Tensions were high; a lack of religious freedom, a concept largely unknown at that time, was rife; and the whispers of persecution became seemingly more realistic with each dreadful day that passed by. Drastic times call for drastic measures, as we say. Thus, in September of 1620, around 100 men and women drastically boarded a boat called the “Mayflower” and set sail for what was known only as the “New World” knowing very well that they would most likely never return home. These would be first of millions of immigrants that would voyage across the Atlantic to the land mass now known as North America.
It would take another four months for these brave pioneers to finally land at Plymouth Rock and establish the colony of Plymouth. The European presence continued to grow over the years as more and more people learned of the freedoms and potentials that the New World had to offer. But as time went on Colonials that wanted more autonomy and less taxes would continue to butt heads with British Loyalists who were adamant about enforcing said taxations. Fast forward to the year 1776 and America, as we now know it, was born.
History serves as a beautiful reminder of the fact that we are indeed a nation of immigrants. Our tapestry is woven from a vast quantity of fabrics; Irish, Chinese, Polish, Slavic, Italian, Russian, French, Dutch, Wolof, Akan, Mbundu (though of course I am obligated to mention that the majority of Africans were forced to America against their will during the Slave Trade), Brazilian, Mexican, Dominican, and so on. Truly, there are too many to list.
Immigrants Should Not be Mass Deported
To call for, and act upon, the deportation of migrants that have no criminal record is a disgusting slap in the face to our nation and what it stands for. 150,000 child migrants are now at risk of being deported by our current administration once they reach the age of 18. Most of these migrants have been coming from gang-ridden countries in Central America such as Honduras and El Salvador since 2014. They arrived mostly alone and are undocumented thus creating a new classification of migrant that has produced a unique set of challenges for our legal system. These children drastically fled their homelands at such young ages, or were brought here by their parents, and came to America in hopes of reaching a country that would give them the peace and quality of life that they deserve just as they were given to hundreds of thousands from across the world before.
As is the case with most immigrants in general, children and young people that come to America develop loyalty as they spend more time here. Eventually they can even become citizens, one of the highest forms of loyalty a person can undertake for a country, and fully cement their allegiance. These children will thus contribute to our country, as they get older, through their technological discoveries, service in the military, and purchasing power. Immigrants are not takers: they are givers.
Fear of immigrants, or xenophobia in its worst form, is a “disease” that is often based upon lies, exaggerations, and an irrational desire to protect “us” from “them”. The notion that immigrants are exceptionally prone to crime is overly exaggerated, as the Cato Institute noted that “nonimmigrants” are incarcerated at almost twice the rate of illegal immigrants and three times that of legal ones. The educational accomplishments of the children of immigrants are remarkable too, noting that 33 out of 40 of the finalists in the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search were immigrants while the other 7 were children to “nonimmigrants”. We should not treat our immigrants as outcasts that have invaded “our” territory. We should instead see them as strangers that have walked onto our field and deserve to play on our team.
Remembering the Past Contributions of Our Immigrants
America is endlessly indebted to its immigrants for so much of its growth and so many of its contributions to the world. Let us not forget that much of America’s railroads that were built during the 1860’s, which consequently allowed the “Gilded Age” and all of the economic growth that came with it, were constructed by Chinese laborers while they endured intolerable work conditions and rampant racism. Danish immigrant Louis Lassen invented the hamburger in 1895. Irving Berlin, a Siberian immigrant, wrote “God Bless America” during the summer of 1918. Google was invented by Soviet-born computer scientist Sergey Brin. The list goes on, and on, and on. Where would America be today if these people were thrown out a few years after arriving? Who is to say that the immigrants of today will not become the leaders, thinkers, CEO’s, and inventors of tomorrow?
Congress is currently clashing over the best way to properly reform immigration. Programs such as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) are at risk of being cut or removed altogether. The fate of hundreds of thousands of immigrants hangs tenuously in the political air. The time has come to make a decision. A decision that favors allowing immigrants to enter and stay, while also imposing strong vetting regulations in order to weed out potential threats, would be ideal for this country.
I call for all Americans to recount what it means to be American and to remember what our great nation stands for. I ask that we remember the immigrants that helped make this nation great and to show clemency to those who wish to extend this legacy of greatness. Remember the Mayflower and those men and women who, hundreds of years ago, came to this continent to seek freedom and a quality life for their children. Recount the timeless words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-post to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”.
We must not allow fear to compel us to lower our lamp.