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The Aristotelian philosopher, Gene Garver, suggests that rhetorical claims have an "ethical surplus" that extends beyond the specific claim being advanced at the moment. This follows from the fact that rhetoric includes not only logos, but also pathos and ethos. We adopt the thesis of "ethical surplus," but in a negative context. The "war on illegal immigration" has generated an ethical surplus that leads its promoters beyond the specific claim of securing borders against unlawful entry. After demonstrating that there is an express rhetoric of "war" used in connection with Arizona's adoption of recent anti-immigrant legislation, we explore the implication of this rhetoric in the more recent effort to eliminate race-conscious education programs focused on Mexican Americans in the public schools of Tucson. We conclude that the war on illegal immigration has generated its ethical surplus in a manner that betrays the true character of this war. It is not a war against undocumented border crossing; rather, it is a war against the perceived threat posed by Mexicans living in the United States. As the ethical surplus of the anti-immigrant hyperbole becomes manifest, it reveals clearly the immoral and discriminatory nature of the rhetoric at work.

Publication Citation

15 J. Gender Race & Just. __ (forthcoming 2012).