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Faculty Focus: Jason Edwards on immigration

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March 25, 2013
In January, Dr. Jason Edwards, assistant professor of communication studies, published "Melding a New Immigration Narrative? President George W. Bush and the Immigration Debate" in the Howard Journal of Communications, with coauthor Richard Herder. The intention of the debate was to focus on how President Bush attempted to construct and deal with the issue of immigration as he faced multiple constituencies and a growing call from those who wanted to reform immigration.
The goal was to map his discourses on the debate, offer how his discourse was similar/different from previous presidents, and to see how the issue might be talked about by national leaders the future.
Reflecting on the immigration debates recently held in Washington DC., Dr. Edwards discusses the similarities between the rhetoric of the Bush and Obama Administrations, "They [the proposed policies] are reminiscent of what we were writing about during George Bush's 2004-2007 term. President Obama has made subtle changes to Bush's blueprint on immigration reform."
Additionally, he argues that because the presidency is an institution, it relies on a standard of rhetoric and simply cannot afford to make sweeping changes, instead proposes subtle changes to policy based on antecedents. Therefore, it makes sense that the Obama Administration is picking up where Bush left off: a focus on security with an added interest in economic stability and citizenship.
This, Dr. Edwards explains, is very similar to what Bush proposed, but fell short of accomplishing in a time when 9/11 and the fate of our national security was just too fresh on the minds of our government. Obama's stand on immigration reform still focuses on the security of the nation, but offers options that speak to the human experience such as guest-worker programs and incentives.
Ultimately, Dr. Edwards admits this is still a process, and it doesn't have all the answers that everyone wants, "Years from now, politicians will still be addressing this policy. This is not necessarily a bipartisan issue, rather it fractures party lines." (Interview by Stacy Moskos Nistendirk)
Dr. Jason Edwards