: Many people grow up around xenophobic messaging, whether from their family, peers, or the news. It is important to become aware of one’s own assumptions and to challenge them, particularly for people in positions of power. Although xenophobia is not a mental health condition, approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may help people with this.
  • Cultural appreciation: People may find it useful to expand their understanding of food, music, movies, and more. For example, caregivers might encourage their children to read books with diverse characters, or try foods from a variety of cuisines.
  • Inclusivity: Find ways to make group environments more inclusive to break down the “us versus them” dynamic. For example, a school could offer a Spanish translator at parent-teacher meetings if many children have caregivers who speak Spanish as their first language.
  • Using privilege: People who belong to an in-group have privilege in comparison to perceived outsiders. They can use this privilege to benefit others. For example, a person could accompany a friend to doctor appointments to ensure the doctor listens to them, or teach other members of the in-group about xenophobia so that the burden of doing this is not on the out-group.
  • Speaking out: Speak out against xenophobic comments, jokes, or microaggressions. For example, if people in an office make a xenophobic comment, try pulling them aside and telling them it is untrue and hurtful.

People can also report xenophobic behavior, such as harassment and hate crimes, to local authorities or specialist organizations, such as Stop AAPI Hate .

To truly stop xenophobia, though, governments, media publications, law enforcement, and other institutions need to take action to dismantle it. This may involve changing laws, policies, codes of conduct, and disciplinary procedures for people or organizations that fuel xenophobia.

Xenophobia is the fear, hatred, and distrust of outsiders. It harms not only immigrants but anyone that the dominant group in a society deems strange or foreign. It is not a phobia in the medical sense, but a widespread form of prejudice and discrimination.

Xenophobia can be part of a political platform, the result of institutional policies, or a form of interpersonal abuse. It negatively impacts the lives of many people globally and often overlaps with other types of oppression.

Last medically reviewed on August 5, 2022

  • Public Health
  • Litigation / Medical Malpractice

How we reviewed this article:

  • Braveman, P. A., et al. (2022). Systemic and structural racism: Definitions, examples, health damages, and approaches to dismantling. https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/10.1377/hlthaff.2021.01394
  • Guidance on racism and xenophobia. (n.d.). https://www.unhcr.org/en-us/protection/operations/5f7c860f4/unhcr-guidance-on-racism-and-xenophobia.html
  • Implicit bias. (n.d.). https://diversity.nih.gov/sociocultural-factors/implicit-bias
  • Lakimova, O. (2018). Exploring the dynamics of xenophobia in the Nordic countries. https://elar.urfu.ru/handle/10995/58790
  • Let's talk about xenophobia and anti-Asian hate crimes. (2021). https://dceg.cancer.gov/about/diversity-inclusion/inclusivity-minute/2021/xenophobia-anti-asian-crime
  • McNeil, T. (2020). The long history of xenophobia in America. https://now.tufts.edu/2020/09/24/long-history-xenophobia-america
  • Muslim travel ban. (n.d.). https://immigrationhistory.org/item/muslim-
  • "They have robbed me of my life": Xenophobic violence against non-nationals in South Africa. (2020). https://www.hrw.org/report/2020/09/17/they-have-robbed-me-my-life/xenophobic-violence-against-non-nationals-south
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  • Trail of tears. (n.d.). https://www.britannica.com/event/Trail-of-Tears
  • U.S. immigration policy: A classic, unappreciated example of structural racism. (2021). https://www.brookings.edu/blog/how-we-rise/2021/03/26/us-immigration-policy-a-classic-unappreciated-example-of-structural-racism/
  • Vos, S. R., et al. (2021). Cultural stress in the age of mass xenophobia: Perspectives from Latin/o adolescents. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7806182/
  • What is xenophobia? (2022). https://www.simplypsychology.org/xenophobia-fear-of-strangers.html

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The term xenophobia derives from the Greek words xenos (“foreign”) and phobos (“fear”), literally meaning a fear of foreigners. This origin is reflected in dictionary definitions, which almost inevitably describe it as a fear or hatred of strangers or foreigners. Despite a clear parallel between xenophobia and prejudice, the former refers solely to an emotional reaction to the other, while the latter is typically defined in ways that suggest both cognitive and emotional components. To the extent that this is the case, xenophobia has a more restrictive usage than prejudice. On the other hand, xenophobia and ethnocentrism are essentially two sides of the same coin, the latter referring to an excessive love of one’s own “people”—be they defined in ethnic, racial, religious, national, or civilizational terms.

