Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Communication (MA)

Degree Level





Lisa Corrigan

Committee Member

Thomas Frentz

Second Committee Member

Thomas Rosteck


Constitutive rhetoric, DREAM Act, Immigration, Narrative, Nationalism, Policy


Using the testimonies surrounding the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) as a primary case study, this project provides a rhetorical investigation of the interplay between narratives, nation building, national identity, policymaking, and the American immigrant. This project first identifies the grand narrative of exclusionary nationalism as the primary narrative constituting the American identity. Then, this project examines the rhetoric of policymakers to demonstrate how an Anglo-Saxonized, elitist notion of American identity is rhetorically constituted by assimilationist, racist, xenophobic, and classist discourses. Moreover, it argues policymakers maintain the narrative dominance of exclusionary nationalism through restrictive immigration policies aimed at subjugating immigrant "Others" believed to threaten the homogeneity of the national ideal. Finally, this project investigates the material consequences of upholding exclusionary nationalism as the dominant national narrative, and provides rhetorical suggestions for DREAM Act advocates who wish to challenge its narrative dominance in order to constitute an inclusive American identity, control the public debate on comprehensive immigration reform, and liberate all non-White immigrant "Others" from their marginalized position.