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The American Promise

Picture this: it is your first day of school and you are nervous. Exceptionally nervous. You do not know anyone yet, and you are doing this all alone. Gathering your courage, you walk up to the front door where tall, imposing faces surround you. You reach out your hand, but the knob will not budge. It is locked. You’re shut out, but you don’t give up. Instead, you walk around the back to find a different entrance.

This time you get in, and you wish you stayed outside because you are now in the midst of chaos. There are kids everywhere speaking rapid fire in languages you do not understand and objects flying in the air that you must duck to avoid. But instead of turning around to leave, you remember all the sacrifices you made to get to this place and continue on down the hall.

You duck as a paper airplane whizzes past your head and take a few more steps forward, but as you slowly walk past each kid, they all start yelling and screaming at you: “Go back to where you came from!” “You don’t belong here!” “Get out!” Your eyes widen and you want to cry, but you just shuffle forward, because no matter what doors are shut, airplanes thrown, and obscenities shouted, you keep moving forward. This is one example of what immigrants could face everyday.

Immigrants journey to the U.S. in hopes of opportunity and the American dream, but while a select few will reach that, most will not. Immigrants will be met with lower wages, language gaps, and higher chances of poverty. Furthermore, this issue must also be viewed through the lens of structural racism: it is blatantly clear that non-white immigrants are treated much worse than white immigrants. Looking at data according to an article on U.S. immigration policy by Charles Kamasaki of the Brookings Institute, while 57% of immigrants are Hispanic, an overwhelming 90% of deportations are those of Latin American origin. Moreover, Mohamad Moslimani of the Pew Research Center reports that around 79% of immigrants without a green card say they fear deportation. Immigrants don’t come here for nothing. Because of structural racism, they risk being deported back to where they were trying to leave. Additionally, one must consider how scores of European immigrants unlawfully immigrated to the U.S. from the 1900s to 1960s and faced little persecution, compared to how unlawful immigration by people of color is treated with aggression and onslaught.

While the largely non-white immigrant populations face harassment and hostility, they are essential to the United States. A study from the U.S. Joint Economic Committee has found that 18% of essential workers are immigrants and ¾ of undocumented immigrants are classified as essential. The U.S. immigration system is clearly contradictory, as the government searches to find undocumented immigrants and deport them without considering how necessary they are to our society and economy. Meanwhile, people who oppose immigration often make the argument that “immigrants are taking up jobs” and “destroying the economy,” but statistics again from the Joint Economic Committee show that immigrants make up 25% of new businesses in America, which in turn creates more jobs and more economic benefits.

Empathy is needed when thinking of immigrants. As a member of the human race, one has the obligation to help one another. And though no single person can change the simple facts of racism, bigotry, and anti-immigration policies, the first step toward justice is acknowledgment of a problem. America was built by immigrants, and today, it is kept running by immigrants. The U.S. needs to stop crossing its fingers behind its back and keep its word. Only then, will the American promise be fulfilled.

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Lucy Mayer, Staff Writer
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