Both my parents immigrated to the United States for the opportunity to live lives with better opportunities, not just for themselves but for their families as well. As a proud daughter of immigrants, I can confidently say that’s what most immigrants want. They want to provide for their families and oftentimes that means picking up their lives from their home countries and moving to another.
My mother immigrated from Mexico when she was only nine years old and my father immigrated from Jamaica at 16. My household’s motto was, “It never matters where you come from but how much work you put in.”
Immigrants have been coming to the United States since the beginning of the country. People in our country have had a problem with immigrants for a long time, but in recent years, and with the election of Trump, the negative sentiment toward immigrants has drastically increased. They have joined Trump in his movement to “build the wall” and keep immigrants from other countries out, disregarding that our country was built by immigrants.
I saw an emotionally moving viral video the other day, in which three girls recited a spoken word poem that they wrote together. Every word was spoken with clear and piercing passion, but one line stood out in particular. “They built us brand new shopping malls so we forget where we are really standing, on the bones of the Hispanics, on the bones of the slaves, on the bones of Native Americans, on the bones of those who died just to speak,” the girls said. That’s exactly what happens; people tend to forget all the sacrifices that immigrants have made to come to our country and build for us.
Recently this week I went to hear award-winning journalist Sonia Nazario speak at the Pyle Center. She talked about her best selling book “Enrique’s Journey,” and the journey she has taken herself to document the experiences of immigrants. Nazario aptly noted the hypocrisy of the United States declaring “never again” following World War II. Despite acknowledging our mistake of inaction during the Holocaust, we are unfortunately exhibiting a similar mentality in 2018. People in other countries are living through their own forms of government oppression and genocides. How are we just going to sit back and not help them?
Today, immigrant children are being forced, without any representation, to defend themselves. Nazario proclaimed the occurrence of “kids showing up in court without lawyers [as] a mockery of our judicial system,” and I couldn’t agree more. These are kids that are scared, afraid and can barely speak English, yet we expect them to be able to defend their case before a judge by themselves.
The ACLU has been keeping count of how many days it has been since the government officially announced that separated families would be reunited. It has been 70 days. 70 days. That is completely unbelievable and unacceptable. Instead of welcoming them with open arms, we put kids in cages and separate infants from their parents without proper protocol to ensure the government knows where every child is ending up. Obviously, there is a certain process for immigrants to grant legal access to our country, but it is our government’s responsibility to help those fleeing their country for safety.
My family and I went to an immigration march in our hometown of Los Angeles this summer. It was such a collaborative space where all people were welcome and all cultures were celebrated. Let’s foster this type of positive space everywhere and hold the government accountable for their cruelty. At the end of the day, immigrants have always, and will continue, to make America great!
Chelsea is a sophomore studying journalism and Spanish with a certificate in gender and women's studies. What do you think about the topic of immigration? How do you think the university should address these issues for students? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.