The issue of immigration took center stage at Univision’s Democratic Presidential Forum, and just last month the Bush Administration unveiled a series of immigration policy reforms. “Work is the magnet of illegal immigration,” said Stewart Baker, Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Policy.
Now I will not pretend to comprehend all of the complexities of the immigration debate, but I nevertheless feel justified in my aversion to merciless measures intended to crack down on illegal immigration. Does anybody else have a problem with our government taking such painstaking efforts to prevent poor undocumented workers from filling lowly positions that are of no interest to degree-obsessed Americans? These immigrants work tirelessly for next to nothing and endure dreadful working conditions to ensure a better life for their children or to escape the economic, political and societal woes of their native soils. They seek opportunity and refuge here in our “land of the free.” How can we deny work to these hard-working, hopeful people?
Sure, they have not followed the lawful path to citizenship, and many do not pay the taxes that legal United States citizens pay, but it’s not difficult to understand why they chose the illegal route. They do so out of fear of the torturously convoluted legal immigration process. How can we expect people without any means of survival to wait endlessly for citizenship that they will likely be refused?
The legal acquisition of citizenship must be made more feasible. Yet this does not seem to be on the immigration reform agenda. Many elitist U.S. citizens and lawmakers have no desire to receive more immigrants even if they’re legal. They worry about job competition, deterioration of the country’s national identity, overpopulation and the depletion of public resources.
As one of the wealthiest countries in the world, I find it hard to believe that the U.S. cannot accommodate a steady stream of immigrants. We cannot merely turn these people away at our borders or deport them. We must provide aid and work diligently to improve the quality of life in the countries from which they emigrate.
Given its privileged status, the U.S. has a humanitarian obligation to help the oppressed and less fortunate. To fulfill this duty, the foremost objective of policymakers entrenched in the immigration debate should be to amend the immigration system to give more people a chance at the American Dream. Secondly, they should endeavor to elevate living conditions in destitute countries. Simply put, if we’re neither going to embrace disadvantaged people who want to devote themselves to our country nor recognize the innumerable positive contributions they make to our lives, then we must facilitate the realization of their hopes and dreams in their homelands.
Victoria Genuardi is a sophomore majoring in communications. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.