Just across the George Washington Bridge in New York City is a little old place known as Long Island. Much more than just an entity of New York, Long Island is home to the suburbs, the beaches, the soccer moms and most importantly, some of the best school districts in the country. From September to June, the screeching brakes of big yellow busses filled with eager children can be heard from almost every corner you turn. However, these happy kids screaming and waving through bus windows often cast a shadow over other children like Carlos Garcia Lobo, a nine-year-old immigrant from Honduras who is unable to attend school. Like the 2,500 other unaccompanied children of immigrants on Long Island, Carlos’ parents do not have appropriate documents to prove guardianship and legality, banning him, and others in a similar situation, from the classroom.
The shadow that casts over children like Carlos is a result of misconceptions. Many Americans are caught up with the idea that all undocumented immigrants are “border jumpers” or “invaders,” and fail to recognize that immigrants simply want what every other natural born citizen easily obtains: an education, a home, a job and a family. Andrew Portes denounces this misconception in his book “Immigrant America: A Portrait,” where he explains how most undocumented immigrants aren’t just strolling into United States; most are simply “visa abusers” who were once legal, but their presence became illegal by remaining in the U.S past their visas’ expirations. This point should be dearly noted, because the misclassification of immigrants not only adds to the negative stigmas that label immigrant groups as “other,” but also creates a lack of support for people who once had a meaningful belonging in a promising place they once comfortably called home.
In November 2014, President Obama set forth a series of new initiatives that aimed to mitigate the illegal immigrant situation in America. He proposed changes to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program with the goal of expanding the program to include immigrant parents of lawful citizens and extend various waivers to unlawful immigrants who have children or spouses that are U.S citizens.
The importance of the expansion to DACA is that it could potentially provide a once classified legal immigrant more time to figure out their options for legality. If they bear a child here (who would be a natural citizen) and then years later their visa expires, they would be classified as “illegal,” but their child would still hold lawful status. In the case of Carlos, and the other 2,500 unaccompanied immigrant children on Long Island, the expansion of DACA would allow for parents to maintain appropriate documentation so that their children can learn, grow and become something more than an “unaccompanied other,” deprived of the schooling and support that they deserve.
The above initiatives would provide a structured improvement that is both fair and considerate of immigrants in various situations, but here’s the catch: written in gray, bold print at the bottom of the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website is an apathetic notice that reads, “These initiatives have not been implemented, and USCIS will not be accepting any requests or applications at this time.”
The main issue here isn’t that the government won’t implement the new DACA. The issue is that the refusal of implementation indirectly supports this American misconception that undocumented immigrants are border jumpers who are just here to ruin our economy. Currently, Texas and 25 other states have sued the United States because they feel that the Obama administration’s actions in regards to immigration initiatives are unconstitutional, because having lawful immigrants would require states to provide “state-subsidized driver’s licenses” and unemployment insurance to immigrants. These views are problematic; if a government can’t gain support on immigration, how are uninformed citizens supposed to support it?
The above situation clearly shows the governmental issue behind the lack of support for immigration. Additionally, a study in May 2015 published by the Pew Research Center shows a lack of support from the American people. The poll found that 31 percent of U.S citizens felt that the amount of legal immigrants in the U.S should be decreased and 39 percent said that the amount of legal immigrants should remain the same. In other words, more than half of U.S citizens do not support any form of new immigration to the U.S.
Americans are failing to see how relevant immigration is to their lives. At one point in time, the ancestors of today’s “Americans” were considered “other” and “un-American.” They came to the U.S with hope for acceptance and mobility, like modern immigrants of today. Through struggle, our ancestors found their way and became “American.” Today, we need to consider children like Carlos, who need an education, a family and a chance. He could one day become a doctor, a lawyer or a physicist, and be something more than a misconceived immigrant child. He could easily become American—if only we let him.