“Immigrant” is a word that tends to have a negative connotation for many in the United States today. There is an overwhelming surge of nativism and nationalism here in the U.S. These ideals fear both change and look to exclude masses of people from sharing the same kind of freedom these individuals themselves enjoy.
This is one of America’s most startling hypocrisies, which is both inexcusable and morally corrupt. The stigma that has been associated with the word “immigrant” dates back hundreds of years. There was a surge in nationalism in the late 19th century when Europeans flocked to New York City in hopes of a better life, fleeing from drought and famine as well as war. There was a surge on the West Coast at that time, as many Chinese and Japanese immigrants flocked to San Francisco in hopes of economic reprieve.
There have been many tides of immigration throughout the history of the United States, stemming back to the days before one could even call it the United States. The peculiar thing about each wave of immigrants into the country is that each time the second or third generation, the sons and grandsons of previous immigrants, band together in hopes of stemming the flow of new immigrants who look to change the status quo. This xenophobic mentality is just as apparent in our modern society.
Our current immigration “crisis,” as many government officials are calling it, has to do with displaced Syrians who wish to seek asylum in the United States. They are fleeing a nearly decade-long war that has torn their country apart. Until recently, the number of Americans and politicians that were against Syrian immigration was hardly discussed. But due to the attack on Paris that occurred nearly a week ago, there has been massive outcry from citizens across the nation that call for the closing of our borders to refugees that come from the Middle East or any other Islamic nations. 31 governors, including Arkansas’s own Asa Hutchinson, have decreed that they will not allow Syrian refugees into their states. These decrees range in claims from national security to conflict with Islam itself.
Ted Cruz and Ben Carson, two presidential hopefuls for the GOP nomination, have gone so far as to say that they would only allow Christian refugees into the country, leaving the majority of Syrian refugees who are Muslim to fend for themselves as the paths they can take to safety and freedom close off. Their logic comes from the king of “what if” scenarios. There is a fear that allowing immigrants from Syria to set up homes here in the U.S. will also risk letting in terrorists. The concern is that terrorists will look to use the mass immigrant population as a Trojan horse of sorts to carry out terrorist attacks on American soil. This fear is not only misguided but also a complete fallacy. It is a kind of draconian logic due to not only racial and religious trepidation towards the Syrian people, but also a cornerstone of American hypocrisy and paranoia.
Our nation’s founding lies on a stone crafted from equality. The stone is supported by pillars of freedom, and a binding mortar composed of our different cultures and religions holds the entire structure together. Our different origins and our new beginnings are what make the United States of America what it is today. I do not know what it is that makes people so fearful. I do not know what gives people the idea that America is only for those who have been here longest. Anyone who sees things from such a limited perspective is not only ignorant of history but also part of the problem that this nation faces with racial and religious conflict. Those of us who know what it means to be American—those of us who look to be leaders of humanity—need to fight twice as hard to educate the ignorant and provide anything we can give to those who seek shelter under the stars and stripes.
We will never be able to stop those who wish to do harm. There will always be darkness alongside the light. The fact of the matter is that if we allow the barring of immigrants at our borders, we will be pouring black paint onto what could have been a beautiful painting of nations arm in arm, unified by our common ground as humans. An artist needs both dark and light to make a masterpiece. What the U.S. stands for is the balance between the two, and the American people cannot forget that.
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