Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We have all heard these words countless times growing up in the United States, so much that perhaps many of us have taken them for granted. These words form the principle of which this nation was founded, that anyone could come to the United States in hopes of creating a better life for themselves. All of us are the heirs to this legacy of immigration, without it, the country as we know it would not exist today.
Despite being a nation founded on immigration, the United States is not a country that has always been readily accessible to those that wish to be a part of that legacy. From the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to the modern immigration system that makes it nearly impossible to immigrate today, the United States has a long, sad history of not being the most receptive to newcomers, contradictory to what it would appear that this country stands for.
To say that the current immigration system is broken would be a vast understatement. Every year, thousands die trying to cross the border from Mexico into the United States. Families are torn apart, either by harsh deportation laws that separate children from their families or inhumane detention centers.
Those that aren’t deported are subject to exploitation by employers, and are frequently the subject of violence and rape, with little they can do due to their legal status. They are subjected to all of this for their hope of a better life in the United States. Most of these people want nothing more than to be a legal citizen, but are unable.
The channels for legal citizenship are so ludicrous that many are forced to immigrate illegally. The wait for obtaining a Visa can take years, and the strict limitations and qualifications for obtaining a green card severely limit the avenues one can go through to become a legal citizen. According to the Immigration Policy Center, only 5,000 green cards per year are given to lower skilled immigrants. To simply say that immigrants should “get in line” is ignorant to just how nearly impossible it is for many to become a legal citizen.
Immigration Reform is slowly becoming more of a priority, with President Obama and congress working towards improving the tragic system. This progress is nearly at a crawl however, and people are suffering all the while.
Deportation is perhaps in the direst need of improvement. Billions of dollars are spent deporting and detaining illegal immigrants. The conditions of these detention centers are especially cruel, with reports of inadequate medical attention and abuse.
“We are like dogs. We can’t see the sun or the sky. Actually, even a dog gets to go outside,” said an immigrant in the Baker Country Jail in Florida.
Illegal immigrants are treated like criminals, a perception which needs to change. Many of these people are families that want nothing more than to become legal citizens but are unable to. They risk everything for the chance to have a taste at what all of us have. It’s time more people recognized this struggle.
Readers should familiarize themselves with just how difficult it is to become a citizen, and the conditions that immigrants face. We need to have compassion for people that want to do exactly what our ancestors did before us — to create a better life for themselves. Above all, this needs to be the year that Congress follows through with their promise of fixing a very broken immigration system.