The Associated Press carried a story this past week about an incentive supported by President Obama to help illegal immigrants become American citizens and graduate college.
This underlying concern over the rights and privileges of illegal immigrants to the United States has been one of fluctuating fervor over the past decade. The question inevitably comes down to how this unaccounted-for body will affect the country and what treatment it will receive.
Personally, I believe both sides of this discussion have valid points. Illegal immigrants come to this country mostly under political, economic or social duress. They flee war-torn, disease-stricken and economically-unstable environments.
Many simply wish for a better life for themselves and their families, a place where their children may grow up with the chance for a quality education, future prospects and the ability to live without fear. For those of us who have lived in such security for most or all of our lives, this might seem like a strange concept.
On the opposite side of the argument, many see the influx of immigrants, particularly those entering the United States illegally, as a detriment to the system. These people might argue that the immigrants’ presence dilutes the American culture and identity, that jobs and resources are being consumed unfairly and more rapidly than they would have otherwise.
My belief is that the way Americans look at immigrants as a whole needs to change. We are a country founded on immigration. Our ancestors came here for many of the same reasons others are arriving today: security, freedom, a more hopeful future. These people are aware of the risks, especially if they are attempting to enter the United States illegally, and therefore they must have extremely good reasons for doing so.
Overall, rather than corrupting the so-called “American way,” immigrants actually revitalize it. My aunt, for example, is from the Philippines, and the wealth of information and experience she brings from that culture is astounding and enriching. In other words, the America we see today could not have been possible without immigrants. They are an under-appreciated, yet vital, part of who we are, and they should not be treated any differently because of where they were born.