Given the word’s origin, in the premodern world certain visceral reactions to the “other” appeared to be, if not typical or universal, at least very common. Contact with strangers within and foreigners from outside accelerated with the advent of the modern age, and a considerable literature developed in Europe that addressed this reality. In the case of strangers within, the classic example was Jews on a predominantly Christian continent. From a relatively early point in time, intellectuals were divided between those who harbored virulently anti-Semitic views and those who promoted tolerance. Anti-Semitism had deep roots in Roman Catholicism, and in this regard there was a remarkable continuity between Catholicism and Protestantism. Indeed, many experts consider Luther’s notorious screed against the Jews, after it became apparent that they did not plan to convert to Christianity, as one of the foundational statements of European anti-Semitism. The Jews he despised, forced to reside in segregated ghettos, were physically close but socially distant. Given that their religion constituted the formative grounding of Christianity, it would be reasonable to assume that they would not be perceived as the stranger within, but clearly this was the predominant sentiment among both intellectuals responsible for the ideological basis of anti-Semitism and ordinary people.

At the same time as Europeans began to venture into heretofore uncharted areas of the globe, thus beginning the era of colonialism, a fateful encounter with the other commenced. The image that emerged to characterize the other was to contrast civilized Europeans to savage or barbarian others. When Montaigne published his famous essay “Of Cannibals” in 1577, his contention was that Europeans offered evidence that they, and not the exotic outsider, were more capable of barbaric acts. His argument clearly presented a position that ran against the current of opinion in Europe. Likewise, in the famous Valladolid debate that pitted Bartolome de Las Casas against Juan Gines de Sepulveda, the former argued that the indigenous people of the Americas indeed possessed souls and thus shared with Europeans a common humanity. His was a minority position at that time.

Since the 19th century and the emergence of mass immigration, the newcomers came to represent the other. This was evident during the earliest wave of immigration in the United States, when the Irish were singled out for contempt. Hostility, fueled by anti-Catholicism, shaped the belief that the Irish represented both a social problem and a threat to democracy due to their presumed willingness to obey the authoritarian dictates of the Vatican. In the following wave of immigration, all Eastern and Southern European immigrants were the victims of xenophobia, but none was hated and feared more than Jews. Accused of being both ruthless capitalist exploiters and, paradoxically, as responsible for fomenting a communist revolution, they were depicted as being intent on world domination. Nowhere was this more on display than in the circulation of the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

In the current wave of migration from the world’s poor nations to the rich ones, the closest counterpart to this earlier instance of xenophobia is what has become known as Islamophobia, a phenomenon more in evidence in the nations of Western Europe than in North America, in no small part because the former nations have absorbed far larger numbers of Muslim immigrants. Shaping the animosity directed at Muslims is the claim that the cultures they bring to their new setting are antithetical to liberal democracies and pluralist societies, and therefore they are both incapable of, and uninterested in, becoming incorporated into the larger society. Such views have been exacerbated since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent attacks in Madrid and London intensify the fear factor, according to public opinion research.

Given that the evidence suggests xenophobia extends throughout recorded history, some scholars argue that it is a universal feature of the human condition. This thesis has been especially evident among those who seek to locate in human biology the key causal factors producing it. This was apparent in the past in eugenics and more recently in sociobiology and evolutionary psychology. However, if hostility to outsiders is a universal condition, it would lead to the maladaptive situation in which individuals were limited to interacting only with ingroup members. Moreover, the record indicates that attitudes toward the stranger vary depending on time and circumstance. Nowhere is this more vividly and tragically on display than in the genocide campaigns in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. In both cases, the deeply rooted tensions between groups—Serbs and Muslims in the former case, Hutus and Tutsis in the latter—did not lead to persistent conflict and violence. On the contrary, for extended periods of time these groups peacefully coexisted and in fact often interacted in positive ways (including intermarriage). The potential for xenophobia increases during times of societal crisis, which appears to be a necessary but not sufficient reason for xenophobia to lead to violence. The additional essential ingredients include a leadership committed to inciting mass hatred and a mass media prepared to serve the interests of those elites.

