by Ellie Soh - Georgia Chapter Editor
Almost all of us who call ourselves American are descended from immigrants of one form or another. That inherent fact is being severely challenged by the Trump administrations view and policies regarding immigration. Whether it’s controversial speeches or outlandish tweets, Trump’s stance on immigration, even legal immigration as we now see with efforts to stop people from asking for political asylum, efforts to reopen cases of people who are already citizens, and efforts to prevent people who legally used public assistance (even just using the Affordable Care Act) from getting green cards and of course “the Wall.” Americans are having to face whether we really are a melting pot or the values that brought our families here have so changed that we no longer live up to our ideals. While these major changes are happening the basics of US immigration policy (separation of children from parents aside) are being overshadowed by the constant flood of living in a government that runs on scandals. This election season is a crucial time for America. Voters need to consider not just what to do about our government by crisis they also need to consider the actual issues that face us – not just the reality television show nature of our presidency. Voters especially need to look at candidates’ plan of action for current and future immigrants coming to our nation.
The biggest thing to keep in mind is the thousands of lives being directly affected by the government’s current policies. President Trump is continuously making efforts to shut down the DACA program, which will immediately impact over half a million young Americans and directly affects the lives of many in our 5th State Senate District and Georgia more broadly. Any candidate not willing to defend this program that benefits so many in our communities does not deserve our support.
How we use our law enforcement resources is another important issue. In fact, with the 287(g) program in effect in many places including our own Gwinnett County, many immigrants don’t or won’t report crimes for fear of involving ICE and immigration officers. Going after undocumented immigrants instead of violent criminals and in fact to the point that it makes it harder to catch violent criminals does our country no good. Rather than building cohesive communities within America, it seems that the Trump administration is more interested in breaking them down. We need to support elected officials and candidates who will work to bring immigrant communities into community policing not make them the targets of it.
If you haven’t already forgotten one of the most highly publicized issues around immigration this past year, thousands of children were forcefully separated from their families. While the administration has attempted to resolve the issue due to heavy backlash, around 500 children are still indefinitely separated from their families. Compared to when it first unsurfaced, the scandal has majorly fallen off the radar. Not only is this a bad policy but it’s a problem that hasn’t ended – it’s just been forgotten. Voters need to elect candidates that will make sure families are reunited and that this policy becomes a terrible exception and not the rule about how we treat people seeking asylum.
Another aspect of immigration that is being severely restricted is the refugee community. Known as the “Ellis Island of the South,” the nearby City of Clarkston in Dekalb reported that they will no longer be accepting refugees due to updated governmental policies. Many communities throughout the nation have closed offices that process interviews for refugees, blocking those who wish to come to America. In many cases, children are prioritized in the refugee accepting process, so now parents seeking to apply and follow their children are unable to do so. This tragedy outlines how the government is still splitting up families in different ways, and policy reform is desperately needed right now. Voters need to demand better policies from our candidates and elected officials and November is the time to do that.
In spite of the rhetoric from the Trumpistas – the solution is not rounding up all the immigrants in a pickup truck belonging to a gubernatorial candidate and returning them to their home countries. In this crucial hour, citizens need to vote for candidates with realistic solutions to address immigration in America that preserves our safety and protects our borders but respects and continues our values as a nation of immigrants where anyone who works hard and plays by the rules can become part of the American Dream. Remember when you are voting not to just focus on the scandal of the day, but rather on the fact that the future of our country and our status as a beacon of hope in the world is in our hands.