By MOLLY SULLIVAN
The push for equality in America has experienced profound victories in the past 50 years. From deconstructing Jim Crow to the recent appeals on Proposition 8 in California, the past half-century has proved to be one of progress in the struggle for equality. Why then, is this progress hindered by the arrogance surrounding the immigration debate?
At some point in time, almost every English-speaking American has complained about having to “press one for English.” Many feel like the growing Latin American minority is becoming an invasive part of American culture. Hardworking American citizens often feel violated at the thought of undocumented immigrants living tax-free on U.S. soil. The general attitude is riddled with misunderstanding and racism.
The “build a wall and build it tall” attitude must end. Amnesty is when a state or executive power pardons those who have committed an offense. Immigration amnesty is essential to American democracy.
My question to those who oppose socially and legally accepting immigrants is what Native American tribe do you belong to? Not surprisingly, the vast majority of Americans trace their roots to relatively recent immigrants, most of whom came through Ellis Island at the turn of the 20th century. This wave of immigrants undoubtedly shaped the framework of contemporary American society. Immigration increases cultural, religious and linguistic diversity—a kind of diversity that America is outwardly proud of. Why should we not extend this heritage of diversity to 21st century America.
Fiscal matters are a fundamental concern of Americans opposed to amnesty. Most Americans assume that taxes cannot be deducted from paychecks of undocumented workers, although this could not be further from the truth. According to journalist John Lantigua of the Seattle Times, “billions of dollars deducted from paychecks issued to undocumented workers flow to the Social Security Administration (SSA) every year.” However, by virtue of being undocumented, these workers will never receive the benefits of federal programs, meaning that U.S. citizens are receiving the benefits of undocumented labor without reciprocating the favor.
Another concern of many Americans is the disappearance of jobs. This is a legitimate concern since immigrants tend to fill low-skill positions in the U.S. workforce.
However, most of these positions are jobs that Americans would prefer not to fill anyway. In addition, an influx of citizens in the U.S. automatically results in an increased economy with increased demand, meaning that more positions in agriculture and service sectors will need to be filled regardless.
The issue of immigration reform is complicated and requires economic and political expertise to untangle peacefully. Many immigrants come to our nation and work relentlessly for unlivable wages, and we still deny them basic citizenship rights. Arguably the most disempowered group in America, immigrants face severe poverty and drastic crime rates as a direct consequence of systematic racism. Would you rather be a Latin American immigrant in 2012 or would you rather, “press one for English?”