OPINION: Immigration should be celebrated, not feared

Photo credit: Kent Willmeth

During last week’s Republican presidential debate, the talk inevitably turned toward the issue of immigration in the U.S.

Under CNN’s moderation, Donald Trump – an increasingly popular candidate for the Republican Party nomination – reiterated his stance on undocumented immigrants in the country, detailed in the Daily Dot article, “Here’s everything Donald Trump said in the second GOP debate.”

“We have a lot of really bad dudes in this country from outside,” Trump said. “… They go, if I get elected, first day? They’re gone.”

Trump continued to remark that had he not decided to run for president, the topic of immigration would not be nearly substantial as it is now. For much of his campaign, Trump has used immigration and the fear of foreigners as key parts of his platform.

Personally, I am terrified by Trump’s remarks. I come from a high school where nearly half the student body was Hispanic, and as the son of Mexican immigrants, I have to admit that I am pro-immigration.

Or, at the very least, I feel that I must defend against the notion that all immigrants are criminals by nature.

When you live among a group of people, you become sensitive to their issues. During my childhood, I became familiar with the lives of the Hispanic people in my community – many of whom I came to know as honest, passionate and hardworking individuals. The vast majority of the immigrants I knew did not come to this country to steal jobs or live off of welfare, but rather to be able to make a livable wage and take a chance at a new and better life.

Of course, personal anecdotes don’t speak as well to the situation as numbers, but even the facts agree that American opinion toward undocumented immigrants is changing.

According to a survey done by the Pew Research Center earlier this May, 72 percent of Americans think that “immigrants currently living in the U.S. should be allowed to stay in this country legally if they meet certain requirements.”

The Pew Research Center also found that as much as 3.5 percent of the nation’s population is made up of undocumented immigrants and, at the same time, these immigrants also constitute a 5.1 percentage of the nation’s work force. These immigrants – the very people that cross hundreds of miles of desert and sail across seas – come to the U.S. to work to make a living, not to get rich.

While in the U.S., undocumented immigrants have also been found to be less likely to commit crimes than native-born citizens, according to the American Immigration Council. Data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation showed that while the population of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. tripled between 1990-2013, the crime rate among that same group also dramatically fell 48 percent. Crime always entails the risk of getting caught, but the penalty for an undocumented immigrant as opposed to the penalty for a citizen is much higher: immigrants risk being deported back to their country of origin, losing their American lives.

When Donald Trump speaks against immigration, he speaks to a common fear held among Americans and every nationality on Earth – a fear of the strange and unknown. This is a natural and perfectly fine fear to have. It’s actually a fear that unites us as a people, but it also divides us as a global population when we let that fear develop into xenophobia – the fear of foreigners.

As students at K-State, we are also students of the world. No matter what our majors are, we come to college to learn about our communities, nations and global cultures. Many of us come from small towns, so the world may seem like an impossibly giant place, and it certainly is. However, that should not stop us from exploring; rather, we should embrace the world and all the differences we have with each other, including with our immigrant neighbors.

At K-State, the word “family” is often stressed as a unique aspect of our college community. I’ve only been on campus for a little over a month, but I have never once felt left out or excluded from the people that live and work here, the K-State family. I believe that as a community, we have to extend that sense of family to all who want to be a part of our community.

College is a time in our lives when we have great opportunities to learn about and understand people who are completely different than ourselves, and I can think of no better place to do that than here at K-State.

I'm Rafael Garcia, and I'm a 2019 K-State graduate in journalism and former editor-in-chief of the K-State Collegian. I believe that much of the world's problems come from a lack of understanding of other people, but by telling other people's stories and finding the good in the world, I think we can increase our understanding and appreciation of each other. Questions, comments, concerns, news tips? Email the Collegian team at news@kstatecollegian.com.