New immigration policy offers new chance

by Leonardo Castaneda

MCT Campus
MCT Campus

Immigration has been at the heart of what America stands for since its very foundation. Struggling people from around the world have come here hoping to build a better life for themselves and their families — the American Dream. Yet every new wave of hopeful immigrants must deal with the mistreatment and degradation from those who consider that group a blight upon American soil.

As new immigrants struggle to find their place within American culture and society, friction with native citizens is inevitable. Nowhere is this more evident than in California, where record numbers of Latin immigrants are settling in every day. A growing immigrant population mixed with increased unemployment and the perception that immigrants are taking jobs away from Americans makes for an explosive mix. Last year alone, the number of hate crimes against Latinos in California increased by nearly 47 percent. This frightening trend is likely to continue unless drastic measures are taken to change how new immigrants are perceived in California.

Such action was taken this month by the Department of Homeland Security. Currently, the DHS claims its main goal is to deport dangerous individuals – criminals, terrorists and murderers – yet more than 80,000 immigrants whom had never been accused of any wrongdoings were deported last year. In a surprisingly understandable and humane decision, the DHS will now allow for “prosecutorial discretion” when determining whom should and should not be deported. That means local law enforcement agencies can choose whether a specific immigrant’s case warrants deportation. This replaces the current black and white deportation guidelines that in effect treat students and military families the same as murderers and thieves.

This surprising turnaround from the Barack Obama Administration’s previous hard-handed treatment of immigrants recognizes an undeniable reality. Immigration laws are deeply flawed, but deporting students, children and families simply trying to live a better life in America is not the solution. In fact, the vast majority of immigrants contribute to America. Let’s not forget we are in a race with China and India to have the largest, most well-educated workforce for our economy.

The truth of the matter is, a large metal fence does more than prevent intelligent and hardworking individuals from entering the country; it demonizes them, turning those born even 10 miles south of the border into scapegoats for the economic collapse. Even beyond that, this trivial pass-the-blame game builds a wall preventing us from acknowledging the true culprits of this economic meltdown: American politicians spending outrageous amounts of money, a greedy Wall Street and those practicing subprime loaning.

There is hope in this new policy on deportation. An important message has been delivered to all Americans: Immigrants are a valuable resource to America, and deserve to be treated with respect and justice. A blanket immigration policy removes both the good and the bad coming into America, ultimately weakening the potential of our country.

Perhaps we are witnessing a new paradigm in American immigration. If so, we can only hope this new mentality will manifest itself in reformed immigration laws based on understanding a respect for our fellow humans. We need new laws that allow for an increase of legal immigration, through less complicated and expensive channels. By streamlining and simplifying the process, we can allow more immigrants to enter the country legally. They could then become valuable, tax-paying and job-creating members of America, strengthening her socially and economically. What Americans want is an economic recovery. What Americans need is a new Dream Act, a legal method of encouraging immigrants to expand our country intellectually and militarily.

At the very least, this new mentality will serve as a powerful example of how immigrants ought to be treated. There is no blanket guideline or standard that could possibly cover the many different cultures, countries, circumstances, needs and talents of the current wave of immigration. Instead, immigrants should be viewed as individuals, treated with respect and with the basic assumption they are worthy human beings. Lest you forget, this country was founded by immigrants and strengthened through a pursuit of freedom and happiness; forcibly gutting out the very thing that made America strong will only bring further its economic ruin — and an extraordinary number of walls.

—Leonardo Castaneda is an economics and journalism sophomore.