Americans forget that we are all immigrants

Story by Cecilia Whalen, Staff Writer

Around 1910, Julia Griffin came to the United States. Her homeland of Ireland, which was still suffering from the exploitative rule of the British, was a vastly impoverished nation, and for families like the Griffins, who were living in a little stone house with a dirt floor, there was no hope but to flee.

Her sister Nonie was the first to emigrate, and once Nonie had made enough money working as a maid, she sent it home so that her sister Julia could come as well.

Julia Griffin made it safely to the States and made her life here, marrying Mike Casey and having three children: Mary, Eileen, and my grandmother Genevieve.

It was impossible to find work then, especially as an immigrant, but luckily Julia, who soon became a single mother, was able to find a job as a housemaid in order to take care of her three daughters. Still, they barely squeezed by.

Practically nobody was willing to help out the immigrants of that time.

More than 100 years later, our country’s immigrants still live in poverty and discrimination, with few public leaders genuinely willing to help.

Immigration is always one of the first issues to be raised at a political debate. With the Republican presidential circus being covered by the media almost 24/7, we are constantly hearing about it.

Ben Carson, a Republican presidential candidate, said he would “like to seal the U.S.-Mexico border by cutting all benefits that he says attracts illegal immigration,” according to the Washington Post. This means cutting things like good health care, good education, and any other kind of benefits that someone could get by being in the United States. He said that by doing this, “you won’t have anybody trying to do this [come to the States].”

Ted Cruz, another Republican presidential candidate, said, on his official website, that as president he would “secure the borders once and for all” and “Strengthen and enforce our existing immigration laws” while reversing “President Obama’s enforcement ‘priorities,’ which allow a large number of criminal aliens to unlawfully remain in the United States.” Cruz uses derogatory terms like “criminal aliens” to make it sound like immigrants are coming to wreak havoc on the U.S.

And we all know where Donald Trump stands; he called immigrants, specifically the Latin American ones, “rapists and criminals”, adding nicely that he also “assumes some of them are nice people.” Trump also most recently called to block all the immigration of any muslim person to the United States, in fear of “Islamic Terrorism.”

These politicians are 100% against helping these people out. They try their hardest to keep new people out and get rid of the ones who are already here. It is heartless, it is unjust, and it is wrong.

At East, we are a perfect representation of the diversity of the United States. Because of this diversity it is almost impossible to not have at least one friend who is from a different country. It is an amazing experience to be with people of different cultures and it should be something that everyone has the opportunity to do. Trying to “seal the border” to keep out immigrants and deport those who are already here is not fair to those immigrants, nor is it fair for all the rest of America. We learn not by being with people who are like us, but by being with people who are different from us.

Ridding the States of immigrants is also the opposite of what our country was founded on. In fact, inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, it states, in Emma Lazarus’ poem The new Colossus, ”Give me your tired, your poor,/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore./Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,/I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” Our country was created to be inclusive of the poor, the homeless, the “tempest tost”, and the immigrants. That’s what makes our country so great and in turn makes our school so great. When people talk about deporting undocumented immigrants that’s personal for us. That’s our friends, our sisters, and our brothers. That’s me and you.

People come to the United States thinking that they can finally find a place where they can be safe from persecution, from hatred, and from fear. Instead what they find is the same thing, and they shouldn’t.

The reason my great-grandma came to the United States was to find peace. She was not looking to hurt anybody, commit any crimes, or impose anything on others. She was looking for compassion.

As American citizens, citizens of the “land of immigrants,” we owe it to our families, our friends, and our neighbors, to help out the new generation of immigrants. They need to know that they are welcome here, if nowhere else. We need to show compassion, to lend a helping hand, and in the end, to love.