Immigration: Is It really a big deal?

By Nina Otebele, Outreach Manager

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Our society tends to portray immigration in a negative light.

We hear all the time on the news and from our own president about how dangerous undocumented immigrants are and how we need to build a wall to keep them out. The fact that all this is happening is ridiculous. There isn’t a reason to fear immigrants, undocumented or otherwise.

According to the Pew Research Center, 45 percent of Americans don’t believe that immigrants help the United States. Many Americans see immigrants as criminals, drug dealers, etc. One such American is President Donald Trump.

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” he said at his presidential campaign announcement at Trump Tower in Manhattan more than three years ago.

© HAWKEYE Lin Miyamoto

Not all immigrants are criminals. The “build a wall” propaganda is based solely on stereotypes. In fact, a 2018 study from the Cato Institute found that immigrants have a lower arrest and criminal conviction rate than native-born Americans. In 2015, criminal convictions overall were 50 percent lower for immigrants compared to previous years, according to the Cato Institute.

There is also a fear that immigrants take jobs from Americans. Studies done by the Obama administration have shown that immigration actually helps our economy. The administration wrote on its website that 18 percent of businesses are made up of immigrants. This increases the employment rate in our country. This means Americans are getting more jobs, not losing them.

Immigration also raises Americans’ annual salaries. Between 1990 and 2004, increased immigration rates were correlated with increasing earnings of Americans by 0.7 percent according to a study by the University of California Davis.

At a naturalization ceremony (a ceremony that welcomes new U.S. citizens into the country) held at the White House in 2012, President Barack Obama said, “The lesson of these 236 years is clear – immigration makes America stronger. Immigration makes us more prosperous. You are all one of the reasons that America is exceptional. You’re one of the reasons why, even after two centuries, America is always young, always looking to the future, always confident that our greatest days are still to come.”

Immigrants as a whole shouldn’t be labeled as drug dealers or criminals. They are not trying to smuggle drugs into our country. They are just people, like you and me. We should be treating them as people. It breaks my heart to see how divided our country is, just because of stereotypes that are not true.

The fact that we have a president who isn’t open minded to the many reasons why people immigrate to the United States is unacceptable and ignorant. Being close minded to issues like this isn’t going to help this country grow and prosper.

Most people immigrate to other countries to find better work, escape violence or extreme poverty. Countries including Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala are known for their high poverty rate and violence. In fact, El Salvador is the most violent country in the world, with 60 deaths per 100,000 of population.

We tend to forget that not all people are bad and want to cause trouble. Sure, those types of people exist, but most people just want to live peacefully without worries and be able to protect their families.

Undocumented immigration is a controversial issue in this debate. I hate how undocumented immigrants are currently being treated. Undocumented immigrants who are caught are detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

More than 2,300 children were separated from their families this year. This is unacceptable and inhumane. Imagine someone taking you away from your family just because your parents wanted to give you a better life. We need to also consider the fact that these children will be mentally scarred by this traumatic event.

According to Psychology Today, studies have shown that if a child suddenly loses a parent through death, abandonment or a prolonged separation, the child will experience intense fear, panic, depression, helplessness and hopelessness.

“The child has lost his lifeline, and often his sense of self,” one study states.

The fact that we have a president who isn’t open minded to the many reasons why people immigrate to the United States is unacceptable and ignorant.”

— Nina Otebele

The worst part about it is that children sometimes blame themselves for a parent’s disappearance. According to Psychology Today, the child naturally concludes: “I must have done something wrong, otherwise my parent wouldn’t have left. I must be bad.”

Many of these immigrants are falling ill and are not receiving care. One article written by The Nation shared a story about an immigrant with a chronic heart condition. ICE repeatedly ignored his requests for assistance with a problem with his pacemaker, he said.

“When I was detained I thought at some point I would be dead,” he is quoted in the article. “They think we are animals and we just have to accept whatever they say.”

More than 3.2 million immigrants sought asylum from their country in 2015. Raising a family in poor or violent conditions isn’t healthy or safe. It is understandable why these people might seek a better life in the United States.

I believe that instead of being close-minded about undocumented immigrants we should help them. They are people just like you and me. If we help these countries become more livable and safe, we could decrease the number of undocumented immigrants coming into our country. This will prevent them from getting caught and going to these cruel detention centers. Helping these places out might encourage people to come to the United States legally.

So maybe instead of us spending millions on border security, we should be putting that money toward these countries. Together as a country we should help reduce the poverty rate and the violence. If for some reason we can’t do this, we should at least improve the quality of the detention centers.

There are many organizations devoted to helping these countries. One example is the nonprofit Habitat for Humanity. This organization is dedicated to constructing, improving and repairing homes in a lot of places include Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico.

In fact, we as teenagers can volunteer and help construct and repair houses. They also accept donations.

Another organization is Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP), which helps families who are seeking asylum. As a community, we should spread awareness about the treatment undocumented immigrants are facing. With more people understanding the issue, we have a chance to change things for the better. At the end of the day, we should be more open-minded toward immigration. Assuming that all immigrants are drug dealers and are evil is just making the problem worse. That stereotype is why so many people are pushing for a “wall” which, overall, isn’t going to fix the problem.

Instead, let’s treat people the way we would want to be treated.

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