Immigrants: criminals or people?

Father and son look out into the distance at their opportunity for a better life.

Graphic by Stephanie Arana

Father and son look out into the distance at their opportunity for a better life.

Immigrant: A person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence. Although this definition seems straightforward, there are many different opinions surrounding it.

What do you think when you hear the word “immigrant”? To me, immigrants are mainly people who are wanting to come to a country to build a better life. Not everybody thinks this way, though: the first word some may think of is “illegal.” It’s easy to see immigrants as burdens and criminals trying to take away Americans’ opportunities for their own success and happiness. America has always been seen as a country where there is more potential for happiness, success, and the so-called “American Dream.” But the current immigration system changes very rapidly with its harsh laws and policies and is a perfect example of how someone’s humanity can be taken away from them in a second.

Today the United States has more immigrants than any other country in the world. I.C.E, also known as the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was created in 2003. They have more than 20,000 law enforcement and support personnel in more than 400 offices in the United States and around the world. I.C.E have separated more than 5,400 children from their families at the border in 2019, according to NBC News. After President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, nearly 3,000 children were separated from their parents at the border. 545 children that were separated during the procedures of this policy still can’t find their parents. 

Now think about this: these parents are risking everything to give their children a better chance at life and have a more prosperous career in America”

Now think about this: these parents are risking everything to give their children a better chance at life and have a more prosperous career in America. Then, they lose everything as soon as they get here by being separated from their own children. Imagine watching your entire world getting ripped out of your arms and not knowing if you’re going to see them in a week, a month, a year or ever again. It’s dehumanizing for a  child to be treated like an animal by being put in cages. On top of that, parents are stuffed in rooms that are over-occupied. All because these immigrants seem “dangerous.”

Vice President-elect, Kamala Harris stated at a rally in Nevada, “[We will] get rid of any policy that is about separating children from their parents, any policy that is about putting babies in cages. We will renew our promise to our dreamers [and] reinstate DACA”. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a US immigration policy that gives protection from deportation to children who come across the border and they also become eligible for a work permit. This policy is important because it gives these children hope and motivation that they can succeed and have a choice. It keeps their “American Dream” alive and proves to them that they are people, they are human and that they matter.