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A Call to Action on Immigration

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Fordham University

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A Call to Action on Immigration

Why Americans should embrace legal and illegal immigrants.

Victoria Munoz

2.7.18

Read time: 11 minutes.

In America’s increasingly heated political atmosphere, supporting immigrants has become more important now than ever before. America is a nation, whether it is visible or not, heavily dependent upon both legal and illegal immigrants. Those opposing immigration fail to recognize the positive aspects immigrants bring to the U.S. and the overall immorality and irony in rejecting them. Those condemning illegal immigrants not only fail to see the benefits they bring to our country, but the harsh realities they are escaping and the difficult process of legally entering the country that often leads to disappointment.
According to a report by the Small Business Administration, businesses owned by immigrants generate roughly 10% of all U.S. business income. Additionally, they generate nearly one-quarter of all business income in California – nearly $20 billion – and nearly one-fifth of business income in New York, Florida, and New Jersey. Not only do immigrants contribute to America in an entrepreneurial sense, they also play an important role in American innovation and technological change. University of Colorado economist Keith Maskus found that for every 100 international students who earn science or engineering Ph.D.'s from American universities, the nation gains an impressive 62 future patent applications. To reject immigrants is to reject the possibility of future change makers .
Not only does the U.S benefit from highly skilled immigrants, but also through the unnoticed blue collar workforce dominated by illegal immigrants. In fact, immigrants make up about 17% of the U.S. labor force -- and nearly one-quarter of those immigrants are undocumented. For many undocumented immigrants, work conditions can be a living nightmare. “Illegal immigrants often work under conditions that are indescribable and because they have no lee way, they can’t even form a union to protect themselves. There have been cases in which workers have been forced to wear diapers because they aren’t granted any bathroom breaks. Other workers suffer horrible burns and other health related issues due to unacceptable working conditions” explained Annika Hinze: Fordham University’s Assistant Professor of Political Science and Director of Urban Studies. Despite the atrocious working conditions, these immigrant workers do not complain and tackle the most undesirable of jobs out of need. These immigrant workers suffer through horrible working conditions and wages, yet still are grateful to simply be working in America and supporting themselves and their families. Immigrant workers, both highly-skilled and low-skilled, legal and illegal, bring tremendous economic benefits to America while encompassing the American Dream.

“If the American dream is all about hard work then nobody exemplifies the American dream better than immigrant workers. They are Americans in every respect even if they don’t have papers.” -Annika Hinze

We shouldn’t only promote and accept immigration since it gives us economic benefits, but also because negating immigration is immoral. Many immigrants coming into the U.S, both legal and illegal, are “fleeing high crime rates, drug trafficking, unemployment, poverty, and climate hazards that lead to water shortages.” Growing up in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, one of the most dangerous cities in the world, I can confirm this firsthand. When I was 2 years old, my family had to hide in the closet with a mattress along the wall to protect ourselves from a shootout that ended in a neighbor’s death. I’ve attended two funerals of my family members that were caused by widespread, national violence. When I was just a baby, my Mom and Dad worked a food stand on hot summer days because other jobs were simply not available. After 15 years of my parents waiting for U.S citizenship, my family and I moved to the United States leaving all other family members behind so my brother and I could have a quality education and hopefully have a successful career.

These are harsh realities Mexican immigrants escape when coming to the United States; this pattern of escaping violence and poverty to build a better life elsewhere is not only common in Mexican immigrants, but immigrants in general. Specifically, “gang violence and economic desperation in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala drives an unrelenting exodus of migrants, including entire families, to seek safety mainly in the United States.” 91% of 77,000 migrants caught on the southwestern American border were families traveling from The Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala). Gang violence in the Northern Triangle has become so ruthless and widespread that families are left with the choice of complying, fleeing, or dying. As Americans, we must recognize that many immigrant’s futures, and whether they live or die, is dependent on the logistics and values of our immigration system.

Hiroshi Motomura, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, stated "There's something certainly questionable in the logic of an immigration system that, on the one hand, says you qualify, but...you have to wait 20 years." The total estimated backlog for legal immigration in 2013 was 4 million people; According to the American Immigration Council, for most countries, unmarried children of U.S. citizens must wait more than five years and siblings of U.S. citizens must wait more than 10 years. People from countries with high levels of immigration to the United States—Mexico, China, India, and the Philippines—generally have longer waiting times. For example, married children of U.S. citizens from Mexico must wait more than 20 years for a visa to become available, and Filipino siblings of U.S. citizens currently wait about 25 years. For many immigrants fleeing violence and poverty, seeking jobs, and desperately needing to reconnect with family members, this line is simply too long to wait in. When discussing immigration, we must remember a large percentage of immigrants are trying to provide basic necessities and safety for their families and have no time to waste. Ignoring this reality when forming our views on immigration is ignoring the well-being and lives of thousands of men, women and children.

Rejecting immigrants not only denies America of several benefits, but is also extremely ironic. “Unless you’re fully Native-American, you are here because of an immigrant’s dream” claims Professor Hinze. Immigration is something that not only benefits America, but is also the very thing that created our nation. George Washington told newly arrived Irishmen in 1738 that “America is open to receive not only the opulent and respectable stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all nations and religions”, not just immigrants from what Trump calls“non-shit hole countries” . Although America has undeniably changed since 1738, we should still be a country “with a mission and a desire for greatness on the world stage; America’s openness to people who want to move here and make a better life for themselves is fuel for that greatness.”

Immigrants play an important role in a community; he/she can be the next doctor that cures your sick child, the laborer who picked and packed the orange you’re eating, or the bright student who sits next to you in class. Overall, immigrants are not just statistics or the negative stereotypes; they are real people with dreams, fears, skills, and goals, that can bring economic and cultural benefits to the United States. Trump constantly talks about protecting Americans, but these immigrants are the epitome of good American citizens; they work hard, contribute to our community, and are proud to be here. Although some of these immigrants may be undocumented, they should be protected and welcomed into our country.

“Compassion is what our Jesuit mission refers to; therefore we should care about these issues concerning immigration” Hinze states, “We should care about their potential to be exemplary citizens and their human rights.” President Trump has stated that “when Mexico sends its people they’re sending people that have a lot of problems, and they’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists,” but anyone who comes from a Mexican immigrant family, such as myself, knows this could not be further from the truth. It is more important now than ever to look past negative stereotypes, xenophobia, racism, and discrimination and highlight the need for compassion, acceptance, and diversity. We must support programs that protect and support both legal and illegal immigrants, recognize our country’s dependence on immigrants, understand turning away refugees and immigrants is both ironic and immoral, and accept an evolving national identity not only because it is what we are taught to do through Fordham’s Jesuit values, but also because it upholds the values of being American.

As stated by Fordham University, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has provided a measure of hope and stability for thousands of children and young adults who are in this country as a result of choices made by their parents. DACA has allowed nearly 800,000 young people the opportunity to work and study without the threat of deportation. They are high school and college students; they are parents of young children, homeowners, teachers, and taxpaying workers. Many of these young people have known no home other than the United States. Without Congressional action soon, the DACA program will end on March 5, 2018 - putting hundreds of thousands of young people at risk of deportation to a country that they do not know; or cause U.S.-born children to lose their parents to deportation.