The music video for the song, “Immigrants (We Get the Job Done),” from the Hamilton Mixtape does what any great song, work of art, or powerful speech should do — it gives you chills.
Featuring Somali-Canadian rapper K’naan, British-Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed, and Mexican-American artist Snow Tha Product, among others, the video, released Wednesday, humanizes and celebrates the immigrant experience. And it couldn’t come at a better time.
As immigrants are increasingly demonized in some media circles and by prominent politicians, the video highlights “America’s ghostwriters,” the hidden laborers that keep the country running.
This message is evident from the beginning of the video. A collection of immigrants — from all parts of the world and all walks of life — sits in a dingy train car listening to a radio that fades in and out of static.
“It’s really astounding that in a country founded by immigrants, immigrant has somehow become a bad word,” a radio talking head says, before the song intros with a sample of the song “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)” from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton.”
The entirety of the video takes place on a moving train, the camera in an almost perpetual state of forward motion as various rappers and artists deliver their lines.
“I got 1 job, 2 job, 3 when I need them,” K’naan, who was displaced from his native Somalia at age 13, raps. “I got 5 roommates in this one studio, but I never really see them.”
In different train cars, immigrants toil — Hispanic-American women stitching American flags in a poorly-lit textile factory, Asian-American men hacking at slabs of beef in a meatpacking factory, an Arab-American nurse in a hijab tending to a patient — as the song’s refrain “Look how far I’ve come / Immigrants, we get the job done” plays over a thumping bassline.
Underlying the song and the video is a refutation of the notion that immigrants take away jobs from hard-working Americans.
“You claim I’m stealing jobs though,” Snow Tha Product, a Mexican-American artist, raps,
“Peter Piper claimed he picked them, he just underpaid Pablo.”
Immigrants’ contributions to the US economy are enormous: 44% of engineering and tech startups were founded by immigrants, 60% of patents are filed by immigrants, and overall 15% of the country’s economic output comes from immigrants.
This innovation, in turn, can actually lead to more and better jobs being created for other Americans, the Washington Post’s Vivek Wadhwa has argued.
But ultimately, what makes the video so powerful is not its economic argument, but its deeply human message.
“The main ambition is to strive for empathy and understanding of the migrant experience and what that entails,” the video’s director, Tomás Whitmore, told Buzzfeed News. “The idea is that it broadens the perspective of the issue beyond just what’s currently happening today.”
This message is perhaps best summed up in the final line of K’naan’s rap: “All you got to do is see the world with new eyes.”