I am hyper sensitive to immigration issues. Growing up in southern New Mexico, just 45 minutes from the border of Mexico, I have listened to the politics and emotions that come with border conflicts my entire life. My viewpoint is skewed, as I have personally witnessed friends and co-workers battling to bring their family to this country in hopes of a better life or safety from unwanted violence. As the war between drug lords rages on in Northern Mexico over control of the pathways that bring illegal drugs into the United States, it seems all too logical that today’s Mexican residents would do their best to escape the random acts of brutal violence that ravage their family and friends. As a resident of the borderland, I hear the word “immigrant” and I can’t help but think “ refugee”. This push factor is one of many that bring people to our country from all over the world. I, although white, have been infused with a rich Mexican culture since I was a little girl and appreciate the diversity and uniqueness it brings to my hometown and the region. Without this “ immigrant” culture, I cannot imagine how my perception of the world and my personal understanding of how people interact would have formed. I both enjoy and value the diverse society I grew up in, and hope to give my children the same gift one day.
Moving to upstate New York, I have realized that my viewpoint is quite different compared to the others I encounter. In class discussion we tried to unpack the complicated feelings that immigration brings for all parties involved and the history of laws set in place to effectively keep people out. While trying to quell the potential for conflict, it is quite apparent that the current system of immigration is not working. This is not a political stance; it is simply a fact. Shutting the doors to newcomers is creating a mess of family problems, emotions and legal situations. Many of my classmates have stories of friends who recently immigrated from all over the world, but run in to the very same issues upon reaching their final destination. Working off an interactive New York Times map that shows the areas that immigrants settle, it is becoming clearer that the “immigrant” issues isn’t a border issue, as the media often refers to it as. Immigration spreads across our country, from small towns to big cities. This is not a new trend; history shows waves of immigrants trying to find a new life. Venerated at museums like the Tenement Museum of the Upper East Side, many families flock to remember the hardships their Italian or Irish grandparents faced when they got off the boat. These groups also caused conflict, but eventually assimilated and found their niche in the fabric of America. I can’t help but wonder if the current groups we look down, stereotype and often persecute as “immigrants”, like Mexicans or Middle Easterners, are just our generation’s newest groups forced to find their place in our diverse society. Will this cycle ever change?
Perhaps not. But our attitudes towards them could.