You don’t care about immigrant rights; at least, that’s what the current administration is hoping.
In September of 2017, President Donald Trump announced an effort to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This act protected underage immigrants from immediate deportation, offering them the chance to gain work permits.
However, in June of 2020, the Supreme Court blocked DACA’s recission, ruling it was arbitrary and capricious. While this is a victory of sorts for the immigrant community, it does nothing for the families with children detained in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) camps.
During 2018 a daily average of 42,188 immigrants were held by ICE.
The President would like to see these detention numbers go up. He wants to build a wall between the United States and Mexico to make sure illegal immigrants don’t advance into our borders.
President Trump overlooks that many immigrants travel to the country without money, get jobs, save up, and become citizens, as did our forefathers. The Statue of Liberty reads,
“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-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”-Emma Lazarus
You’re Not Welcome Here
Gone are the days when the US welcomes the huddled masses of the poor.
Trump overlooks the merits of the immigrant population in general.
Without immigrants, our country would be crippled. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2019, there were 28.4 million foreign-born persons in the labor force, making up 17.4%, half of which were Hispanic. What isn’t mentioned is what I’ve seen first-hand. Many illegal immigrants are doing the jobs most non-immigrants don’t want to do.
The Wine Industry
Having grown up in the wine country of Northern California, I was surrounded by grape vineyards. The grapes stretched for miles. Tourists were brought in by the busload to venture on wine-tasting tours.
The grape industry’s unseen side is that illegal immigrant Hispanic families stay in small shacks on the vineyard and get up at 5:30 a.m. to pick grapes before the heat hits the triple digits. I had the privilege of staying with one such family.
Their home was a small wooden shack lined with bunk beds. The floor was concrete, with one light hanging overhead. There were a television and a small loveseat. The bathroom housed a small standup shower and a toilet, and just enough room to turn around.
The men who lived there all got up before sunrise to work on the vineyards. They reported that whether the temperature hit 110 degrees or not, they would work.
They ate peppers with breakfast because they claimed it prevented sickness, an ailment they could not afford. Days off were not an option. These men worked for minimum wage, bending over and picking grapes eight hours a day, six days a week.
While the job was open to anyone, I never saw a white person in the fields picking grapes. Being a field worker isn’t a job most people want to do.
I’ve often heard it said of immigrants that “they’re stealing our jobs.” It infuriates me because I have yet to see a white person stand in front of the hardware store waiting to get picked up as extra day labor or work as a field worker.
The Jobs Immigrants Hold
Illegal immigrants are not the bulk of immigrants, and all Immigrants are respectable people with jobs in many professions.
According to CBS News, In 2018, .6% percent of foreign-born workers were lawyers, judges, and law clerks. No one can steal a job like this; he or she must earn it.
Think you don’t need immigrants? Think again. Next time you need to telephone a police officer or the fire department, know that you may be calling on an immigrant. This is because .9% or foreign-born workers make up protective services.
Foreign-born citizens are in the helping professions, .9% of which are social workers, counselors, or clergy.
The medicine you take — Thank a scientist. Did you know that 1.2 percent of foreign-born workers are biologists, physicists, chemists, and economists?
Immigrants make up healthcare workers, fishermen, comedians, artists, architects, professional athletes, etc. (CBS News)
These professions likely aren’t what you think of when you hear the word immigrant. The media inaccurately portray immigrants.
According to Forbes magazine, immigrants are depicted as less educated than they are, as criminals, never transgender, and mostly as Latino or Hispanic. Representing immigrants as uneducated criminals does not endear the public to their plight.
The Good News
The good news is that when President Trump detained immigrant children in cages, the public was outraged. Media covered the story, and Tweets blew up all over Twitter, denouncing the horrific behavior.
The question is- is it enough? When the public got angry, did the treatment change? It did not.
In July of 2019, Senior Researcher Clara Long reported on ICE detention center conditions where children were interviewed about their detention conditions.
The children reported being held in cages without any adults for weeks. Many of the children were two or three years old, cared for by seven and ten-year-old children.
When the children became ill, they were placed in the “flu cell,” a room with a mattress on the floor where up to twenty-five other children were feverish and vomiting. It was apparent that no one was trying to reunite children with their families, despite the law stating that children be detained no more than 72 hours.
When atrocities such as these make it to mainstream media, they are a three-minute blurb on late night news. Citizens may become outraged, but feel powerless, not knowing what they can do to institute change.
What Can Be Done
Traditionally significant change comes from a mass public uprising. The public must band together and refuse to accept the unfair treatment of immigrants. I’ll leave you with a list of ways you can make a difference in immigrants’ lives today:
- Donate to a cause that provides legal help to immigrant families separated from their children
- Support families separated at the border.
- Share accurate news reporting of immigrant stories on social media.
- Write your local congressman to speak out on behalf of immigrants.
- Organize local protests of unfair treatment and detention of immigrant children
- Listen openly when immigrants share their perspective with you, don’t pretend to know how they feel.
- Remember that immigrants are me, you, everyone, and the people who make up our country.
- Speak out any time you see discrimination against an immigrant. Don’t allow belittling comments to slip by unnoticed. Speak out.
- Read the ACLU’s fact-checking statement to stay informed about accurate information around the state of immigrant treatment in the United States.
- Sign up for the American Civil Liberty Union’s People Power Network
- Volunteer for the Immigration Justice Campaign
- Volunteer for the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
Does the current war on immigrants anger you? What actions do you feel ready to take? What meaningful conversations have you participated in about immigration?
“5 Things You Can Do To Fight For Immigrant Families.” ACLU of Washington, 9 July 2019, www.aclu-wa.org/pages/5-things-you-can-do-fight-immigrant-families.
“Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 25 Aug. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deferred_Action_for_Childhood_Arrivals.
Fieldstadt, Elisha. “U.S. Jobs Most Held by Immigrants, Ranked.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 5 Aug. 2019, www.cbsnews.com/pictures/u-s-jobs-most-held-by-immigrants/17/.
“Immigration Detention in the United States.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Aug. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_detention_in_the_United_States.
“Latest Immigration Updates.” Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, 2020, www.nwirp.org/resources/latest-immigration-updates/.
Leonhardt, Megan. “Want to Help Migrant Children at the Border? Here’s How to Donate.” CNBC, CNBC, 27 June 2019, www.cnbc.com/2019/06/26/how-to-donate-to-help-migrant-children-at-the-border.html.
“The New Colossus.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 24 Aug. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_New_Colossus.
“Written Testimony: ‘Kids in Cages: Inhumane Treatment at the Border.’” Human Rights Watch, 6 Sept. 2020, www.hrw.org/news/2019/07/11/written-testimony-kids-cages-inhumane-treatment-border.