Everything You Know About Immigration is Wrong

Everything You Know About Immigration is Wrong

Emma Lazarus’s “The New Colossus,” inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty, reads “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost, to me,” representing the American promise of openness to immigration. This message has expanded diversity, thus allowing a wider array of talents and skills that benefit both the culture and the economy.

However, much of the rhetoric surrounding immigration is highly divisive, and oftentimes, untrue. One such example is the claim that immigrants steal opportunity from native citizens, which was used in the 19th century during a wave of Chinese immigration due to the gold rush. Because of this nativism, Chinese immigration was severely limited by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

A similar sentiment can be seen in the 21st century with the want to curb undocumented immigrants coming from Mexico, who are charged with “stealing jobs” from American citizens. However, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2017, immigrants are 15.7% more likely to work unusual hours than native citizens, on average showing that immigrants are actually “taking” the jobs that native-born American citizens are not. They help the economy more than they hinder it- making it a net-gain for our society.

The main problem with trying to curb illegal immigration is rooted in racism and xenophobia which is the dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries. Even though the president loves to pull out buzz words such as rapists and murders for people coming in from the Southern border, a study by researchers from Highline College and the University of California at Riverside concludes that, “sanctuary cities have no effect on crime rates.” and a study published in the Criminology Journal analyzed crime and immigration data from 1990 to 2014 concluded that “Increases in the undocumented immigrant population within states are associated with significant decreases in the prevalence of violence.”

This rhetoric surrounding undocumented immigrants was pulled out of a few select instances so that native-born citizens would become fearful of those who look different from them. This same argument is used for Middle-Eastern immigrants but with the added bonus of them all being “terrorists” since the 9/11 attacks. Yet, this can also be debunked fairly easily. According to PolitoFact, from Sept. 12, 2001, to Dec. 16, 2016, 74% of the attacks in the US were by violent extremists were from far-right White Nationalists.

There is also a lot of hate surrounding “birth tourism” since the Obama-era DACA program was created where people from other countries would come to the US to have their children so that their children would become citizens. However, statistics show that the majority of these babies are being born from European parents (primarily Russian) and even then, 90% of those births occur 2 years after they have been in the US – making it impossible for these parents main goal to be citizenship through childbirth.

The largest disadvantage of the current immigration system is an almost impossibility to get into the country and stay legally. A commonly claimed saying from native-born Americans is, “Why Can’t Immigrants Just ‘Get Legal’, ‘Get in Line’ and ‘Get Their Papers?’” However, it is never that easy. There are millions of immigrants who have lived in the US for decades, who have worked hard, paid taxes, and bought homes, who have US-citizen children, who make valuable community contributions — who have been deported, and forcibly separated from their whole lives in America, because they weren’t able to “get legal.” Many of them have spent years and tens of thousands or more in legal fees trying to find pathways to legalization and citizenship for themselves. If there were a way to “get right with the law”, they would have done it.

The majority of documented immigration that is allowed in the US is through work visas, family-sponsored, or asylum seeking. If one doesn’t fit in one of those three categories, it is virtually impossible for them to cross the border legally. Even in the many, many cases where undocumented immigrants have been in the US for decades, married, had US citizen children, worked and paid taxes, started businesses and bought homes, there is no way to obtain legal status.

Even with Asylum seekers, the Trump Administration is now reportedly turning away asylum applicants at the border, in violation of international law, making people fleeing their homelands that are in political turmoil stay in potentially dangerous situations without financial assistance or effective protection.

Another policy expanded under the Trump administration that has made tensions with immigrants worse is that of family separation. For over a year, detained families have had children separated from their parents and sent to alternate facilities for holding. This process was done under President Obama, however, it was enhanced by the Trump administration, making it much more stringent with greater consequences for being caught. The practice was ended by Executive Order in June 2018, but hundreds of children remain separated or even unaccounted for due to some of them being put up for adoption against their parent’s will.

The current undocumented immigration policy subverts the standards of due process and the equal protection clause and must be reformed. Additional resources and manpower should be diverted to ports of entry to ease the strain of immigration processing, asylums seekers must be given adequate legal protection, and separated children must be reunited with their families immediately.

The 14th amendment reads that no State shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” This standard extends to all people within our borders. For the sake of fair protection and for human compassion, our policy must reflect this duty.