Immigration is a need, not a crime

By Daniel Duque, April 30, 2024

Feb.19, 2016 was the day my life changed drastically. After 14 long years living in my beloved but at the same corrupt hometown in Colombia, where opportunities are scarce and only appear for those with power, my family decided it was better for us to move to the United States hoping for better opportunities and a stable financial situation.

That Friday evening our seven-hour flight landed at Los Angeles International Airport and our new story began. It was a rough start as we were profiled as suspicious people and were taken to a room where a group of agents asked questions and treated us like criminals.

For a moment I thought all our sacrifices to move here were going to be in vain, as the agents greeted us with unwelcoming faces and intimidating looks and strict tone. However, they decided to let us stay with a one-month deadline to return, time we patiently used to process paperwork. After that month, with patience, faith and determination, we all became legal residents and, eight years later, are in the process of becoming U.S. citizens.

My family faced challenges adapting to American culture, which is very different from our Colombian roots. Our national cuisine became a rarity and often becoming accustomed to holidays that are not celebrated in our country.

Despite our success, I was left thinking that there are people that had the same purpose but were denied that opportunity.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of immigrants attempt to cross the border to either escape the dangers from their home nations, unstable economic situations, corruption, find a better education or just the wish to start over and aim for a better future. Unfortunately, some do not succeed.

According to a Washington Post article, under President Joe Biden’s 2023 administration, there were more than 142,000 deportations despite the latter’s efforts to make access to the U.S. easier for immigrants.

Biden’s immigration plan was met by negative feedback from Republicans who accused his policy as a promotion of an “open border” claiming that immigrants could represent a threat to the country’s national security and could lower the employment rate for American citizens.

It is true that among the large number of immigrants that cross the border there are individuals like gang leaders and drug dealers that are fleeing justice in their home country and may represent a threat. Although, it is not appropriate to put all immigrants in the same bag, as most of these are members of families that have the goal of finding a better education and a better future for themselves and for their children, who are often separated from their parents when attempting to cross the border.

At the same time, whether legal or not, immigrants are often accused of “stealing” jobs from American citizens, but the truth is that immigrants are important to the economic growth of the U.S.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, there are multiple people from outside of the country that occupy crucial positions in different industries that represent a portion of the economic development of the country. Accusing immigrants of lowering employment opportunities for Americans is a form of discrimination that can create a hostile environment for working people that only want to have a better future.

As an immigrant myself, who had to leave a big part of his family, friends and traditions behind, I had to endure racist comments from ignorant people who did not understand the struggles of a family that did the best to survive in a corrupted nation. My parents have been verbally attacked for not handling the English language well enough and were occasionally discriminated for not being American.

It is time for people to understand that us immigrants are not criminals, and we don’t represent any threat. We took many risks to survive, and all we want is a better future with better opportunities, the ones our home nations did not provide when we needed them the most.

As humans, we must do what we consider best for us to survive, and that is what immigration is: A method of survival, not a crime.

Feature image courtesy of Lauren Wong

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