We can't accept defeat in the fight for immigration reform

guest column

Two weekends ago, I traveled to Washington D.C. as one of ten students involved with Define America, the student group that aims to amplify and echo the voices of the immigrant community on campus and in the community. The trip’s purpose was to meet with our home state representatives and senators to lobby for immigration reform by holding them accountable to past promises and pushing them to support or oppose certain bills.

It seemed simple. We were going to ask probing questions, engage in difficult conversation, and walk out feeling empowered and hopeful about the future.

We could not have been more wrong.

What we encountered instead was a widespread sense of resigned defeat. As we spoke to each congressperson’s staff, we were assured that Senator X or Representative Y cared deeply about immigration reform but that they were unable to enact meaningful change. As we asked question after question hoping to hear at least one encouraging response, we were repeatedly told that the issue of immigration was too complex and politicized to address at this time. The system is broken, they told us (as if our own experiences hadn’t already taught us that). With each meeting, our group’s morale waned as we heard that the issues with our immigration system were beyond repair.

The most honest yet disheartening feedback of the whole trip was that yes, there are bills being introduced and letters being signed in support of immigration reform, but no, there is no confidence anything will change. Because there has been no real immigration reform in decades, the time and effort needed to implement proactive policies is currently being drained by urgent attempts to stop the continued undermining of immigrant rights. Each time a congressperson tries to introduce legislation to fix the immigration system, we were told, they are met with a combination of bullheadedness from the opposition and cowardice from those supposedly dedicated to reform. With all the other problems our nation faces, there is only so much time for continual failed attempts.

I asked myself what could be done. The solution is simple, but implementing it is not.

Look at the steps that have been taken to swiftly allow Ukrainian refugees to enter the country. Then look at the countless systemic barriers their Hispanic counterparts seeking refuge face. One group is deemed the victim of an unjustified war perpetuated by an international war criminal while the other is stigmatized as criminals, drug dealers, and job thieves. Both groups face life threatening conditions at home and both are left with no option but to flee, but one is white, the other brown.

It is time we stop looking at Hispanic immigrants as statistics. These are human beings with the same fears and aspirations as any of us. Individuals that are willing to travel thousands of miles despite knowing they will face mistreatment in a foreign country because the conditions at home are worse. As long as the problems in Central and South America persist, people are going to keep coming.

It’s hard to blame someone for doing everything possible to make a better life for themselves and their families. You would likely do the same. So, I urge you to stand up for immigration reform. It will be a difficult process, but it will only be harder and longer if those of us who yearn for change accept defeat. The magnitude of the challenge should inspire us to keep holding our representatives accountable by signing petitions, having difficult conversations, raising awareness, and humanizing immigrants. By taking simple steps in our individual lives, we can overcome the racism and polarization that stands as a roadblock to a more equitable and humane immigration system.

Sofia Cava is a Trinity first-year.


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