This past week on Sept. 11, amid the continued conversation regarding Trump’s rescinding of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), there is an additional story making waves as it concerns immigrants. As CNN reports, this is about immigrants being granted “temporary protected status,” wherein people in other countries would be allowed to settle in the United States if their country was thrown into life-threatening turmoil. These families, for the majority of them are entire families, are granted “temporary work authorizations and protection from deportation” until it is safe for them to return to their home countries. However, for some of the 440,000 people protected by this program, they’ve been waiting for over 15 years for the status of their countries to return to normal, in the meantime building homes and relationships here in the U.S. This includes people who have come from Honduras, Nicaragua and Haiti, the latter of which is still recovering from the earthquake that occurred in 2010. In the coming months, it will be up to this administration to either extend the program and protect these families, or to cut it off like what was done with DACA. And with the way things have been going, it would be a surprise if Trump decided to act on behalf of these people.
In a recent press briefing reported by The Hill, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders explained that the administration’s renewed focus would be on, among other goals, cutting legal immigration into America in half with the help of the RAISE Act (Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment). According to Slate, the RAISE Act would replace “today’s employment-based immigration system with a streamlined points system, which would prioritize immigrants with valuable skills and high-paying U.S. job offers.” Rather than giving more deference to families of immigrants, this program would place a higher value on those with high-paying, highly-skilled jobs.
This begs the question: what kind of immigrants do we want to see in the United States? For me personally, I want people who think they can build better lives here, who have family here that they want to reunite with and who want to contribute positively to our country no matter the skill level they’re employed at. A capitalistic value isn’t the only one that should be put on our citizens. What people can bring to the job market shouldn’t be a deal breaker in how we decide to let people into our country; we shouldn’t be commodifying people as a way for them to become part of our nation. This isn’t to say that we don’t need hard workers who want to contribute to our economy, because everyone needs to contribute something to make our system work. We just shouldn’t require that all immigrants who want to contribute to America to be highly skilled with six-digit salaries.
This kind of work ethic and want to do good is what I expect from natural born Americans as well. I’m all for raising the standards of our country, but people who are just trying to get by and support themselves and their families are the kinds of people that make America great. They’re who I want to work with and go to school with and be neighbors with. I don’t need ordinary people, especially refugees whose countries have been torn apart, to feel like they need to do everything they can to make life better for me as a natural born American citizen. All I want is for them to contribute, in big or small ways, to making America kinder and more positive by working hard and achieving their goals. The older generation of this country values the ideals of the American Dream so much and much importance is placed on it. This shouldn’t just apply to those already living here; if the American Dream is to remain relevant, it has to be accessible to everyone. It’d be egregious on my part to believe that the majority of immigrants trying to gain access into the U.S. want to do so purely for nefarious reasons, or just to have a place where they can be lazy or commit crimes.
That’s not why people want to come to America. For hundreds of years, we’ve been diligently advertising how many freedoms we have and I’d say that self-promotion has been extremely effective. That’s why immigrants have been coming to America since it was an established place, because they all seek the ideas that we ourselves have put out as the height of achievement. We can’t expect our nation that was built by and occupied entirely of immigrants to now sneer at those who dare to have the same dreams as our past family members. It shows our hypocrisy and our lack of empathy if we do, and is something we’ve done to every new generation that eventually becomes an ugly stain on our history. Immigration laws are complicated and comprehensive, much more so than I may be making them out to be. What I’m talking about is our humanity; as Americans and as people, it shouldn’t be an impossible feat to have empathy for those who seek greater things in our country.
As citizens viewing foreigners coming into our country, we fear a current unknown and that’s not unlike the unknown our own immigrant families faced when coming to this country themselves. In this time of uncertainty, it wouldn’t hurt to reach out with understanding and compassion, so we can once again be proud of this melting pot nation.