The reverse is also true. Political leaders committed to multiculturalism, with Canada being the most successful example at present, have managed to reduce levels of xenophobia. Thus, new immigrants in Canada confront considerably less hostility and fear than in many other immigrant-receiving nations. Moreover, although tensions between separatist nationalists in Quebec and the rest of Canada are a reality, they do not manifest themselves in terms of hatred or fear. The result is that intergroup conflict has the potential of being managed in constructive ways. Xenophobia, in short, should be viewed as socially constructed and not as an inevitable feature of the human condition.

Bibliography:

  • Brown, Rupert. 1995. Prejudice: Its Social Psychology. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.
  • Higham, John. 2002. Strangers in the Land. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
  • Horowitz, Donald L. 2003. The Deadly Ethnic Riot. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
  • van den Berghe, Pierre L. 1999. “Racism, Ethnocentrism, and Xenophobia: In Our Genes or in Our Memes?” Pp. 43-61 in In-group/Out-group Behaviour in Modern Societies: An Evolutionary Perspective, edited by K. Thienpont and R. Cliquet. Brussels, Belgium: NIDI CBGS Publications.

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Ukraine, Gaza and the Long Shadow of German Guilt

In “Out of the Darkness,” Frank Trentmann details the way people in the country that started World War II are still confronting and atoning for the atrocities of their government.

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OUT OF THE DARKNESS: The Germans, 1942-2022, by Frank Trentmann

“Stalingrad” is what Germans talked about as they settled down for coffee and cake on Sunday afternoons in the first five decades after World War II — the “bitter fate” of prisoners in Soviet camps, the five million German soldiers who lost their lives in the wider conflict, and the widows and orphans they left behind. They brought up “Dresden” and the 20 million people who had lost their homes in the Allied bombing. Almost every family told stories of one of the 12 million refugees who fled the Red Army’s advance or had been expelled from the eastern territories, from Breslau, Danzig and Königsberg. One after another, they followed paths of self-pity.

“Everything that the German Volk did to the Jews,” a liberal justice minister told an audience of Jewish attorneys in 1951, “happened to itself.” War stories gathered up victims, all of whom, on both sides, deserved “the same high degree of care,” a Bavarian assembly president insisted. Few of the Sunday coffee visitors saw Allied victory as liberation or fully recognized the grave injuries German soldiers had inflicted on Europe’s civilians across what The New York Times called “ the new dark continent .”

This attitude did not hold forever. In the remarkably rich “Out of the Darkness,” the historian Frank Trentmann tracks the “moral transformation of Germany,” from the Battle of Stalingrad in the early 1940s right through debates about Germany’s historical responsibilities in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine eight decades later. In a country where the austere concrete slabs of “Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe” anchor the capital complex that surrounds the old Berlin Wall, World War II casts a very long shadow.

The tense debate over whether the country that started the Second World War should send arms to Ukraine — whether it should confront Russia or appease Putin and avoid any whiff of militarism — is only one in a series of dramatic developments shaping the nation’s temper. Just this century, the country has seen the near bust-up of the European Union over Greek debt after the global financial crisis of 2008; the absorption of hundreds of thousands of migrants from the Middle East, Africa and South Asia in 2015; and the entry of the far-right Alternative for Germany into Parliament in 2017. For the last 80 years, Trentmann writes, all aspects of life from family to work to the environment have been debated in terms of right and wrong, featuring “conflicts about guilt, shame and making amends.” Paradoxically, reunification in 1990 stirred up rather than settled questions about who Germans have been and how they should shape their future.

As the damage of a lost war became clear and hunger spread, most German citizens saw their own hardship first. “In July 1946,” Trentmann notes, “the average German man in his 20s weighed 130 pounds. By February 1948, that had dropped to 114 pounds.” But the poker game of who suffered most gradually gave way to a more broad-minded accounting of responsibility and obligation. In West Germany, a massive redistribution of state resources in the early 1950s recognized the general claims of Jewish Germans and other survivors of the Holocaust. Germany’s restitution remains incomplete, but “never in the history of the world,” Trentmann emphasizes, “has a state been so generous to its victims.”

The public debate “between those clinging stubbornly to the idea” that World War II had been a “regular war,” he writes, and “those seeking to confront the past” structured civil society. By the mid-1950s, a protest culture made up of students and trade unionists opposed the establishment of a new German army and demonstrated against lenient sentences for war criminals. On Saturday mornings, information booths set up by citizen activists dotted market squares across Germany.

