Immigrant advocates rejoiced last week after the Obama administration announced it would start the heated immigration debate this year. However, we shouldn’t expect any legislation to be passed this year.
Just the mere fact that the president brought up the issue brought hope to millions, but with it comes hate, and as the debate begins to warm up throughout the year, we can expect more of it.
Some would believe that passing comprehensive immigration reform during our recession is unpractical and crazy, but in fact it makes sense. Currently, there are an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. If this group is allowed to continue living and working in the shadows, America loses out on a vital resource. Due to the fact that millions of them get paid under the table, immigrants receive less and therefore pay less in taxes, not to mention many of them are victims of exploitation.
The last attempt to pass comprehensive immigration reform was in fall 2007 by the Bush Administration. Back then, efforts were thwarted mostly by Republicans, who held a considerable grasp in the Senate.’
The immigration issue is deeper than practicality and costs. It’s about human rights. Undocumented immigrants live in constant fear of persecution. Should one ever get the chance to hear the stories of American children being separated from their parents in the dead of night by immigration officials, take abuse at the hands of an employer because they’re undocumented or the success of someone who beat the odds, it’s hard not to feel sympathy for them.
CSUN is a place of hope to about 114 undocumented students, sometimes referred to as AB 540 students. However not all AB 540 students are undocumented. Narrow-minded, xenophobic people see them as a threat, when in fact these students are some of the best this nation has to offer.
Many of them were brought to this country as infants, not having a say in the decision to come to the United States, yet they face discrimination and are alienated as they attempt to pursue a higher education and improve their lives.
Because these students are undocumented they aren’t eligible for financial aid, are disqualified from many scholarships and can’t legally drive, sometimes taking public transportation for over three hours to arrive at CSUN. In spite of this many of them graduate at the top of their class and exhibit a high level of civic engagement.
A study conducted by William Perez, assistant professor of education at Claremont Graduate University, found that undocumented students show high levels of civic engagement. About 61 percent of students in community college do volunteer work or community service. For those attending a four-year institution it goes up to 65 percent.
Many of them are waiting for the Dream Act to pass, a piece of legislation that would offer a path to legalization. However, it too has been stopped time and time again.
We loose sight of the real human issue at stake here when the undocumented community is seen as anything less than human, referred to as aliens, or even a threat. As the year progresses and the immigration debate is brought up, please don’t allow yourself to be blinded by hate or misunderstanding. Instead, look beyond the numbers and broadcast personalities who have nothing but negative feedback and look to the real life struggles of a community of workers and overachievers who only hope to further contribute to a country that has given so much to them.