We all know how the immigration debate is taking over our political discourse. There are strong views from both sides of the debate… as we have seen in our own comments section. But will allowing children of undocumented workers financial aid to attend college or join the military really ruin America? Are they really coming to take over the United States, like the communists did in the 50s and 60s?
The DREAM Act, which failed to pass in the Senate on Wednesday, would have allowed some immigrants to move out of the shadows, and into mainstream America. While we are pushing these undocumented workers back into poverty, we are pushing them back into crime. Isn’t the crime these undocumented workers bring a main grievance of those who wish to expel them? When you cast a group out from mainstream, their morals and values will be questioned and compromised, and they will find ways to survive. Educating the immigrant population is a key to solving this problem.
California State Senator Gilbert Cedillo describes the “hysteria” of the immigration debate and the need to educate those already here:
“Studies show that we don’t have enough educated workers,” Cedillo said “That’s why we have to import workers. A substantial portion of the young population is undocumented, and we have to educate them for the future.”
Cedillo said that the current immigration debate is often irrational, much like the widespread fear of communists in the 1950s and radicals of the 1960s.
I believe the immigration debate is grounded in race. Throughout America’s history, those who look and sound different than the white majority have been rejected and marginalized. From Native Americans, to African Americans, to the Chinese, to the Japanese during World War II. This trend is continuing as we are taking away the right to education, deporting undocumented workers, and building a “security” fence along the border.
Maria Echaveste, Bill Clinton’s former Deputy Chief of Staff, describes how legal status is now used to justify racism and discrimination:
“Legal status has become a proxy for discrimination,” Echaveste said. “We live in a society where we can’t discriminate on race or ethnicity but we can use legal status. How do you determine legal status? We’re going to use what we’ve always done, race, ethnicity, language, accent, someone who looks different.”
Americans opposing a path to citizenship need to use empathy when addressing this issue. What is one to do when faced with poverty? Would you wait for the lengthy immigration process to be completed, while your family lacks food and education. There is no social mobility without education.
These immigrants are just trying to better their and their families lives. It is true the immigration system needs an overhaul, it is true that the border is too porous, but we cannot incarcerate or deport 12 million people who are already here. We should be focusing our energy on helping these people get out of poverty and into the mainstream, not shipping them out or locking them up. These are not the communists of the 50s or the radicals of the 60s trying to destroy America, these are just people trying to survive.