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Can't Talk | August 9, 2020

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News Flash: Immigrants Are People, Too

News Flash: Immigrants Are People, Too

Last month was the one-year anniversary of my naturalization ceremony, but instead of celebrating I’ve found myself overcome by a mess of complicated emotions. I may be an official citizen of the United States now, but I will always be an immigrant, and seeing news about how President Trump wants to reduce legal immigration to the U.S. is crushing. He supports plans to reduce the number of “uneducated” immigrants in favor of those with more attractive points on their resume, such as doctors, engineers, and lawyers. His argument is one that has been made before: that restricting immigration will be economically beneficial for the country—but that’s a flawed concept that has been disproved time and time again. As one New York Times reporter writes, “…the prevailing view among economists is that immigration increases economic growth, improving the lives of the immigrants and the lives of the people who are already here.”

Sadly, the current administration has made their opinion clear, and the current proposal to reduce legal immigration is just further proof. The New York Times article goes on to list the details of the proposal: “The legislation would award points based on education, ability to speak English, high-paying job offers, age, record of achievement and entrepreneurial initiative.” This proposal sends the message that some people are more valuable than others.

Just typing that made me want to throw up a little, but how can I not conclude that this is how politicians view us—especially since the restrictions would not apply to natural-born citizens? How can I support something that would become an unjust law? “An unjust law,” as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. writes in his 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” “is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law… Any law that degrades human personality is unjust… It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority.” Of course, Dr. King was writing during the Civil Rights Movement, but I believe his words still ring true today.

There is always razor-sharp focus on immigration and not enough focus on the immigrant. Conversations always seem to veer toward the economy, asking “how can we benefit from immigration?” If the benefits aren’t immediately recognizable, immigration often takes the blame for other issues. But what about the people? The millions of humans who leave their homes in search for something different in the United States, the “land of the free?” Do their lives not matter?

The life of an immigrant isn’t easy, no matter where you’re from or where you’re going. The feeling of “otherness” is a burden that never quite goes away, and I’m speaking from personal experience. Are we measured not by the content of our character but by what we can provide for the economy? We are people, not your workhorses. We have families and histories, hopes and fears, and our time on this planet is just as valuable as anyone’s, regardless of education, socioeconomic status, country of origin, religion, or skin color. Witnessing how the president and government regard people like me is not only incendiary, but also deeply hurtful on both a personal and sociopolitical level.

National borders are social constructs. They’re just lines on a map. We are all citizens of the world, and the sooner we all realize that we are all just people instead of thinking in terms of “us” versus “them,” the sooner we may get to see a better world.  

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