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Give us your poor, your tired but not your Mexican or your Muslim

In the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump, much of the anti-immigrant rhetoric that he encouraged will come to the forefront in American society. This is a heartbreaking reality for many marginalized groups in the United States. However, the actual arguments behind these anti-immigrant positions are flawed and do not stand up to the scrutiny of actual research. 

For example, Trump has said that he is going to immediately deport 2 to 3 million “criminal” undocumented immigrants. Many would have you believe that there are 2 to 3 million dangerous thieves, drug dealers, and murderers just freely walking the streets because they are undocumented. Of course, this whole narrative is not based in reality. These “dangerous criminals” can include someone who had a minor misdemeanor. Maybe it is a father with children who are U.S. citizens. Do we really want to rip that family apart? That is what these policies would do. Quickly rounding up 2-3 million people would entail massive police state policies and an infringement of civil liberties and basic decency.

The whole talk of “criminal aliens” and the rhetoric that is used on the far right may lead people to believe that immigrants are more prone to criminality. This is unfortunate rhetoric that has been around throughout the history of the country. However, the rates of criminality are actually significantly lower among immigrants than the native born population, this includes immigrants from countries with highly undocumented populations such as Mexico and Guatemala. Just as immigrants are not more criminally prone, refugees do not pose a serious security risk. In fact, since the refugee system was restructured after 9/11 out of the almost 1 million refugees who have come in, not 1 has been arrested on terrorist charges. You are much more likely to be killed by a white supremacist, whose ranks are currently growing exponentially, in the United States than a Muslim refugee. 

The other narrative is that these undocumented immigrants are hurting our economy, taking away jobs, and driving down the wages. This rhetoric was used to gain political points in the election. However, it is based on shaky economic foundations. In fact, one of the areas that many economists on both the right and left can actually find agreement on is their pro-immigrant stance. To say that immigrants “take jobs” is to conveniently ignore the fact of how many they create. Several prominent economic studies have shown that increased immigration to an area actually slightly increases the overall wages of the national workers. Also, since many undocumented immigrants pay taxes while receiving few public benefits, they often help subsidize public budgets rather than taking away from them. 

When we get past the false narratives about security and the economy, we need to realize that this is a deeply moral issue that defines who we are as a people. Do we really want to live in country where families are being torn apart to satisfy our nationalist fervor? Do we want to abandon our values of diversity and freedom of religion by marginalizing whole faith communities because of the actions of a few? Do we want to deny, like the state of South Carolina currently does, the right of undocumented students to study in state colleges and universities? This is one of the reasons why Clemson has so few Hispanic students despite the growing diversity in the state.  I thought we were the land of the free and the home of the brave. When did we become so scared and reactionary? In the end, realize that xenophobia is a dangerous strategy to win elections. It is horrific economic and social policy, and most importantly, it is an affront to human rights. It defies our American values. Our first president, George Washington, spoke of his hope that “this land might become a safe and agreeable asylum to the virtuous and persecuted part of mankind, to whatever nation they might belong.”

Immigrants will come under attack in the new administration, especially if there is an economic downturn or a terrorist attack. They will be the easy scapegoat. When this day comes we need to brace ourselves as a nation and state firmly that we will not stand for fear and nativism. We are the United States of America. We are a land made up of immigrants, and we cannot sway from our core values. 

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