As Trentmann shows, the story was not the same on both sides of the wall. The construction of the wall in 1961 established a genuine East German identity, a “second birth”: Citizens adjusted their futures to the socialist project, allowing East Germans to put the past behind them and leave atonement to the capitalists in the West. East Germans joined factory brigades and tenant collectives, but mostly they “beavered away at home and in their dachas,” three million cabins for 16 million people.

Their moral stasis, kept in bounds by an extensive surveillance apparatus, would not last. By the end of the 1960s, East Germans had TVs, young people owned cameras and mopeds, and 40 percent of the population was overweight. Still, images of Western affluence remained stuck in their heads. In 1985, ninth graders in Magdeburg asked to complete an essay on “the year 2010” disclosed dreams about fancy cars and Cinderella marriages of hairdressers to bankers; only one student hoped that “everything should be as under socialism.”

When dreams did come true with reunification, former East Germans were shocked to find them tarnished by unemployment, lack of respect and a civic culture developed on the other side of the gate that was more attuned to German misdeeds than German suffering. Many young East Germans felt they had become exiles in their own country. “No work, no love, no homeland, no happiness,” Katja Kramer, a once-optimistic 36-year-old computer engineer, wrote as the wall fell and she was laid off.

Given the mixed success of reunification, Trentmann refrains from writing a happy ending in which “a nation of sinners turned into saints.” He also recognizes the costs and complexities of the quest for moral security in the East and West: the amnesty granted to German war criminals in the 1950s after the initial wave of denazification trials, the postponed engagement with the Holocaust, the ostentatious (and sometimes insidiously self-absolving) performance of the “good German.”

Nonetheless, as Trentmann captures, the post-1945 transformation has been remarkable. The willingness of Germans to open their borders to refugees — mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan — stands out. An astonishing 55 percent of the population, he observes, “helped refugees in one way or another.” One-quarter were “‘active helpers’ who accompanied refugees to doctors and the authorities, taught them German, helped with the shopping or took them along to the local sports club.” The arrival of so many new residents (in a country of 80 million) showed a clear way of being at home in the war-torn world by making new homes for others.

Of course, moral tensions still abound. Issues such as aid to Ukraine or open doors to immigrants divide Germans, especially in the East, where many see the “blossoming landscapes” they had been promised by Chancellor Helmut Kohl in 1990 as invaded by “outsiders.” This is ironic, Trentmann writes, because these are the same regions that most need “to attract newcomers to survive.”

And Jews continue to remain awkwardly set apart in German society, as the response to protests against the war in Gaza has made clear. Since October last year, government agencies have restricted demonstrations and cultural institutions have rescinded awards and canceled exhibitions in an effort to penalize antisemitism, muffling pro-Palestinian voices and equating disagreement with Israel, even by Jews, with racial prejudice.

Criticism of the government of Israel, comparisons of current events with others in the Holocaust, shock at the mass death of Palestinians — none of this is self-evidently antisemitic. Nor does it constitute evasion of Germany’s crimes in the past or its responsibilities in the present. In the name of moral clarity (or perhaps simplicity), such protective measures have pressed Jews, unsurprisingly people with varied opinions, into the old monolithic category of “the Jew.”

“Out of the Darkness” usefully reveals the roots of these ethical knots. Trentmann is still hopeful that Germans can untangle them. “Time and again,” he points out, racists “have found themselves outnumbered by the tens of thousands of citizens who joined candlelit processions” against intolerance, xenophobia and assaults on democratic institutions. “There is no German identity without Auschwitz,” Joachim Gauck said in 2015, when he was the country’s president. He was taking note of a civic achievement rather than a state rule.

OUT OF THE DARKNESS : The Germans, 1942-2022 | By Frank Trentmann | Knopf | 774 pp. | $50

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A Father’s Heartache: Beginning in December, Mustafa Abutaha, a professor of English in Gaza who lost a son to the war, sent us dozens of voice and video messages , providing a window inside Nasser Medical Complex before it was raided by Israeli forces.

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Trump’s ‘Knock on the Door’

The former president and his aides are formulating plans to deport millions of migrants.

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Confrontations over immigration and border security are moving to the center of the struggle between the two parties, both in Washington, D.C., and beyond. And yet the most explosive immigration clash of all may still lie ahead.

