Do Anti-Immigration Sentiments Reflect Bigotry?

by Kaelea Lucas

With the recent events regarding President Trump’s treatment of immigrants, arguments have become even more heated about how to deal with the hundreds of thousands of people continuously traveling into the country. I took to my college dorm to sample what an effective conversation might look like.

A core issue I’ve noticed with media and major political parties is their tendency to simplify immigration and offer a basic solution to this complex situation. In hopes of stimulating productive conversation, I asked my peers how they felt about this grey area. Maria Bundang UCD ’18 said, “In one sense, in terms of policy, it’s unfair to those who are waiting, but at the same time I understand why people find the need to leave [their countries].”

Daniel McGuire UC ’20 recognized this grey area: “Illegal immigration is not necessarily a good thing. However, I think that to combat illegal immigration, the options shouldn’t just be to stop anyone from immigrating. It should be, make it easier for people to legally immigrate.”

Even given people’s willingness to embrace the grey area, they are often rooted in their beliefs. When asked if the level of skill for immigrants mattered, Bundang responded that the immigrants are useful because “Americans who live here… They don’t want to do the, quote-unquote, dirty jobs.” However, for the ones arguing they don’t want these low-skilled workers who are going to collect welfare or social security, the feeling is they’d prefer people with higher skills.

McGuire said, “It is always good to get high-skilled workers into the country…but you can’t base everyone coming into our country on just that.” McGuire isn’t the only one who recognized a problem in this statement.

Chyna Oyola UCD ’18 was aghast at the notion of allowing someone into the country based on what they bring to the table. “That’s a very capitalist notion that you’re only worth the amount of productivity that you put out.”

Chris Chan UCD ’18 also admitted the problem with using skill as a determining factor for immigration. “If I was treating this like a kind of strategy game, then I’d only want to be letting in the high skilled workers and the people that I know are going to start producing things. However, this ‘strategy game’ takes away the human aspect of reality.”

The list of problems people have with immigrants is long, but not everyone would argue it is justified. Ryan Stevens UCD ’19 reminds me, “We are a nation of ‘all people are created equal.’ No matter where you’re from, no matter what you think, you’re allowed to come here and you’re allowed to do what you personally want to do.”

The view of immigrants is drastically different when related to Mexican immigrants or Muslim immigrants as compared to those emigrating from Europe. Margarite Villanueva UCD ’19 explains, “Their image of that is a person of color… The connotations of immigrants have definitely become a lot more negative, and definitely tied a lot more with the word ‘refugee.’ People think of Mexicans, people think of East Asians. People don’t really think of all the European immigrants who are coming here. They’re seen in a positive light.”

It seems people push for stronger vetting processes because of specific immigrant demographics. Daniel McGuire UCD ’20 feels: “I think there is a lot of racial bias, obviously in immigration… I think the immigration process should be made equal for everyone.”

Directly after being elected POTUS, Donald Trump began drafting and signing executive orders, one of these being a temporary ban on seven different countries that are predominantly Muslim. When I asked everyone how they felt about this, the reactions were generally the same. Oyola said, the number of “people who are being impacted by his decision is ridiculous, for no other reason than fear and ignorance. No decision should ever be made based on that.”

Bundang elaborated on the same sentiment: “It’s justified in the sense that they’re scared, but they’re scared for the wrong reasons.”

However, not everyone I talked disagreed with the premise of the ban. Chan argued, “It was within the reasonable bounds of the Constitution… the list was approved by Obama and it was a temporary ban!”

Most people agree that a wall across the Mexican-American border is impractical, especially the part of the plan requiring Mexico to pay for it. “People are all for it without even realizing, we’re the ones who are going to be paying for it,” said Oyola. McGuire called it a “very dumb solution to a problem that is very complex.”

Though the solutions to the various problems in our country surrounding who should and shouldn’t be allowed to enter our country are unclear, the way that the media has covered it strongly influenced Americans’ views on immigration. On one extreme, you have people who have deemed all Middle Easterners terrorists and all Mexicans rapists and criminals. On the other hand, it portrays immigrants as only model citizens and advocate for one hundred percent open borders.

As Bundang explained, people “try to look for evidence that matches what they believe in the first place.” If the media is feeding them only this information, it limits diversity of thought. Also, with the media being run with profit in mind, they will go to great lengths to get the views they need or even so-called “fake news.”

Speaking about falsified events, Mark Johnson said, “Even after it’s been proven that it hasn’t happened, it still stays in people’s minds… It leaves an impact on people’s minds when you hear constantly that there was a terrorist attack… Then the hate towards Muslims starts to grow.”

McGuire added, “Understanding that people who are coming into the country are not bad people, they are people who are seeking to come in because we are, in a lot of people’s mind, the best country on the planet.”

In the end, we have to remember to look at this situation from different political angles because the decisions made by our government impact actual people. Villanueva wants people to know “it’s not just numbers or stats that we’re looking at, we also definitely have to remember that a lot of times.”

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