18, November 2010
Contextual Analysis: The Terminal and The New Colossus: Exploring the Idea of Border
Borders are what separate a territory from another. Aside from that, they have become the defining factor for people’s personalities. It has become a common notion to classify people according to their countries or continents of origin. This becomes too clear in the movie “The Terminal” where Viktor Navorski was treated unfairly in the US because he was from another territory beyond the American border. As suggested by John Washington (252), even “though border walls may be difficult to define, it is imperative to consider how our borders define us”. Border walls define what Mexico is, what Russia is, or what the United States is and in addition, it defines the identity of a person. This movie is a good illustration of how crossing borders can be troublesome especially when the immigrants are from war torn countries. Immigrants are usually faced with false claims, discrimination and many other unfair kinds of treatments.
The movie tells the story of Navorski who was forced to make the airport his home because he had nowhere to go. War had broken out in his country and no country in the world recognized it; it had been erased from the map. This meant that all his documents, including his passport and visa were considered void. The United States could not deport him since he was now stateless. At the airport, he meets Dixon who assists him by finding him a place to stay. The friendship does not last long however because Dixon realizes that Navorski would become a hindrance to his progress. Dixon continually frustrates him but Navorski is too composed to fall into his traps.
The original idea behind drawing the borders was for administrative purposes. While globalization defines borders, and such trends are likely to exist, border walls are still important because they sustain the identity of each person and protect the interests of each territory. However, borders do not only establish the identity of a territory and of a person but they also establish specific rules and regulations intended to sustain the existence and viability of those borders. These rules also dictate specific identities that are allowed to enter the borders of the United States and specific objects that are allowed for entry, whether with or without documents. Therefore, these laws also define whether a specific foreigner could be considered illegal or legal or whether what he/she brings are authorized or unauthorized. In Navorski’s case, he entered the country legally but was declared an illegal immigrant on entering the country. His country of origin became inexistent owing to a coup that happened while he was travelling rendering his travel documents invalid.
For a person to cross another country’s borders they need a number of documents including a visa and a passport as well as a work permit if he intends to secure a job in the country. These should be certified with the home country’s government for them to be considered legal. Navorski’s homeland has been overthrown as a country. Therefore, since the United States and even other countries do not recognize the new government, all of his government documents including passports and visas currently released by the Krakozhian government are considered invalid internationally. Since air services inbound and outbound of Krakozhia are also suspended, Viktor cannot be sent back to Krakozhia until the situation is resolved.
Every item that is carried across the borders also needs to be documented. This especially applies to electronic equipment, weapons, drugs and machinery. Documentation of drugs is the most crucial since drugs affect human life directly. This is illustrated in the movie whereby a Russian resident was almost arrested for bringing pills for his dying father. The immigrant should have obtained documents but due to ignorance of the law, he failed to do so. However, this problem was solved when Viktor stated that the medicine was actually for a goat and not for his dying father. Viktor’s claim made the action of Russian migrant, Milodragovich, legal and the authorities allowed him to enter the United States with those pills. This shows that emphasis is placed on human drugs since this can be used as an avenue to export or import illegal drugs.
Similarly, laws also allow people to treat illegal immigrants differently, thus adding to their difficulties. In most occasions, such difference in treatment signifies the most unfavorable treatment that an illegal immigrant could ever experience. John Washington’s first hand experience could best describe how illegal immigrants are treated unfavorably. In fact, Washington used the word ‘dumped’ since it best describes the actual situation that illegal immigrants experienced once they are caught by the Border Patrol. As Washington (238) stated “I know that repatriated is a kind of euphuism for the way migrants are offloaded from government contracted buses, their belongings thrown in piles in the sidewalk—injured men and single women deposited into the dark.” Washington also described Border Patrol as the ‘dog catcher’ more than a truck. Border Patrollers often stuff migrants in the back cabs like dogs. This explains why Navorski preferred to stay in the lounge at the airport. He considered that leaving the place would land him in the hands of the law and he would be forced to face charges for being in the country illegally. Navorski experiences deprivation of food because Dixon wants him to escape the airport, but he is eventually arrested by the authorities.
However, such unfavorable treatments towards migrants is not only limited to airports (as seen in the movie the Terminal) and to the agencies that intends to protect the borders but also in public places. All migrants, even those that are considered legal, experience some aspect of unfavorable treatment. An example of this from the movie is Leslie Marmon Silko losing her freedom to travel on American Highways because she looks like a migrant. In this sense, it could be argued that it is not only the laws that allow migrants to be treated differently (Washington 245). There is another aspect that could explain why these immigrants are treated unfairly even though they followed established immigration laws in entering the United States. This aspect is referred by Washington as racial discrimination. Racial discrimination is a factor based on human behavior. Nevertheless, the established laws against illegal immigrants could have also influenced human behavior to become racially discriminative (Washington 245).
Racial discrimination is a phenomenon that has come to be accepted as a way of life. It is not strange anymore for a person to be treated unfairly because they come from a different nationality. For instance, “The Terminal” showed some antagonistic relationship between Dixon and Navorski with other airport staff. It is clear that the airport staff is quite antagonistic against Navorski since he is considered an illegal migrant. The war in his homeland Krakhozia made him unrecognizable by the United States and other countries and this made him illegal. He is treated unfairly for this claim and for the fact that he is not a citizen of the United States.
Washington also fails to recognize that the treatment towards illegal migrants is not always unfavorable and such negative treatment could be changed depending upon the situation. The best example that demonstrates this notion is when Navorski successfully befriended other staff of the airport. The good deed he had made in order to save a Russian immigrant from going to jail made him look like a hero and airport staff treated him more favorably than they used to treat him during the early months of Navorski’s stay in the airport. Another instance is the word ‘compassion’ as stated by Salchak. He told Frank Dixon that Dixon should have ignored the rule and allowed the Russian immigrant to enter the United States with his pills. However, the border laws made Dixon uncompassionate towards the Russian immigrant who do not follow rules and regulations. In other words, this also confirms earlier argument that laws allowed people to treat illegal immigrants differently.
Nevertheless, The Terminal also showed some realities that Washington failed to recognize, particularly that migrants could also enjoy similar opportunities that American citizens enjoy. One good example of this is when Viktor Navorski was hired as part time worker for a construction firm that oversees a construction project within the airport premises. Even though the construction workers are not sure whether Viktor is an illegal or legal migrant, they chose to hire him because of his capacity to satisfy the requirements of their firm.
Furthermore, there is also a law that allows an illegal migrant to move freely in the United States. This information was stated by Frank Dixon. He stated that if Viktor would be able to establish fear in coming back to Krakozhia, he would be allowed to go to New York that night. Unfortunately, Viktor was unsuccessful in establishing such fear and Dixon refused to sign the needed documents, which would allow Viktor to move freely within New York City. Therefore, it could be argued that not all migrants, even those that are illegal, could have suffered the negative treatment similar to what Washington has demonstrated in this essay.
In conclusion, the idea of borders has more effects on people than it appears to have. There are many stereotypes associated with people from different races and this is what determines how they are treated. “The Terminal” summarizes the impacts borders have on the co-existence of people. They are the main cause of racial discrimination whereby people are treated differently based on their countries of origin. People who come from the wealthy countries are treated in better ways compared to immigrants from the poor and war torn countries. The law in the United States has no provision for protecting immigrants from unfair treatment. This makes them vulnerable to all kinds of unfairness as experienced by the characters in the movie.