In just the past few days, Washington has seen the collapse of a bipartisan Senate deal to toughen border security amid opposition from former President Donald Trump and the House Republican leadership, as well as a failed vote by House Republicans to impeach Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for allegedly refusing to enforce the nation’s immigration laws. Simultaneously, Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott, supported by more than a dozen other GOP governors, has renewed his attempts to seize greater control over immigration enforcement from the federal government.

Cumulatively these clashes demonstrate how much the terms of debate over immigration have moved to the right during President Joe Biden’s time in office. But even amid that overall shift, Trump is publicly discussing immigration plans for a second presidential term that could quickly become much more politically divisive than even anything separating the parties now.

Trump has repeatedly promised that, if reelected, he will pursue “the Largest Domestic Deportation Operation in History,” as he put it last month on social media . Inherently, such an effort would be politically explosive. That’s because any mass-deportation program would naturally focus on the largely minority areas of big Democratic-leaning cities where many undocumented immigrants have settled, such as Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, New York, and Phoenix.

“What this means is that the communities that are heavily Hispanic or Black, those marginalized communities are going to be living in absolute fear of a knock on the door, whether or not they are themselves undocumented,” David Leopold, a former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, told me. “What he’s describing is a terrifying police state, the pretext of which is immigration.”

How Trump and his advisers intend to staff such a program would make a prospective Trump deportation campaign even more volatile. Stephen Miller, Trump’s top immigration adviser, has publicly declared that they would pursue such an enormous effort partly by creating a private red-state army under the president’s command. Miller says a reelected Trump intends to requisition National Guard troops from sympathetic Republican-controlled states and then deploy them into Democratic-run states whose governors refuse to cooperate with their deportation drive.

Such deployment of red-state forces into blue states, over the objections of their mayors and governors, would likely spark intense public protest and possibly even conflict with law-enforcement agencies under local control. And that conflict itself could become the justification for further insertion of federal forces into blue jurisdictions, notes Joseph Nunn, a counsel in the Liberty & National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School.

From his very first days as a national candidate in 2015, Trump has intermittently promised to pursue a massive deportation program against undocumented immigrants. As president, Trump moved in unprecedented ways to reduce the number of new arrivals in the country by restricting both legal and illegal immigration. But he never launched the huge “deportation force” or widespread removals that, he frequently promised, would uproot the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the United States during his time in office. Over Trump’s four years, in fact, his administration deported only about a third as many people from the nation’s interior as Barack Obama’s administration had over the previous four years, according to a study by the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute .

Read: The GOP’s true priority

Exactly why Trump never launched the comprehensive deportation program he promised is unclear even to some veterans of his administration. The best answer may be a combination of political resistance within Congress and in local governments, logistical difficulties, and internal opposition from the more mainstream conservative appointees who held key positions in his administration, particularly in his first years.

This time, though, Trump has been even more persistent than in the 2016 campaign in promising a sweeping deportation effort. (“Those Biden has let in should not get comfortable because they will be going home,” Trump posted on his Truth Social site last month .) Simultaneously, Miller has outlined much more explicit and detailed plans than Trump ever did in 2016 about how the administration would implement such a deportation program in a second term.

Dismissing these declarations as merely campaign bluster would be a mistake, Miles Taylor, who served as DHS chief of staff under Trump, told me in an interview. “If Stephen Miller says it, if Trump says it, it is very reasonable to assume that’s what they will try to do in a second term,” said Taylor, who later broke with Trump to write a New York Times op-ed and a book that declared him unfit for the job . (Taylor wrote the article and book anonymously, but later acknowledged that he was the author.)

Officials at DHS successfully resisted many of Miller’s most extreme immigration ideas during Trump’s term, Taylor said. But with the experience of Trump’s four years behind them, Taylor told me Trump and Miller would be in a much stronger position in 2025 to drive through militant ideas such as mass deportation and internment camps for undocumented migrants. “Stephen Miller has had the time and the battle scars to inform a very systematic strategy,” Taylor said.

Miller outlined the Trump team’s plans for a mass-deportation effort most extensively in an interview he did this past November on a podcast hosted by the conservative activist Charlie Kirk. In the interview, Miller suggested that another Trump administration would seek to remove as many as 10 million “foreign-national invaders” who he claims have entered the country under Biden.

