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American immigrants need amnesty from hatred and fear

Aidan Denehy, Opinion Editor

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Since the inauguration of Donald Trump, word has spread like wildfire of the exponential increase in detentions and deportations by ICE – The Office for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.  One of Trump’s well-touted campaign points during his election was a promise to build a border wall with Mexico and to deport the (he claims) large number of illegal immigrants present in the United States, who he has also claimed are ‘rapists, criminals, and murderers,’ continuing the age old argument that immigrants are flooding the paradise of America in some attempt to overthrow our society and impose their values on our nation.

Whether it’s been Muslims trying to enact their Sharia state on innocent Midwesterners, those illegal Hispanics coming into America and murdering and raping to their heart’s content in the sinful ‘shelter cities’ or the horrifying Chinese who’ve come to build the railroads, America has always been overwhelmed by people trying to destroy our way of life.

Pardon my use of the Chinese workers on America’s railroads – I’m simply trying to publish the fact that this is not a new phenomenon. For those of you who do think that the above statement is true, I have to ask you one question: what ethnic group is conveniently missing from the equation of “Immigrants are no-good criminals?”

The answer: Whites. People love to claim that the Irish were discriminated against ‘almost as bad’ as the discrimination new Americans face today, but the unfortunate reality of this argument is that it’s a historical myth. The ‘Irish Suffering’ that one of white America’s favorite ethnic groups touts loud and high was neither as long or as terrible as people like to remember it. Were the Irish discriminated against? Absolutely. Were the Irish told en masse that they were going to be sent home, one way or the other, that they could not travel through the United States under any circumstances, and were there places of worship, ways of life, language, and cultural background ever attacked to the extent that modern immigrants face?

Absolutely not. I’ll admit it, and in case my name wasn’t a dead giveaway, I’m someone who’s proud to claim my Irish heritage. I will never, however, use the alleged suffering of the past as justification for the very real suffering of millions of innocents now.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly stated that any person in the United States, and thereof subject to its courts not extranationally, has the same Constitutional Rights as anybody else within the country (with the exception, of course, of certain rights explicitly guaranteed only to citizens, such as voting.) From a purely legal perspective, all persons within the United States, regardless of their legal status of immigration, are justified and entitled to the same treatment as any other person here.

flickr/mo1229
The Statue of Liberty in New York, a beacon of hope and freedom to new immigrants who formerly arrived at Ellis.

The notion of ‘immigrants as criminals’ is not new, especially when the immigrants are not white, even more so if they do not speak English. They have for over 150 years been categorized as criminal, violent, and scary by the ‘native’ white inhabitants of the United States- and again, a cursory examination of ‘emergency immigration acts’ will demonstrate the willingness of politicians to succumb to the newest xenophobic craze that will win them votes.

Finally, the most important thing to realize is that, legally or otherwise, the overhwleming majority- almost all immigrants- come to the United States not with the intention to destroy the country, to kill the people living here, or to create a Utopia suitable only for them- they are attracted by the American Dream, which Americans love to display to the world- but apparently, only as window dressing at a store with a sign marked ‘non-whites not welcome.’

Those who immigrate choose to do so because they want to become part of the American community, but not to be erased- they want to enjoy their languages, cultures, and practices within the sphere of American acceptance. This nation was founded by people, for people, with rights given to each and every person, not some and a few people. It was founded without a national language or religion so that those newcomers to this great nation would feel welcome.

The way to welcome our new Americans, and foster a love and brotherhood for this country, comes not from the promise that their ideals, values, and beliefs must be put to death at the door. The way to welcome our new American brothers and sisters is with mutual respect and understanding, even when we do not understand them.

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said “let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.” Anselmians, we are the most prodigious hilltop in New Hampshire. Let us go forth and be what we want the new America to be; a land of tolerance, welcoming, and understanding.

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The student news site of Saint Anselm College
American immigrants need amnesty from hatred and fear