By Contributor Lauren Kirkpatrick

The Statue of Liberty might as well be demolished. Back when I was in kindergarten when my shoulders were free of the world’s many injustices, I remember learning my very first lesson:  the Pledge of Allegiance. To my uneducated eyes, this poem was just a bundle of words with little to no significance. This pledge is a child’s first introduction to America’s thirst for liberty; hence “liberty and justice for ALL.” The value of freedom is ingrained in us at such a young age that it almost seems impossible for one to drift away from something so central in our culture. Unfortunately, we have drifted away from our American values most evidently in the way our country has attempted to tackle the matter of immigration.  

For this moment in time, remove your political views, your immediate feelings towards the word “immigrant,” and strip yourself of your personal experiences. Dwell upon the time in which you were just a child, vulnerable, your feelings as sensitive as damp paper. Your parents were the only thing in the world that mattered at such an age. They were the heroes who kissed the bruises you would earn when learning to ride a bike. They were the philosophers who would challenge your thinking when doing your homework. More importantly, they were the stars reminding you to always follow your heart and to reach for your dreams. 

Over 2,000 children are currently sitting on cold concrete floors, behind locked doors, without a parent, a nurturing conductor; the children are instruments learning to play with no one to guide them.  These children are our future doctors, engineers, artists, entrepreneurs, teachers, scientists, and leaders – sitting in cages. According to USA Today, immigrants “are more likely than their American-born counterparts to start businesses, are [more] likely to create jobs for American workers and to develop technologies and companies”.  It is simple; immigrants are what make America, America.  For example, Albert Einstein was a German-born refugee and set the path for future scientists to make various discoveries; Steve Chen, born in Taiwan, and Jawed Karmin, born in Germany, are the co-founders of YouTube, a company that has been key for communication, entertainment, and learning; and Arnold Schwarzenegger, born in Austria and has contributed in both pop culture and politics of our country.  Accordingly, immigrants have enhanced various aspects of America, from entertainment to science. So why are we not providing the promised opportunities that America speaks so highly of time and time again? The reason behind this unfortunate reality lies in the heart of America where our inherent racist eurocentric perspective lies.  

No longer is the immigration debate about the intentions of immigrants, it has clearly shifted to an immigrant’s one-sided narrative.  Since day one, Donald J. Trump has built his presidential campaign off capitalizing the deep-set racism already present in America; leveraging the ignorance of many as an advantage to win votes and ultimately further developing the anti-immigrant and anti-Latino attitude through categorizing Mexicans as drug traffickers and rapists.  Sadly, this rhetoric has been woven into the fabric of our society and in how America has handled undocumented families–with dire implications. On August 3, 2019, an individual identifying as a white nationalist fired in a Walmart filled with innocent shoppers in El Paso, Texas. Time Magazine states that this individual’s action was apparently a “response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas,” as noted in a manifesto before the shooting.  Notably, “the shooter didn’t stop to ask any of the 22 people he killed for their papers or if they came to the U.S. ‘legally’…it is about our brown skin in America.”  According to Time magazine, “ICE has requested the detention of 3,076 American citizens from October 2002 to December 2018 … It isn’t even about being born on American soil,” – concluding that one’s race is one’s worth.  

Moreover, it is clear that immigrants are who and what defines America as the country of opportunity and freedom.  When our personal experiences and biases are stripped away, it is very clear that what is happening is morally wrong. We as a country are simply taking steps back from fulfilling our country’s promise of opportunity and freedom for all.  Unfortunately, we are restricting our country’s growth by holding onto unsubstantiated racial stigmas and applying them to the policy of immigration. It is clear that immigration should not be about politics, it should be about humanity.  Personally, I have much respect and admiration for our country, but great disappointment in our current government for no longer staying true to the American original philosophy and spirit. Our current administration has developed the most benign systems that have been developed to “secure” our nation, but instead have blindsided us through contributing to the mass oppression of minority groups and violating our civil liberties.  For example, ICE’s policy and procedures not only target immigrants but US citizens as well, particularly citizens of color. Unfortunately, the American spirit and dream are being threatened with the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric being amplified by the current administration and we cannot afford to stand by and do nothing, we must urge our leaders to reconsider its immigration policy through an unbiased lens. 

For the sake of staying true to our Lady Liberty’s credo: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”, we must be the wedge keeping this golden door open for our future leaders.