Dumping Grounds: Donald Trump, Edward Abbey and the Immigrant as Pollution

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Potts, Michael
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Announcing his bid for the US presidency, Donald Trump caused outrage by claiming that undocumented migration from Mexico to the US showed that America had ‘become a dumping ground for everyone else’s problems’. Trump began his typically bombastic speech by declaring that the Mexican government was ‘sending people that have lots of problems ... they’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.’ However, Trump’s framing of undocumented migrants turning America in a ‘dumping ground’, whilst shocking, can be clearly situated within a persistent strain of rhetoric in mainstream American culture and media that uses imagery of pollution and toxic waste to depict Mexican immigration. In this essay, I want to show how such rhetoric and imagery survives in popular American culture and literature as part of a sublimated discourse that adopts and adapts the terminology, imagery and conventions of genres such as travel or nature writing in order to convey a message which implicitly frames the immigrant (and particularly the Hispanic immigrant into America) as a form of pollution. As a case study of this process, I will analyse some previously under-researched articles by American nature and travel writer, Edward Abbey.
Donald Trump, Edward Abbey, environmental writing, immigration, pollution, public discourse, travel writing