By: Thomas Nedungadan ’18
*The following opinions are not affiliated with the administration of Bellarmine College Preparatory in any way.
This past week we have witnessed hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Jose wreaking havoc on America and the Caribbean nations. After Harvey flooded the streets of Texas, Irma demolished the infrastructure of Florida, and Jose destroyed the Southeast Coast, no one thought things could get any worse. And yet, we fail to see the eye of the storm right in front of us: President Donald Trump. As of September 2017, Trump finally rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, promising that the nation would soon deport the nearly 800,000 children of illegal immigrants. Combined with his belligerent idea to build walls, stop funding Mexico, and ban refugees from other nations, this step portends a new era of xenophobia. Considering that California is home to 25% of the DACA participants, holds strong ties to Mexico, and remains one of the most liberal states in the country, this issue touches base right here at home. Thus, today we’ll take a look at Mr. Trump’s policies thus far, how they’ve fared, and what change is required.
Before we do that, I’ll do a quick History 101 recap here. For a country founded by European immigrants, America doesn’t have the greatest immigration track record. During the early stages of the John Adams presidency, he supported the Alien and Sedition Acts, which not only made it harder for immigrants to get naturalized, but also prevented them from speaking up about this injustice to the government. Normally, we put presidents such as John Adams among the greats, but there are certainly some policies that weren’t as American as we’d think. As America entered World War 1, President Woodrow Wilson was faced with an ultimatum: cut immigration or cut immigration. Yes, Wilson was forced to sign the Immigration Act of 1917, which created a head tax, cut illiterate immigrants, and formed an “Asiatic Barred Zone.” In 1921 & 1924, quotas were instituted to only allow 3% of the population based on the census of 1910 to come to America. Even during the Second World War, America felt compelled to imprison thousands of Japanese immigrants and citizens in internment camps, and at the end of the war, the few families still alive barely got any compensation. Throughout America’s history, we have to begrudgingly accept that America has, at times, failed to live up to the democratic hype that it promises.
How does Trump fit into this not-so-inclusive identity? His initial gift to American immigration history stemmed from his plan to build a Great Wall against Mexico, as he discussed on the campaign trail. But as economist after economist has stated, the finances surrounding the wall are more hypothetical than feasible policy. According to an MIT study, the wall would cost around $27-$40 billion dollars, and given that Congress’ current budget barely holds the government together, the project is unlikely to find the funding anytime soon. That’s a relief for most immigrants but irritating for some of his followers. I’ve never seen any president take such drastic steps against immigration. Compared to Jackson, Wilson, or Adams, Trump brings anti-immigration sentiments to a new high. Not only does he act through Washington, but he unabashedly tells people everywhere how he dislikes certain demographics when he is supposed to represent them.
And it gets worse. As if wanting to erect a massive barrier wasn’t bad enough, the repeal of DACA had adverse effects on the economy and goes against our values as a nation. California and 3 other states have sued the government over the unconstitutional grounds on which the immigrants would be deported. This country was literally born as a “land of opportunity,” the great American melting pot. If we wish to enhance the flavor of this great American broth, we must add immigrants in. The constant influx of fresh ideas and motivated workforce is what still makes this nation great.
Trump seems to relish in discriminating against immigrants of Mexican heritage. He doesn’t think twice about classifying the whole race as rapists, criminals, and drug cartel leaders. Then, he chooses to identify all Muslims as terrorists, bombers, and kamikaze spies! Yet, when he issued the ban on several Muslim majority nations, the one country he would leave off was Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia was where Osama bin Laden started the main branch of Al-Qaeda and where nearly all of the 9/11 attackers originated. Considering we just celebrated the 16th anniversary of 9/11, we need to move into the future, not dwell on the past. While a refugee ban might stop some immigrants from coming into the nation, Trump also conveniently forgets that the majority of terrorist acts on U.S. soil were committed by U.S. citizens and not foreign nationals. The ban is thus not only unconstitutional but a lazily put together solution. While President Trump’s policy might make sense in his head, he’s playing with the very real lives of thousands of hopeful people who want to better themselves here.
As an American citizen, I value security, and I do think it is important. But it is something that needs an effective solution, not an easy one. And while many other presidents in American history have had blemishes on the way they treat foreigners, Trump doesn’t need to do the same. At times, he’s proven himself more than capable of doing so. He recently passed the debt ceiling extension with help from the Democrats, showing a new willingness to work hand in hand to create supportive agendas. And sure, the guy may not like illegal immigrants, but he’s certainly smart enough to find a more effective legalization method. Trump even hinted at repealing the DACA if better legalization methods weren’t hatched by the Senate and House. He might be a Category 5 “politicane” in the White House today, but given the virtue of this year being his first, he could eventually downgrade to a Category 1. At the end of the day, we need immigrants to make up our diverse nation, foster new ideas, and bring new values. So let’s make an attempt to create a great nation, not an Immi-“not-so-great”-ion.