To round up those migrants, Miller said, the administration would dispatch forces to “go around the country arresting illegal immigrants in large-scale raids.” Then, he said, it would build “large-scale staging grounds near the border, most likely in Texas,” to serve as internment camps for migrants designated for deportation. From these camps, he said, the administration would schedule near-constant flights returning migrants to their home countries. “So you create this efficiency by having these standing facilities where planes are moving off the runway constantly, probably military aircraft, some existing DHS assets,” Miller told Kirk.

In the interview, Miller acknowledged that removing migrants at this scale would be an immense undertaking, comparable in scale and complexity to “building the Panama Canal.” He said the administration would use multiple means to supplement the limited existing immigration-enforcement personnel available to them, primarily at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, better known as ICE. One would be to reassign personnel from other federal law-enforcement agencies such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the DEA. Another would be to “deputize” local police and sheriffs. And a third would be to requisition National Guard troops to participate in the deportation plans.

Miller offered two scenarios for enlisting National Guard troops in removing migrants. One would be in states where Republican governors want to cooperate. “You go to the red-state governors and you say, ‘Give us your National Guard,’” he said. “We will deputize them as immigration-enforcement officers.”

The second scenario, Miller said, would involve sending National Guard forces from nearby Republican-controlled states into what he called an “unfriendly state” whose governor would not willingly join the deportation program.

Read: The specter of family separation

Even those sweeping plans understate the magnitude of the effort that mass deportations would require, Jason Houser, a former chief of staff at ICE under Biden, told me. Removing 500,000 to 1 million migrants a year could require as many as 100,000–150,000 deputized enforcement officers, Houser believes. Staffing the internment camps and constant flights that Miller is contemplating could require 50,000 more people, Houser said. “If you want to deport a million a year—and I’m a Navy officer—you are talking a mobilization the size of a military deployment,” Houser told me.

Enormous legal resources would be required too. Immigration lawyers point out that even if Trump detained migrants through mass roundups, the administration would still need individual deportation orders from immigration courts for each person it wants to remove from the country. “It’s not as simple as sending Guardsmen in to arrest everyone who is illegal or undocumented,” said Leopold, the immigration lawyer.

All of this exceeds the staffing now available for immigration enforcement; ICE, Houser said, has only about 6,000 enforcement agents. To fill the gap, he said, Trump would need to transfer huge numbers of other federal law-enforcement agents, weakening the ability of agencies including the DEA, the FBI, and the U.S. Marshals Service to fulfill their principal responsibilities. And even then, Trump would still need support from the National Guard to reach the scale he’s discussing.

Even if Trump used National Guard troops in supporting roles, rather than to “break down doors” in pursuit of migrants, they would be thrust into highly contentious situations, Houser said.

“You are talking about taking National Guard members out of their jobs in Texas and moving them into, say, Philadelphia and having them do mass stagings,” Houser said. “Literally as Philadelphians are leaving for work, or their kids are going to school, they are going to see mass-deportation centers with children and mothers who were just in the community working and thriving.” He predicts that Trump would be forced to convert warehouses or abandoned malls into temporary relocation centers for thousands of migrants.

Adam Goodman, a historian at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the author of The Deportation Machine , told me, “There’s no precedent of millions of people being removed in U.S. history in a short period of time.” The example Trump most often cites as a model is “Operation Wetback,” the mass-deportation program—named for a slur against Mexican Americans—launched by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1954. That program involved huge sweeps through not only workplaces, but also heavily Mexican American communities in cities such as Los Angeles. Yet even that effort, despite ensnaring an unknown number of legal residents, removed only about 250,000 people, Goodman said. To deport the larger numbers Trump is promising, he would need an operation of much greater scale and expense.

The Republican response to Texas’s standoff with the Biden administration offers Trump reason for optimism that red-state governors would support his ambitious immigration plans. So far, 14 Republican-controlled states have sent National Guard troops or other law-enforcement personnel to bolster Abbott in his ongoing efforts to assert more control over immigration issues . The Supreme Court last month overturned a lower-court decision that blocked federal agents from dismantling the razor-wire barriers Texas has been erecting along the border. But Abbott insists that he’ll build more of the barriers nonetheless. “We are expanding to further areas to make sure we will expand our level of deterrence,” Abbott declared last Sunday at a press conference near the border , where he was joined by 13 other GOP governors. Abbott has said he expects every red state to eventually send forces to back his efforts.

