Caelan J. California

Immigration is Embedded in American History

Issues of immigration have become much more persistent and prominent over the last decade, specifically in this election cycle, and are, in part, due to the overwhelming refugee crises in the Middle East and Africa. Using a rhetoric of fear to tap into people's concerns regarding immigration will not fix the issue at hand, nor will "building a wall" or "banning all Muslims" from entering the United States. We must find an alternative.

Dear Madam/Mr. President,

Our country was built on the principle of immigration. We are able to identify as Americans today thanks to our ancestors' bravery, which gave them the courage to flee persecution, crises, etc. in search of a better life here. We are all the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren of immigrants, so by treating refugees as burdens or threats to our national identity, we are degrading our histories and our country's roots.

I come from a place of privilege, and I cannot personally attest to the hardships of leaving my homeland to arrive in a completely different country with new cultures, customs, languages, etc. However, I come from a family of immigrants. My mother was born in Sweden and moved from country to country during her childhood until she ended up in America at the age of 16. My great-grandfather fled Ireland and moved to New Jersey in hopes of providing a better life for his children. Today, Americans have a very specific image of what immigrants look like, and I do not fit that bill from outward appearances. We must remember, however, that immigration does not have one "look," and it does not take one identifiable form.

We also need to remind ourselves that it is wrong to make assumptions about a group of people based on things we hear, whether on the news, from our peers, and more, that do not reflect the vast majority of that group. Selective hearing is dangerous, meaning that we must know all the facts and look at the bigger picture before coming to any conclusions. It is morally and ethically wrong to ban an entire demographic from entering the United States simply because we are afraid of the unknown and afraid of change. 

I recognize that a massive influx of immigrants will place a heavy burden on the economy and job market, but to reject these victims all together would be to turn a blind eye to a problem that will affect generations to come. Just look at the facts. There are now more than 21 million refugees worldwide. Governments have a duty to help them, but, more often than not, they deny this responsibility.

I propose that we set up strong refugee systems that allow people to apply for asylum, treat their refugee claims fairly, resettle the most vulnerable of all, and provide basics like education and healthcare. We must allow people to reunite with their relatives and give refugees visas so they don’t have to spend their life savings and risk drowning to reach safety. The United States must increase the number of refugees, specifically from places like Syria, granted entry into our country. Compared to nations in Europe, we are not doing our part in helping those in need.

The political climate surrounding immigration must change as well. We must teach children that xenophobia, racism, discrimination based on religion, etc. are unacceptable. Unfortunately, there are public figures who are spewing hate and creating a bigger wedge between people. With this divide and with this fear, little change can occur.

With open hearts and open minds, we must remove ourselves from our own bubble of security and privilege by going back to our roots and remembering where we come from: families of immigrants. We must remember that above all else, we are human beings living on the same Earth, all with the same basic rights.