Dispelling Myths in "Angels in America" by John Tierney

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 682 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Mar 14, 2019

Words: 682|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Mar 14, 2019

Heaven Forbid

Immigration has always been a much-discussed topic. There are many who think that the borders should be tighter, or that deportation should be enforced, or that illegal immigration is a serious threat to America. On the other side of the proverbial coin, there are many who think that restricting immigration in any way is cruel and un-American, or that if you make it to American soil you should be allowed to stay. John Tierney, comedic author and New York Times columnist falls, along with myself, into the latter category of pro-immigration. John Tierney expressed his views in an essay titled Ángels in America, published in the New York Times in April, 2006.

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Tierney weaves his readers a very pathos-heavy tale, of a hard working Mexican immigrant named Ángel Espinoza. Tierney equates Espinoza to Tierney’s own grandfather. They are both first-generation immigrants who left farms, took very low-paying jobs and worked their way up to better positions. They both married American-born citizens. Tierney discusses Espinoza’s citizenship, or lack thereof: Espinoza, unlike Tierney’s grandfather, was denied a green card because he had been deported in the past. Tierney uses this as a segue to discuss the difference between previous immigration policies and current immigration policies. “There weren’t quotas on Europeans or most other immigrants in 1911, even though, relative to the population, there were more immigrants arriving and living here than there are today. If America could absorb my grandfather, why keep out Espinoza?”(622-623) he asks. Tierney discusses an oft-repeated anti-immigration argument: because Mexico is so close, Mexicans won’t assimilate and “are in danger of becoming an underclass living in linguistically isolated ghettos.” (623) Tierney compares this argument to the story of Espinoza, and those whose lives resemble his.

I personally agree with Tierney’s apparent pro-immigration stance, but his presentation has a few problems. First, he never clearly states any claim or stance. It can be determined that he is pro-immigration due to his support and empathy for Espinoza, but he never comes out and says anything about immigration. This works in his favor in some ways: it makes him seem moderate and unopinionated. In other ways it fails him: he never makes his beliefs known, or his claims heard, and so he falls a bit flat. It is unclear exactly what Tierney is attempting to persuade you to believe, and so he fails to convince his readers of anything at all.

Second, Tierney’s essay is almost entirely founded on pathos. His barely-distinguishable argument relies wholly on you feeling sorry for Espinoza. He presents only one statistic, in his twelfth paragraph: that eighty percent of third-generation immigrants are English-dominant. Tierney states that “if you look at studies of immigrants, you find that the typical story is much more like Espinoza’s.”(623) It is obvious that he has read these studies, if he is bothering to quote them- so where are they? What are the numbers? Tierney doesn’t provide them, or even hint at where he may have found his information. His essay lacks ethos entirely.

Third, Tierney’s argument relies on Espinoza’s story. Rather than show economic studies of immigrant families and their wages, Tierney provides you with a single example of a hard-working immigrant. This is a pathos-filled fallacy known as “anecdotal evidence”. Anecdotal evidence occurs when, in order to support your argument, you select an example that does so. Tierney wanted to convince his readers that immigrants are hard-working and industrious, and so he told you of a hard-working and industrious immigrant, saying nothing about others. Tierney leaves it to the readers to assume that most immigrants are like Espinoza, but he doesn’t back that up with statistics or evidence or even dogmatic logic. He simply states it, hoping his readers will trust him, and this is lethal for his ethos.

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Personally, I agree with Tierney. I don’t see any reason we need to have quotas on immigrants, or to prohibit immigration at all. Despite agreeing with him, I cannot overlook the fact that his essay is based on fallacy and a simple lack of evidence.

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Prof. Linda Burke

Cite this Essay

Dispelling Myths in “Angels in America” by John Tierney. (2019, March 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 21, 2024, from
“Dispelling Myths in “Angels in America” by John Tierney.” GradesFixer, 12 Mar. 2019,
Dispelling Myths in “Angels in America” by John Tierney. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 Feb. 2024].
Dispelling Myths in “Angels in America” by John Tierney [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2019 Mar 12 [cited 2024 Feb 21]. Available from:
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