America was discovered by a group of immigrants coming to claim land for their home countries. However, once the country was established, the first immigration laws put into place made it so people coming into America must go through the process of becoming legal citizens. While this was an effort to protect the borders of the country, this quickly turned into a political debate on how to deal with surges of people coming into the country for various reasons.
According to the White House archives of the former President Barack Obama, “From 1990 to 2007, the population of undocumented [immigrants] grew from 3.5 million to 11 million people,” (White House Archives). How each recent president has handled the public concern of border control and immigration is a reflection of their opinion on the matter. During his eight years in office, President Obama “[shifted] resources to the border and recent border crossers,” (White House Archives). Opinions on the actions taken by border control vary based on political party or affiliation. The National Immigration Forum took information from a poll from CBS News, from 2018, which asked the people if they believed immigration was an important part of American life; “a strong majority of respondents (70 percent) said that the idea of being welcoming of all people from different cultures,” 54 percent of Republicans said this was very important and 81 percent of Democrats saying the same (National Immigration Forum). If the idea of being welcoming in almost universal, why isn’t this attitude reflected in the treatment of people crossing the border?
While the Obama administration was a very popular one, there has been a lot of backlash for his contribution to the mistreatment of families, specifically children, as they cross the borders. During President Donald Trump’s administration, he promised to build a wall between America and Mexico. He describes his plan as “protecting the American people and our homeland,” (Donald Trump). This type of plan has made passionate Americans stand by him in his plan to tighten borders… but at what cost? During the presidential debates with President Trump and President-elect Joe Biden, Trump was continually exposed for his involvement in the treatment of immigrant children and his plan to try and reunite them with their families. Like a true politician, he was able to avoid taking responsibility. His exact response was “Kristen, I will say this. They went down, we brought reporters and everything. They are so well taken care of. They’re in facilities that were so clean —” (The Commission on Presidential Debates).
President-elect Joe Biden has released his plan for his 2021-2024 presidency on his campaign website. Some of his plans include “[modernizing] America’s immigration system… [reasserting] America’s commitment to asylum-seekers and refugees… implement effective border screening,” (Joe Biden).
What do all of the promises and plans mean when there are still individuals being mistreated at the border? What is it like for the people trapped there? In 2019, Madeleine Joung wrote an article about the conditions they live in and included picture evidence. She stated that:
“Adults and children have been held for days, weeks, or even months in cramped cells, sometimes with no access to soap, toothpaste, or places to wash their hands or shower. Some reports have emerged of children sleeping on concrete floors; others of adults having to stand for days due to lack of space. A May report from the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general found 900 people crammed into a space designed to accommodate 125 at most.”
-Madeleine Joung, Time Magazine.
All of these plans for immigration can sway each individual differently based on their political opinion. However, while creating your political beliefs and opinions, try to see a rational argument and one that treats people with empathy. If we are a country of stone-cold individuals, what will that say about us? Are mistreatment and injustice what we want our younger generations to model? I encourage all of my readers to look deeper into immigration reform and see not only what politicians are telling you but to go and ask others what their real experiences were.
This is an interview I conducted with Ana Pop about her life as an immigrant from Romania:
Biden for President. The Biden Plan for Securing Our Values as a Nation of Immigrants. 5 Aug. 2020, joebiden.com/immigration/.
The Commission on Presidential Debates. Presidential Debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. 2020, www.debates.org/voter-education/debate-transcripts/october-22-2020-debate-transcript/.
Joung, Madeleine. “What Is Happening at Migrant Detention Centers? What to Know.” Time, Time, 12 July 2019, time.com/5623148/migrant-detention-centers-conditions/.
National Immigration Forum. Polling Update: American Attitudes on Immigration Steady, but Showing More Partisan Divides. 17 Apr. 2019, immigrationforum.org/article/american-attitudes-on-immigration-steady-but-showing-more-partisan-divides/.
Trump for President, Inc., Donald. Immigration.
White House Archives, Obama. Immigration Reform. obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/issues/immigration/border-security.