Guest Commentary: A nation of immigrants
This year, many state legislatures took it upon themselves to pass laws cracking down on illegal immigration. Utah, sometimes called the most conservative state in the nation, leads the way by passing a comprehensive reform along with a crackdown on illegal immigration. Both of Utah’s laws are now being argued in court. Even Gov. Rick Perry held a special legislative session calling for the passage of what became known as the “sanctuary cities” bill.
In June, Alabama signed into law what some call the harshest immigration law in the nation. In Alabama, tension, fear and racism have erupted into a crisis.
Arizona, Georgia and Utah have all passed similar laws allowing police officers to ask someone their immigration status. But while many of their most controversial provisions were blocked by court orders, Alabama’s has been upheld.
What Alabama legislators could not have foreseen was the devastating effect the law would have on the agricultural sector of its state. Fields are going unharvested, children are disappearing from schools, and residents will now have to prove their citizenship to receive basic water utilities.
This law should come as a shock to the rest of the nation. It requires schools to collect the migratory statuses of students, makes it illegal for undocumented people to do business with the state, and allows the police to ask individuals their immigration status while detaining them indefinitely without bonds. These laws systematically target anyone who isn’t white.
If one removes the humane aspect of it all and merely looks at the numbers, it is impossible to say that it is more cost effective to deport someone rather than offer them a pathway to citizenship.
It costs roughly $12,500 tax dollars to deport one undocumented immigrant. The government has to detain, hold, feed, and deport them. These costs add up. The circuit judge’s refusal to block the most controversial aspects of Alabama’s law only perpetuates their crisis.
Parents living in fear have been driven further into the shadows. They have even been flocking to lawyers to grant legal authority over children and property to others in case they get detained or deported. Many have decided to stay at home; others are packing up and moving to other states.
In an article from America’s Voice, one undocumented mother in Alabama summed up the dilemma: “If it was just me and I got deported, well, I’d have to go back (to Mexico). But what future can I hope to give my son in Mexico, with so much violence and so much poverty? It’s complicated.”
In order to fix the problem of illegal immigration as a country, we must pass comprehensive immigration reform, and stop enforcing these controversial laws.
We must also open a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who could make valuable contributions to our nation if allowed to work here legally.
We should also reform current sponsorship laws to include same-sex couples and pass the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, which does not grant in-state tuition, as many people seem to think — that is a right reserved for the states.
As we look to the future, we must remember that we are a nation of immigrants, and thus, we must treat new immigrants, documented or undocumented, with the same respect and dignity that our ancestors were met with.
Alejandro Caballero is a creative writing junior and may be reached at [email protected].