Nation of Immigrants
America is a nation of immigrants. Every person reading this article is the child, grandchild or great-grandchild of an immigrant (unless you are of Native American descent). Our ancestors traveled to America’s shores seeking equality and safety from oppression. The gold-paved streets of our cities attracted people from all over the world who wished to leave nations of hopelessness and enter a nation of happiness. Our ‘nation of immigrants’ sets us apart from most other countries in the world. Our melting-pot of cultures, languages, foods and histories allows for a rainbow of diversity to flourish.
Although there have been times throughout our history when nativists attempted to block the influx of immigrants seeking a home, America has changed for the better and learned from its mistakes. No longer do we turn back those escaping countries of embittered battles or famine. We embrace others, as others have embraced us, and we are not selfish enough to prohibit others from partaking in the freedoms that we are so grateful for. Until now.
Recently, there’s been a rise in xenophobia and Islamophobia across the country. This xenophobia and Islamophobia has been festering for some time now, but it all rose to the surface when Donald Trump began his political campaign. When president-elect Trump first began campaigning for the presidency, he said things like: “when Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems to us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” He’s insinuated that illegal immigrants take jobs from American citizens and that a database needs to be kept of Muslim refugees. His campaign promises included building a wall on the border of the United States and Mexico and deporting close to 11 million undocumented immigrants (he has said it’ll be 2-3 million out, right when he takes office.)
Due to Trump’s anti-immigrant campaign and nativist undertones, many Americans who have harbored xenophobic feelings for some time have begun voicing their opinions. Right after Trump won the presidency, middle-school children in Michigan chanted “build that wall” at their Hispanic classmates; the car of a Puerto Rican family was graffitied with the words “Trump” and “Go Home”; and a Muslim Uber driver was verbally harassed by a white motorist, who shouted, “Trump is president a******, so you can kiss your visa goodbye….They’ll deport you soon, don’t worry, you terrorist.” These incidents are highly disturbing, no matter what your political ideology. This goes beyond party lines; it’s bigger than merely Republican or Democrat.
Although Donald Trump has told his supporters to “stop it”, it’s too late. Trump has pushed the ball of racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia, and now it will not stop rolling. Children of undocumented immigrants are afraid of their parents being deported. Hispanic children across the country have been afraid to go to school. And Muslim women are fearful of walking the gold-paved streets of this country in hijabs.
Not only has Trump been critical of undocumented immigrants - he’s directed his ire at refugees as well. Trump has said: “We have to stop the tremendous flow of Syrian refugees into the United States. We don’t know who they are. They have no documentation and we don’t know what they’re planning.” This policy, and the countless others Trump has proposed under the rubric of his “Muslim ban”, is incredibly saddening. Since the war in Syria began in 2011, millions of Syrians have been displaced. Multiple Western countries have taken in thousands and thousands of refugees. President Obama has only proposed accepting 10,000: a modest figure according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Yet, Trump has said that the plan should be suspended because refugees from nations like Syria are threats to national security -- even though refugees are vetted and undergo thorough background checks. Apparently, homeless women, children, and families are a threat to Trump’s national security. When in office, Trump will have the power to reduce the number of accepted refugees from 10,000 to zero.
Trump’s claims and the response that they have evoked from his supporters are alarming. Now that he will be taking office in January with an alt-right chief strategist, they are even more so. His claims threaten to push America back by decades; they threaten to take a nativism that we have buried, and resurrect it. Trump’s campaign was run on the backs of undocumented immigrants and Syrian refugees. He harnessed power by fanning the fears of the people, and the people went along with it.
Americans are afraid of undocumented immigrants and refugees. They want them gone. But if Trump wishes to be a fair and just president, he must abandon his nativist ideal to “Make America Great Again”. He must abandon his ideals of building a wall, deporting undocumented immigrants and not allowing terrified and abandoned Syrians into our free nation. Trump must grind all his campaign promises to dust and be a president for all Americans. He must be the president of the immigrants. He should remember that he himself stems from immigrants, that almost all of the men and women of this country stem from immigrants.
We in particular must remember that in the aftermath of destruction, our people were given the opportunity to rebuild. When their homelands gave them nothing, America granted our grandparents the chance to make something of themselves. Each of us was born from struggle, from the trials and tribulations of immigration and refugee status. We are all immigrants. We need to give those who have not been lucky enough thus far a chance, just as we were given a chance.
America does not need to be made great again. America is already great. She is great because of her diversity. And she will be even greater when all of us accept that.