The Tumultuous Landscape of Illegal Immigration in the U.S.
America’s Rich Legacy with Immigrants
Immigration is one of the fundamental building blocks that made America the country it is today. The Europeans traveled to the U.S. in hopes of finding a way to increase their wealth and start a new life. Many other people traveled to the U.S. in hopes of finding a way to escape religious persecution. This group of people is known as “The Pilgrims.” America has always been known as “the land of opportunity,” offering the American dream not only to the people who are born here but also to the people who migrate to the United States.
Immigration has been a popular topic in the U.S. for centuries, but now more than ever, immigration has become one of the most dominant topics in our media outlets due to President Donald Trump and his recent reforms to immigration. Despite all the other concerns going on today in America, the U.S. continues to have a policy that no other country has. It is the responsibility of our government to control what comes in and goes out of the U.S.
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19th Century: Foundations of U.S. Immigration Laws
In the 19th Century, many of the immigrants came to America seeking economic freedom. When the United States gained independence from Great Britain, it began an open-door policy to welcome all immigrants. A 1790 law was the first to specify who could become a citizen, limiting this privilege to free whites of “good moral character” who had lived in the U.S. for at least two years. In 1870, the right of citizenship was extended to those of African origin. In the early 80s, Congress passed a law, “The Immigration Reform and Control Act, that legalized many Latin Americans.”
This act paved the way for Haitians and so many other immigrants from smaller countries to seek freedom and provide the opportunity to become gainfully employed and provide for their families, but it also imposed harsh punishment for many employers hiring illegal immigrants. Many Companies’ today are required to submit proper documentation when employing workers. It is the responsibility of the employer to check valid social security cards and employment green cards. Failure to do so a fine will be imposed and possibly six months in jail.
Biblical Insights: Migration in Religious Contexts
In the beginning, all was darkness and void, and the spirit of God moved over the face of the chaos. To move is to migrate. The biblical story is a migration story. The Bible begins with God’s spirit migrating over the face of the water, followed by God, who, after creating the birds, fish, and animals (all of which migrate), moved throughout creation, looking for a caretaker for this world. Not finding one, God said, “Let us create humankind, male and female, in our own image.”
God did just that and created Adam and Eve in God’s own image, gave them dominion over all the earth, and told them to multiply and fill the earth. To do that, it was necessary for them to begin the human migration story. That story is told throughout the Bible and continues to this day in the movement of the migrating pilgrim people of God, who continue to move, multiply, and maintain the earth.
The definition of an immigrant is a person who migrates to another country, usually for permanent residence. Leviticus 24:22 states, “You shall have the same law for the stranger and for one from your own country.” In Genesis, when God created the heavens and the earth, there was no nation-state; we were united as one, and we spoke the same language. We are to care for one another because this is the commandment from God. We’re all considered immigrants, and immigrants we shall remain. Genesis explains the story of the Tower of Babel, which tells of the story describing the confusion of languages. It separated the groups in different places, causing many to experience different cultures. Noah and his family experienced a flood that eventually caused them to move to an unknown destination. God blessed Noah and his family.
President Trump’s Controversial Stance on Immigration
In the 2016 presidential election, the presidential nominee, Donald Trump, had a strong opinion and views relating to immigration. He promised to build a wall on the border of Mexico and the United States and to reduce the number of immigrants allowed to enter the United States. As the president of the United States, President Trump is attempting to keep the promises he made to his supporters during the election but is finding that as time progresses, this is more difficult to do than it is to promise. However, he is not done trying to do so.
President Trump’s immigration policy continues to be the main topic in the media today. President Trump said during an election campaign that when Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems to us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.
President Trump’s opinions have caused Americans to look at immigrants differently. Americans view these immigrants as people who are stealing their jobs and money and bringing more crime to the United States. His views have tainted Americans to no longer look at immigrants as people who are willing to do the jobs that they don’t want to do or bright young people who have the knowledge and power to change the world with new technological advances.
In December 2015, President Trump called “for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.” This ban kept people from Muslim countries from entering the United States, even if they were born in the U.S. Many felt the ban was a violation of human rights; it made people from Muslim countries feel unwanted and unwelcome. Protests were held across the country.
In recent news reports, President Trump has been cracking down on illegal immigrants with an emphasis on Mexicans. ICE has also been a big topic in the news media. There have been multiple videos on social media of ICE agents taking parents away from their children while taking them to school. The agents are shown waiting outside homes or agents walking around asking if they are illegal immigrants. These agents are seen as inhuman. They act like robots tearing families apart right in front of innocent children’s faces.