But the National Guard deployments to Texas still differ from the scenario that Miller has sketched. Abbott is welcoming the personnel that other states are sending to Texas. In that sense, this deployment is similar to the process under which George W. Bush, Obama, Trump, and now Biden utilized National Guard troops to support federal immigration-enforcement efforts in Texas and, at times, other border states: None of the governors of those states has opposed the use of those troops in their territory for that purpose.

The prospect of Trump dispatching red-state National Guard troops on deportation missions into blue states that oppose them is more akin to his actions during the racial-justice protests following the murder of George Floyd in summer 2020. At that point, Trump deployed National Guardsmen provided by 11 Republican governors to Washington, D.C., to quell the protests.

The governors provided those forces to Trump under what’s known as “hybrid status” for the National Guard (also known as Title 32 status). Under hybrid status, National Guard troops remain under the technical command of their state’s governor, even though they are executing a federal mission. Using troops in hybrid status isn’t particularly unusual; what made that deployment “unprecedented,” in Joseph Nunn’s phrase, is that the troops were deployed over the objection of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.

The hybrid status that Trump used in D.C. is probably the model the former president and Miller are hoping to use to send red-state National Guard forces into blue states that don’t want them, Nunn told me. But Nunn believes that federal courts would block any such effort. Trump could ignore the objections from the D.C. government because it’s not a state, but Nunn believes that if Trump sought to send troops in hybrid status from, say, Indiana to support deportation raids in Chicago, federal courts would say that violates Illinois’ constitutional rights. “Under the Constitution, the states are sovereign and coequal,” Nunn said. “One state cannot reach into another state and exercise governmental power there without the receiving state’s consent.”

But Trump could overcome that obstacle, Nunn said, through a straightforward, if more politically risky, alternative that he and his aides have already discussed. If Trump invoked the Insurrection Act, which dates back to 1792, he would have almost unlimited authority to use any military asset for his deportation program. Under the Insurrection Act, Trump could dispatch the Indiana National Guard into Illinois, take control of the Illinois National Guard for the job, or directly send in active-duty military forces, Nunn said.

“There are not a lot of meaningful criteria in the Insurrection Act for assessing whether a given situation warrants using it, and there is no mechanism in the law that allows the courts or Congress to check an abuse of the act,” Nunn told me. “There are quite literally no safeguards.”

Read: America’s immigration reckoning has arrived

The Insurrection Act is the legal tool presidents invoked to federalize control over state National Guards when southern governors used the troops to block racial integration. For Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act to instead target racial minorities through his deportation program might be even more politically combustible than sending in National Guard troops through hybrid status during the 2020 D.C. protests, Nunn said. But, like many other immigration and security experts I spoke with, Nunn believes those concerns are not likely to dissuade a reelected Trump from using the Insurrection Act if courts block his other options.

In fact, as I’ve written , a mass-deportation program staffed partially with red-state National Guard forces is only one of several ideas that Trump has embraced for introducing federal forces into blue jurisdictions over the objections of their local leaders. He’s also talked about sending federal personnel into blue cities to round up homeless people (and place them in camps as well) or just to fight crime. Invoking the Insurrection Act might be the necessary predicate for those initiatives as well.

These plans could produce scenes in American communities unmatched in our history. Leopold, to take one scenario raised by Miller in his interview, asks what would happen if the Republican governor of Virginia, at Trump’s request, sends National Guard troops into Maryland, but the Democratic governor of that state orders his National Guard to block their entry? Similarly, in a huge deportation sweep through a residential neighborhood in Los Angeles or Chicago, it’s easy to imagine frightened migrant families taking refuge in a church and a Democratic mayor ordering local police to surround the building. Would federal agents and National Guard troops sent by Trump try to push past the local police by force?

For all the tumult that the many disputes over immigration are now generating, these possibilities could prove far more disruptive, incendiary, and even violent.

“What we would expect to see in a second Trump presidency is governance by force,” Deana El-Mallawany, a counsel and the director of impact programs at Protect Democracy, a bipartisan group focused on threats to democracy, told me. “This is his retribution agenda. He is looking at ways to aggrandize and consolidate power within the presidency to do these extreme things, and going after marginalized groups first, like migrants and the homeless, is the way to expand that power, normalize it, and then wield it more broadly against everybody in our democracy.”

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  1. 5 Essays About Xenophobia

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  2. Xenophobia: Definition, Symptoms, Traits, Causes

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