Tension at the southern border prompts immigration debate

Taylor Viloria, Business Manager

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With the recent escalations in the conflict at the U.S.’s southern border, an important question is being raised on both sides of the political spectrum: Why are immigrants desperately trying to leave their countries by the thousands?

President Trump’s rhetoric that illegal immigrants cause crime and drugs to come into the U.S. is believed by many supporters, especially those living in the border states.

Much rhetoric from conservatives’ and Trump’s side insists that people attempting to enter the U.S. illegally should be deported immediately. The more liberal point of view is that undocumented immigrants should be able to have the same rights as documented immigrants. This debate has been going on for many years but has intensified in recent years. During his presidential campaign, Trump used his trademark chant “Build that Wall!” and rallied many of his supporters to believe building a wall against Mexico’s border would solve illegal immigration. He also has rallied his supporters by claiming that immigrants bring crime and drugs into the U.S.

However, opponents to the wall have expressed a less hostile view, emphasizing how the overwhelming majority of immigrants are trying to find a better life for their families in a place that is regarded by most as a place of hope and new beginnings.

Laguna Beach has not been isolated from the topic of illegal immigration. Panga boats, a type very commonly used by immigrants trying to get around the border checkpoint, have landed on Laguna Beach beaches four times with at least 12 people on them each time.

People are so desperate to make a better life for themselves that they are traveling all the way from Mexico to the U.S. through highly dangerous swells in a tiny boat, resorting to handing over their trust, money and lives to human traffickers and smugglers. Escaping the harsh circumstances in a home country to reach the “Promised Land” of America dates back to our country’s earliest beginnings.  Perhaps the generation with the most to gain are those born to immigrants.

One program that helps immigrants’ children in U.S. schools is the English Language Development (ELD) program. ELD helps children who know very little English or none at all to integrate into the U.S. and learn English.

Spanish teacher and foreign department chair Jim Garvey had been the leader of the ELD program for 22 years in Laguna Beach and has encountered first-hand the struggles immigrants go through when they come into the U.S.

“[Among the struggles immigrant children face are] leaving loved ones behind, having to work and go to school, the obvious language barrier, and trying to pass classes where some teachers [have] made little or no adjustments in methodology,” said Garvey.

When immigrants move to the U.S., even now, they are often underserved in school because of their backgrounds.

“The majority of the EL population experienced prejudices,” said Garvey. “The worst probably was low expectations placed on them because of their limited linguistic ability.”

On the other hand, there are larger economic implications for the U.S. that complicate the immigration discussion.

Eleventh-grader Timmy Crawford has very differing views on immigration.

“I feel as though [immigrants] could raise our tax rate. Due to their undocumented status, they will take advantage of federal and state funding. With the lack of their tax payments, the burden then is put on the back of the government for their healthcare and education, which then takes money and recourse away from Americans.”

This point of view is often expressed by conservatives during immigration debates, as many immigrants do benefit from the U.S.’s plentiful low-income aid from the U.S. government.  According to the Center for Immigration Studies, a disproportionate amount of immigrant households are on social welfare compared to non-immigrant households. Even though native-born households are more numerous, this causes alarm for many and fuels the conservative view that immigrants don’t do anything for the economy, and in the long run, hurt it.

Twelfth-grader Fernando Barraza has had personal experience with immigration and the stigma that often comes with it. His father legally immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1980s, looking for a better life and job opportunities.

“Many people view them as criminals and bad people even though they are leaving a very dangerous place to seek shelter and help,” said Barraza.


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