Keep the Door Open
By James Goldin, Class of 2018
In 1883, Emma Lazarus wrote a sonnet that would capture the meaning of America for millions of immigrants. The words of the “The New Colossus” proclaimed America to be the place where anyone could come and be welcomed. For much of the 20th century, we stuck by these words – true, we did have a quota system, but if someone wanted to come to America and was willing to work, they would be able to do so.
However, in recent years the issue of immigration, especially of those here illegally from places like Latin America, has become a hot topic. Many cry that immigrants here illegally are stealing jobs or are overburdening our social infrastructure. To those who use this rhetoric, I say you fail in three ways: morally, socially and economically.
Morally, those on the right have very little to stand on. Many of the immigration laws in the past and those that Republicans are arguing for now are thinly veiled attempts at racial bias. That’s what has always been done; around the turn of the 20th century it was the Irish; in the 1920s, it was those of Eastern and Southern European descent; and now in the 21st century, it is those from Latin and South America.
Does anyone think illegal immigration would be this much of an issue if Canadians formed the majority of those sneaking across our borders? These are people who are often escaping violence, drug wars, corrupt governments, abject poverty and native nepotistic societies where only a few can rise. These people can’t wait to trudge through our antiquity, racist and sluggish immigration policies. They have to leave their countries now or risk losing their property, family and sometimes their lives. Many illegal immigrants want nothing more than to live in a society where they can work in peace without the fear of gangs, drug dealers and corrupt public officials. If America is that place, then they should be able to come here.
With regards to social arguments against illegal immigration, those on the right fail again. No evidence has shown that areas with an increasing immigrant population experience higher crime rates; in fact, the opposite may be true. Many of the urban and rural centers along the West Coast in recent years are experiencing lower crime rates, and the same is true in New York City and Miami. While this may just be a reflection of a lowering crime rate independent of immigration, it at least debunks claims that immigrants – both legal and illegal – bring crime to areas. Other social issues, such as the supposed failure of illegal immigrants to learn English, are simply not true. Within 10 years of arrival, more than 75 percent of immigrants speak English well, and the demand for adult English classes far outpaces supply.
Economically, illegal immigrants are not draining our economy. They are not burdening the middle class, and they are not dragging the middle class into poverty. First off, and this may come as a surprise to many people, illegal immigrants pay taxes. Immigrants pay in the form of income, property and sales tax at the federal and state level. Undocumented immigrants pay income taxes; this is evidenced by the Social Security Administration’s “suspense file,” which is a file that lists taxes that cannot be matched to workers’ names and social security numbers. Illegal immigrants also provide a cheap source of labor that certain state economies rely on. The economies of states like Georgia and Arizona experienced downturns when they implemented more regulation of illegal immigration. These tighter regulations were revoked because it’s a simple fact that illegal immigrants are now required for certain economies to be viable, due to the cheap labor they provide for jobs that are not desired.
Our immigration system needs to be changed; we need to allow those who want to live here to be able to do so in a timely manner. America was once a beacon of hope for the world – let’s keep it that way.
The System is Broken
By Olivia Detato, Class of 2017
Over this past summer, the topic of illegal immigration was rapidly brought into the spotlight as the number of people crossing into the United States via the southern border became known to the American public. It was stunning to learn that the number of illegal immigrants crossing the border had doubled as compared to previous years, with a particularly sharp rise in the number of unaccompanied children coming into the United States. Border patrol was overwhelmed as thousands flooded into the country. After travelling thousands of miles, immigrants were taken into inundated shelters that lacked provisions and the ability to provide proper care. Many were outraged as
President Obama stood by.
According to a CNN poll, Americans ranked illegal immigration as the most important issue facing the nation in July. In the past, the majority of illegal immigrants in the country were confined to the southern United States and California, but this is no longer the case. Now vast populations of illegal immigrants reside in the northern United States, as far northward as Massachusetts. According to The New York Times, many are settling in New Jersey as well. Approximately 12 million illegal immigrants are currently in the United States. Of that 12 million, 52 percent are from Mexico.
What was striking over the past few months was the sharp rise in amount of people crossing the border from Guatemala and Honduras. No longer does Mexico contribute the highest amount of individuals entering the United States. In fact, the number of Mexican citizens entering the United States illegally has actually decreased. Travelers journey from the south, making their way north through Mexico via trains and buses. Pictures have been taken of hundreds of people sitting atop cargo trains, heading for the United States. The journey for those from Guatemala is over 3,000 miles. This trip is extremely dangerous, particularly for those travelling alone. Travelers go hours on end without food and water, and shelter is hard to come by. Robbers attack during the night, taking the few possessions that people are able to carry with them. These people leave to escape poverty-ridden lives, danger and domestic violence. Many come with nothing but the clothes on their back and the hope of the American Dream.
There is bipartisan agreement that the immigration system in the United States is broken. The rise in immigration this summer points to this. Dissention, however, lies in how to fix the system. With thousands of people already in this country illegally, there is heated debate as to how to solve this problem. Many firmly believe that assimilating and integrating people here illegally is the best solution. Others counter that the law needs to set harsh penalties and deport those who are undocumented. The rationale behind this view is that undocumented people overwhelm shelters and healthcare networks, stressing social services provided by taxpayers. The GOP is united in its condemnation of President Obama’s policies regarding illegal immigration, in that they are extremely lax. Yet Congress cannot reach a consensus regarding a new policy to implement. Decisions stand with the American voters as how to best solve the problem. For now, the debate continues.