In recent times, the issue of immigration has become a more contentious issue within and outside the United States. As conversations and debates around it keep increasing, it is gradually becoming not just about the south border, the United States, and Mexico. It has also brought other issues on board – the fate of immigrants from war-torn zones, the American Value System, and the American Democracy.
Immigration has remained a herculean task that past government administrations have failed to successfully tackle. Regardless of the many opinions and reasons that surround this, I strongly believe that the main reason is the inability, or rather, unwillingness of government administrations to conduct major reforms on immigration laws. Other than being a contentious reform to conduct, there is also the fear that embarking on such a major reform might give the opposition party an upper hand on the campaign trail.
That explains why, from President Clinton to President Bush, and President Obama, the different approaches that have been taken to solve the issue of immigration have failed. The President Trump-led administration is not having a smooth ride either, with its new approach to solving the immigration issue. In fact, it is this very approach that has escalated the tension to the point it is at the moment.
I legally immigrated to the United States in 1996 and I have witnessed the buildup of the tension around immigration. In the last 23 years, my experiences as an immigrant have shaped my views, one of which is that immigrants, whether legal or illegal, aren’t less than the human being that they are.
However, this does not contradict the fact that my views are also deeply rooted in two all-important subjects – the Tenets of American Democracy and the American Value System. Sadly, the existing conflict between these subjects is basically responsible for the immigration conflict we are currently experiencing as a country.
To unravel this submission, it is important we examine a core tenet of the American Democracy – the rule of law. The rule of law is a principle of governance in which all persons, institutions and entities, public and private, including the state itself, are accountable to the laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced, and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights, norms, and standards. Simply put, everyone within the borders of the United States is obligated to abide by its rules and regulations. No one, within the borders of the United States, is above the its laws.
According to these laws, it is wrong for ‘visitors’ to extend their stay after the expiration of their visas and it is also wrong to cross into the United States illegally. Currently, an estimate of 600,000 visitors and 12 million immigrants have flagrantly disregarded these laws. This has been the bedrock of President Trump’s argument for the need to build a physical border between the United States and Mexico. A wall, he argues, will be able to check the influx of illegal immigrants from the South border.
However, this wall, many argue, is a symbolic misrepresentation of the American Value System. According to the founding fathers of America, we are a Nation of Immigrants. According to history, America was founded by war immigrants who simply wanted to start life over again. So, it would be out of place for any group to claim that their ancestors originally inhabit what we now call, America. America is a settlement that has evolved to become a nation of immigrants.
Based on this history, America has continued to welcome immigrants from all over the world. Regardless of their ethnicity, tribe, religion, and race, immigrants have been offered a better chance of having a new beginning and quality of life. Sadly, the current situation has become less than ideal as more cases of immigrants violating the American rule of law continue to emerge.
This, doubtless to say, is a serious threat to American sovereignty and its citizens. But the big question remains, which should take precedence, the American Value System or the tenets of the American Democracy? Do we stop being the nation of immigrants to protect our sovereignty and citizens? Do we remain the beacon of hope for people around the world and continuously deal with having to protect our sovereignty, the rule of law?
‘Why choose between these two when you can have the best of both options?’ I ask every time I have the opportunity to share my views on the immigration issue. In my own opinion, the American Value System and the American Democracy do not have to be mutually exclusive. What we need are well-reformed immigration laws that will create a common ground for both to thrive. Until a sitting government is willing to initiate this major reform, the tension around the immigration issue will continue to buildup and the end of it will not be in sight.
The current administration needs to acknowledge that current immigration laws are not suited to handle the challenges of the present immigration realities. More importantly, it needs to start the process of reformation immediately because the future of America depends on its diversity and competitiveness.
As a legal immigrant, I have witnessed, first hand, the power of America’s diversity being played across different sectors, fields, and discipline. This is the America the world knows and has come to love. If this is to continue, we must make sense of our domestic immigration crisis.
The solution, I maintain, is a wholistic reformation that will create progressive immigration laws that will continue to outpace the changing dynamics of the immigration issues within and outside the United States.