Davis Undergrads Surprise on Immigration

by Emily Clarkson

Although UC Davis can’t compare to the reputation of its older sister, Berkeley, the university is also known for its liberalism. The anti-Trump protests and the anti-Milo protests that garnered nationwide attention are clear indicators of the overall tendency.

Yet radical left-wingers aren’t exactly the majority—at least not concerning all issues. When I recently interviewed a group of 10 random Davis students—and by random, I mean 10 dorm residents I found on my floor and forced (persuaded, I mean) to talk immigration with me—I found views that weren’t as I expected.

While none of the Bernie-lovers support Trump’s recent immigration reforms, the answers turned a little murkier once questioned on their views about undocumented immigrants, assimilation, and policies restricting immigration based on employment or the threat of terrorism.

While nine indicated support of illegal immigrants, five of these qualified their responses to either support only certain groups or to restrict the number. Overall, they expressed a desire for an easier immigration process.

“I think the immigration process as a whole should be streamlined to allow individuals to not have to resort to illegal immigration,” Ares Torres (UCD ’20) said. “I definitely think refugees should be protected as long as they have no criminal background and people with children or refugees should be prioritized, but if there is too much of an influx of people, [undocumented immigrants] should be deported.”

“Instead of deporting them immediately, it’s important to figure out why they’re here and give them the tools they need like community college and English classes…give them a way to gain citizenship,” Matthew Brown (Freshman) said.

Despite differing opinions on illegal immigration, 9 of the students supported UC Davis’ stance as a “sanctuary campus,” although Stephanie Tsai (Freshman) did note that she thought sanctuary schools and cities set a “dangerous precedent” by opposing federal authority. Their approval seemed contingent on current political affairs with many feeling a need for sanctuaries to protect undocumented immigrants from Trump, whose policies they argue are too harsh.

“If we’re referring to Trump’s era and right now, I do support sanctuary cities because [undocumented immigrants] need somewhere safe,” Forrest Pasturel (Freshman) said.

The majority opposed Trump’s stringent new immigration proposals outlined in two draft memos signed by Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelley on Feb. 17. The memos target illegal aliens, expanding the grounds for expedited deportation and vesting more authority in immigration officers, who would be allowed to evaluate immigrants on a case-by-case basis. Five of the 10 stated that illegal immigrants who are not criminals should be allowed to stay, and hopefully work towards gaining citizenship status.

“If they’re not criminals then there shouldn’t be a reason to kick them out,” Jaela Ilagan (Junior) stated. “Then again I also think that those who are here should contribute to being a citizen and work towards citizenship.”

Those who qualified their answers to extending allowances for certain groups of undocumented immigrants, regarded children, students, and refugees as worthy of more consideration. Yet, opinions on quotas limiting refugees were mixed. In his executive order, Trump plans to decrease the number of refugees accepted in the U.S. for 2017 from 110,000 to 50,000, a number much lower than the 890,000 asylum seekers received by Germany in 2016—although 80,000 left voluntarily or were deported before the end of the year—and hundreds of thousands accepted by Greece and Italy within the last three years.

While five of the students expressed limited support for lowering the number of refugees accepted into America, the other half desired numbers comparable to top migrant-receiving European countries.

“There’s this feeling that the U.S. should take in refugees because we’re the good guys and we’re the benevolent force in the world,” Brown said. “There should be more background checks and more of a priority on quality over quantity. If lowering [the refugee quota] means taking our time to assure the quality of people coming into our country then I feel like we should lower it just to save ourselves.”

“I don’t think we should have lowered it,” Ilagan said. “I think we should match Europe so I think we should take as much as we can because they’re humans and they’re innocent people.”

Of course, one of the major controversies over refugee immigration to the U.S. revolves around Trump’s ban on Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia—countries that he cites as dangerous threats to the U.S. due to their involvement in terrorism against America. While the Obama administration restricted travel waivers to the seven initially, Trump’s ban rejects immigrants from these states outright, and has been contested as discriminatory against Muslims.

The students unanimously disagreed with the ban with some stating that they believed it to be a form of religious persecution and others disputing Trump’s claim of the seven as threats.

“Those countries in particular don’t seem like terrorist threats because they weren’t even countries that participated in 9/11,” Dave Rubilla (Freshman) said.

“I think that religion should not take a part in the immigration process, and in terms of terrorism I think that America does a pretty good job of screening,” Ines Anunciaby-Childs (Freshman) said.

Arguments for the ban as a form of religious persecution are based, in part, on a clause that prioritizes minority-religion immigrants from the Muslim-majority countries, which all ten of the Davis students opposed.

“I wouldn’t agree with that because it’s discriminating based off religion and I think that’s a big thing in our country—the separation of church and state,” Ilagan said. “It’s interesting to think if that’s a policy prioritizing Christians then I wonder if the people enforcing this policy are Christian. The way they teach it in church is not to discriminate and to ‘love thy neighbor.’”

Although the students contest Trump’s ban as “bogus,” as Torres called it, four indicated that they would support a ban or heavy restrictions against countries they felt pose more of a threat because of their proven connections to terrorism.

It’s a reflection of how complicated the subject of immigration is that even among students marked by united opposition against a political campaign there are such conflicting views on Trump’s policies and morality in denying immigrants.

The perspectives represented in this article are those of young college students on a campus recognized as liberal, yet they seem a mix, though I’ll admit that none are Trump fans. Overall, I have seen students that are far more unsure and moderate on immigration than I had previously believed.

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