Disturbing Aftermaths: Children Separated at the Border
Another horrible act that has happened under the Trump administration is the videos and pictures surfacing of children in cages in horrific conditions. One cage had 20 children inside. Scattered about are bottles of water, bags of chips, and large foil sheets intended to serve as blankets. These children were ripped away from their parents and put in a devastating condition to live. These situations and conditions will cause these children to suffer lasting psychological effects. There were stories of parents saying that their children didn’t remember them because they hadn’t seen them in so long.
The type of pain those parents are feeling when their child doesn’t even want to come to them is indescribable. The government has been ordered by a court to return the children to their parents. Most of the children have been reunited with their parents, but reportedly, there are still close to 500 parents who have not been located. Many of these parents have been removed from the country without their children. The government is working but isn’t working fast enough. These children need their parents, and these parents need their children.
DACA and the Plight of the Dreamers
In January 2018, President Trump’s immigration plan was released. President Trump discussed providing an opportunity for millions of children born outside of the country and who came to the U.S. illegally a 12-year extension for citizenship. President Obama created the DACA program to protect what is known as “Dreamers.” This program protected children from being deported. The Trump administration asked Congress to step in and create an alternative solution for the millions of people under the DACA Act.
A Personal Journey: From Haiti to the American Dream
For many, the U.S. is known as the land of opportunity. It is a country for change and economic growth. My parents were born in Haiti, a poor town called Latortue. My father worked as a farmer, and my mother was a maid. My parents made a decision to flee Haiti due to all the pain and suffering they endured and the fall of Baby Doc on February 7, 1986. The country was in total chaos. They ended up in the Bahamas and eventually came to the U.S. on a visa. That same year, President Jimmy Carter granted all immigrants living in the U.S. permanent residency; this was the happiest day of their lives.
They now had a chance to live freely without worrying if they would be deported. My dad worked a housekeeping job and eventually enrolled in school, where he earned his high school diploma. My Parents were able to help other members of my family by providing them with a roof over their heads and food. My parents desperately wanted us to be given the best education and opportunity that was not available in Haiti. Being born in the U.S. has taught me to be appreciative of what I have and never take anything for granted. Because of the sacrifice my parents made, I’m privileged and fortunate to be able to give back to any immigrant who comes to the U.S. seeking a better life for their family.
Haiti’s Earthquake: Catalyst for Immigration Compassion
On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 earthquake struck Port-au-Prince, Haiti; about 300,000 lives were lost, and many were injured. The earthquake devastated many families and businesses. Buildings collapsed to the ground, leaving many trapped and unable to escape. In a poor country like Haiti, there were no building codes, and many of the buildings and schools were built to withstand any storm. Haiti was once a rich and thriving country, but due to political and social gain. For years, Haiti has endured an economic crisis, and as a result, nearly 60 percent of the population living below the poverty line, many children are hungry. In fact, half of all Haitians are undernourished, and 100,000 Haitian children, fewer than 5, suffer from acute malnutrition.
As a result of the earthquake in 2010, my Bishop Jacques Mode Jr. had a church in Haiti that was destroyed. All of the members lost their homes and were living in tents with no clean water, food, or clothing. My Pastor made a decision to reach out to immigration to get 14 members of the church called “OMEGA” to come to the U.S. They were granted a visa, and four months later, they arrived in the U.S. Once they arrived, we had to find housing. My Pastor quickly began to search for a home, but he realized all 14 could not be in one home. My husband and I volunteered, and we ended up with five young adults. We’ve never met them a day in our lives, but we were led by God to open up our homes and help immigrants who were in need.
- History.com Editors. (2019). “U.S. Immigration Before 1965”. HISTORY.
- U.S. Congress. (1790). “Naturalization Act of 1790”.
- Zong, J., & Batalova, J. (2017). “Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United States”. Migration Policy Institute.
- Holy Bible. (n.d.). Genesis.
- Holy Bible. (n.d.). Leviticus 24:22.
- Diamond, J. (2015). “Donald Trump: Ban all Muslim travel to U.S.”. CNN Politics.
- Shear, M.D., & Davis, J.H. (2018). “Trump Retreats on Separating Families, but Thousands May Remain Apart”. The New York Times.