Alyssa Ahlgren: What they don’t tell you about the immigration debate

To pretend illegal immigration isn’t a problem, to not support funding for our border patrol agents (which are majority Hispanic), to completely ignore legal immigrants in favor of people actively defying United States law, and to label border security supporters as anti-immigrant and racist is not only blatantly disingenuous but regressive to finding actual immigration solutions.

Statue of Liberty

“I want strong border security.” “I think illegal immigration is a problem.” What do you think when you hear these two statements? If you’re conservative you probably think, “I agree, this is common sense.” If you’re a liberal you probably think, “That’s racist and a manufactured crisis.” Whether you agree with either of these statements or fall somewhere in the middle, this article is for you.

I’ve always been wary of calling the illegal crossings of our southern border an outright crisis. However, I think it’s on its way to becoming one as members of congress refuse to fund our border patrol to provide the resources necessary to do their job effectively. Detention centers are small and run down, border patrol is under staffed, and the laws on the books are misconstrued by conflicting and overreaching court rulings that tie the government’s hands behind its back when dealing with immigration.

Now, let me set the record straight. Just because I believe in securing our border and doing all we can to combat illegal immigration (this includes visa overstays) it does NOT mean I’m against immigration in general. The narrative promulgated by both the media and leftists is that if you’re not for illegal immigration and you support a border wall, you are inherently racist and resent all immigration. This is outright false and dishonest. As a conservative, I am incredibly supportive of legal immigration, and from all ethnicities and backgrounds at that. I do not support breaking the law.

My mother is an immigrant. She came here at 12 years old from what was formerly Yugoslavia and is now Croatia. She came to Chicago with her parents, older sister, and younger brother. They became United States citizens after going through the years-long immigration process. It wasn’t the easy way, it wasn’t a convenient way, but it was the right way. My mom’s family immediately got to work and did not take a dime of government assistance. They learned English, assimilated, and became productive members of society. When I say assimilate I mean to abide by American law and the values of liberty and freedom that make this country so amazing and unique. These values are not exclusive to any race or ethnicity, these values represent the free democratic-republic our country was built on.

Like former president Barack Obama said April 6, 2019 speaking to young leaders in Berlin, Germany:

“I worry sometimes as we think about how to deal with the immigration issue we think that any moves towards assimilation of newcomers to the existing culture is somehow betrayal or a denial of people’s heritage or what have you. The truth of the matter is that if you’re going to have a coherent, cohesive society then everybody has to have some agreed upon rules, and there’s gonna have to be some accommodations that everybody makes, and that includes the people who are newcomers. The question is, are those fair? Should we want to encourage newcomers to learn the language of the country they’re moving to? Of course. Does that mean they can never use their own language. No. Of course it doesn’t mean that, but it’s not racist to say if you’re gonna be here then you should learn the language of the country you just arrived at, because we need to have some sort of common language in which all of us can work and learn and understand each other.”

This is what I want, I want more legal immigration. I want people to be vetted on an individual level to determine if they will assimilate and be productive members of our American society. Our country is known as the “melting pot” for a reason. The United States, according to the Department of Homeland Security, let in 1.13 million immigrants in 2017 that are now permanent residents. Compare this to the only 286,479 immigrants Canada made residents in 2017 or the 572,000 immigrants in the United Kingdom the same year. The United States is the number one ranking country when it comes to letting in immigrants. These are not “white Europeans” either, that I hear from left counterarguments. Asians accounted for 37.7% of the 2017 statistic, Africans were 10.5%, North Americans (categorized as Caribbean, Central America, and Other) 36.7% and South Americans 7%.

Our immigration process is long and complicated, littered with red tape and bureaucracy, and desperately needs to be reformed. However, it’s the one we have right now and it’s the one immigrants and citizens alike must abide by. No one has a human right to be an American citizen. No one has the right to illegally skip the immigration line and pass up people like my mother patiently waiting their turn. The Department of Homeland Security estimated in 2015 that 12 million illegal aliens resided in the United States. According to statistics from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection on the DHS website, just this past month in March, there were 103,492 illegal border crossing apprehensions. This number is about double from March 2018 and about six times as much as March 2017, and these numbers only include apprehensions.

The Center for Immigration Studies found 63% of non-citizen households access welfare programs. We are finding that most illegal immigrants are taking advantage of our massive welfare state. Most illegal aliens are economic seekers, not true refugees that meet the legal criteria of asylum. Now, with that said, I do feel for the millions who want to enter our country. I want these immigrants who are crossing illegally to have a chance to apply for citizenship. I want them to go to a port of entry and start the legal process. I want them to have a chance to be an American citizen. I am far from anti-immigration. I am anti-illegal immigration. Not recognizing the difference is what created the massive partisan divide on this issue.

To pretend illegal immigration isn’t a problem, to not support funding for our border patrol agents (which are majority Hispanic), to completely ignore legal immigrants in favor of people actively defying United States law, and to label border security supporters as anti-immigrant and racist is not only blatantly disingenuous but regressive to finding actual immigration solutions. I’m in favor of barrier and strong border security, I am in favor of reforming and streamlining our immigration system, and I am in favor of immigration for those who have shown that they will be productive members of our society. This great country is full of diversity and immigrants from all over the world thanks to our generous stand on immigration. We welcome in more people than any other nation in the world and that should be celebrated. We need to protect our nation’s border and the citizenry in it, while also looking internally at those who abuse the system. This is not an anti-immigrant approach. This has nothing to do with race. This is a recognition that our country is diverse, filled with immigrants that embrace American ideals, and that deserves to be protected.

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