Immigration: a Problem or Solution?

My grandparents immigrated to America from the Dominican Republic and have since made names for themselves through hard work and sacrifice- things all immigrants carry with them. The way the current administration portrays the immigrant lifestyle is simply ignorant. If they considered the perspective of someone who’s foreign-born, they’d understand that the immigrant life is essentially the American Dream: using nothing but hope to push forward and unlock opportunities.

For starters, it’s important to note immigrants aren’t the cause of crime, though officials are implying otherwise. A study done by the Texas Department of Public Safety found that in 2015, there were 56% less illegal immigrant criminal convictions compared to native-born citizens. Additionally, the crime rate for legal immigrants was roughly 85% less than the native-born rate. Besides, if someone goes through all the trouble of getting here, not to mention the incredibly long process of becoming a citizen, what’s the point of leading a life of crime? Despite this, the current Administration has implied multiple times that immigration has indeed inflated the crime rate. According to them, Latins rape, steal, murder, sell drugs, and take the jobs of hard-working Americans. Additionally, it’s not uncommon for someone from the Middle East to be labeled a “terrorist,” despite having lived a peaceful life.

Here’s the irony: President Trump has blamed much of his criticism on “fake news,” but seems to be the main person spreading false information. Nearly all of his interviews or speeches contain strong expressions of xenophobia, which in turn get passed onto his supporters. Some won’t fact-check him but will take his word for Gospel. More still are happy to use his words as reasoning to ridicule, assault, or harm people of color. Therefore, not only do immigrants struggle with starting a new life, but they also have to handle being faced with bigotry daily- bigotry which is being spread and defended by the words and actions of some politicians today.

One of the most important issues ultimately feeding into immigration is terrorism: the unlawful use of violence and intimidation to pursue political goals, usually against civilians. When someone mentions the word “terrorism,” every American’s mind jumps to 9/11. And why not? It’s the event that has inadvertently shaped our country today. We see the effects of 9/11 in everything from airports to media. The reality is we’ve blamed all terrorism on the Middle East. In fact, one of the most common TV villains is a Mulsim man. Some media today contains blatant Islamophobia, and it’s not uncommon at all for women wearing hijabs to be ridiculed in public. But why? Because they come from a different religion? Because we’ve taken the actions of the few and assumed they represent the ideas of the many? Muslim immigrants battle prejudice daily. As a matter of fact, information collected by the Huffington Post found there were twice as many terrorist attacks committed by right-wing extremists than by Islamic radicals from 2008-2016.

While the focus has been primarily on people of color supposedly “contaminating” the country, it’s often far-right extremists who are committing dangerous crimes. In 2016, a white man in Florida beat a Latino man on the head reportedly “for Donald Trump.” At the same time, the hateful words “Make America White Again” and a swastika were written on a softball dugout in New York. It gets worse: members of the Ku Klux Klan, which has recently been on the rise these past few years, published fliers supporting Trump’s promises of “building a wall and removing illegals.” The main link of these events? Each happened on November 9th, 2016, just a day after the election of Donald Trump. Meanwhile, immigrants are leaving their mark on food, sports, entertainment, and industry. Jin Sook Chang, a co-founder of Forever 21, immigrated to the United States in 1981 and has acquired a $1.5 billion net worth, according to Forbes. Pakistani immigrant Shahid Khan arrived in 1967, worked as a dishwasher, and now employs 12,000 people. From Mexico, Maria Contreras-Sweet worked under former President Obama and is now CEO of ProAmérica Bank.

Evidently, immigration makes the country run. It’s become clear immigrants aren’t even remotely the cause of crime in America, are strong enough to face bigotry daily, and have positive impacts on the country. Acceptance is long past due: as a society, we must come to face the fact that the American Dream is built on the immigrant’s history.