Opinion

Raids, court decisions, polarizing rhetoric create tough year for immigrants

businessman joined a crowded presidential race about year ago and commenced his campaign by slandering undocumented immigrants. This businessman has since become the official Republican nominee, espousing a dangerous message that has resonated with millions of people. The tides are turning and it’s uncertain who will be victorious in this election.

The Supreme Court was recently deadlocked in the case of United States v. Texas, which effectively blocked Obama’s plan to grant legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants. U.S. immigrant officials held two major waves of deportation raids this year targeting hundreds of families.

The plight of undocumented immigrants is more dreadful now than it has been in years. With neighboring countries such as Venezuela approaching economic collapse, peaking crime rates in Central America and rising irrational visa restrictions, many have been left in the lurch.

Congress has a propensity for downplaying the hard work of undocumented immigrants, many of whom perform the labor-intensive jobs of the agriculture industry. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s National Agricultural Workers Survey, 41 percent of hired crop farmworkers surveyed between 2007 and 2009 were unauthorized to work in the U.S.

Without migrant workers, the country’s gross domestic product would significantly decrease and food prices would skyrocket. According to a 2015 study from the University of Cyprus and UC Davis, mass deportation of illegal immigrants in the U.S. reduces the number of jobs for natives and legal immigrants.

Under Donald Trump’s proposed immigration plan, most hard-working immigrants would be sent back to their countries, placing the U.S. at risk of economic decline. Hawk-eyed pundits adore using the term “illegal immigrants” to dehumanize these men, women and children as criminals.

However, papers, or lack thereof, should not be a reason for reducing an individual’s dignity. As a fellow immigrant, I prefer to see this situation in a different light.

I once heard civil rights leader John Lewis speak about his life as an activist, his tenure as a congressman and his arrests for protesting. His most recent arrest took place two years ago at Capitol Hill during a rally for immigration reform. He spoke fervently about the matter: “In my eyes, there’s no such thing as an illegal human being.”

It’s safe to say that Congressman Lewis is not alone in his thinking.  The nation has always been a collection of people with ancestors from different countries, backgrounds and creeds seeking opportunities they were deprived of in their home countries.

Let’s not forget about our founding fathers. Alexander Hamilton was not only the subject of a Broadway musical, but he was also an immigrant from the British West Indies who built our country’s financial system.

That leaves me with one sobering thought. For undocumented immigrants in the shadows, this year has been undeservingly difficult. Families have been torn apart. Regardless of party affiliation, we owe thanks to immigrants for developing our country’s infrastructure and culture. Some day hope will pierce through this country’s miasmic politics and immigrants will receive the dignity they deserve.

I, like many others, hope to see that day in my lifetime.

Israel Aragon is a sophomore majoring in psychology.

Featured image courtesy Pixabay user Unsplash

August 31, 2016

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