The Great griffin melting pot

by Darby Ratliff

Opinion Editor

I loved Schoolhouse Rock as a kid (I love it as an adult too). I loved it. Whenever the teacher would dim the lights, fiddle with the VHS player, and fast forward to whichever song we were watching that day, I’d buckle my seatbelt and sing along under my breath. While “I’m Just a Bill” is certainly my favorite (and perhaps indicative of a future in student government), “The Great American Melting Pot” always stuck with me and not just because I love food and it uses a stew as a metaphor for ethnic diversity. I always thought it was really wonderful that this nation is comprised of people of varying backgrounds who were all welcomed because they wanted to start fresh in the New World where they would be accepted, despite coming from so many different places. Granted, “diversity” in the 17th and 18th centuries really meant Europeans, at least for the most part, but the idea behind it still stands. I’d like to say that this has changed, but it doesn’t really seem to have done so, based on some people’s (i.e. Donald Trump, my best friend) views on immigration and what it means in the United States.

To be clear, I’m very liberal when it comes to immigration. I don’t want to prevent anyone from coming into this country, and I think those who are paranoid about letting “terrorists” into the country are the same who have attempted to infringe on my civil liberties and right to privacy. I’m not afraid of other people, and I’m choosing not be afraid of the possibility of acts of terror. They’ve happened, and we have to be cautious, but there is a line to be found. We shouldn’t be punishing those who want to come into the United States for the sins of those who hate us.

Our country has seen waves of people come into it. At one point, the ancestors of those of Irish descent that we celebrated yesterday were looked down upon just as those of Latin American heritage are unjustly condescended to today. Even citizens who worked blue collar jobs were thought to be less of before the Progressive Era, labouring tirelessly in unsafe conditions just to provide for their families. They were less than the aristocratic middle class in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, blue collar workers live in fear of immigrants “stealing their jobs,” even though many of those jobs require paperwork, which these people don’t have because the immigration process takes so long. It’s not a process in months but one in years. In a story on legal immigration through the National Public Radio (NPR) that was written in 2013, the interviewer notes that the paperwork being processed at that time was filed in 1993, and over 4 million people had applied for legal residency in the United States. That’s a ten year gap between filing and processing, enough for a child to grow up and go through the primary stages of development in the world. It’s the difference between a middle school student and a college student. It’s incredible to think that, while we won’t let “illegal” immigrants into the country and we’re actively deporting individuals on a daily basis, we’re so far behind on paperwork, likely due to manpower limitations, that the reasons for which people may come to the U.S. (healthcare, freedom of speech, etc.) have already shifted. Their primary motivation may have lapsed in relevancy simply because we have such high standards.

In my mind, there is no “illegal” immigration. Perhaps that is naive, and I recognize that. However, I’m not willing to concede that it’s an incorrect opinion to hold. I’m all for keeping track of those in the United States and running background checks in order to provide for the safety and security of my friends and family. However, I’m also cognizant of the fact that my ancestors went through Ellis Island, a tiresome process then but nothing in comparison to the length of it now. I’m aware that we need to secure our country and that our citizens take priority, but regardless we wax poetic regularly about providing a safe environment in which the future of our nation can learn and grow. Yet, immigrants–potential citizens–are the future of our nation as well. They, more than anyone, understand and value what our country has to offer. They’re the ones who appreciate freedom, justice, and the American way because they actively long for all three of those things. They hide away aboard trucks and pay as much as they can just to get smuggled across the border. They live in less than humane conditions and work in less than safe ones to provide for their families because they cannot wait to get to America.

I will not build a wall to those who I could be. I could’ve been born in a different place or time, in varying conditions and circumstances. I could be one of those who wish to come to the United States with all of her being, and I could be someone who has waited for ten years to do so. You could too. I will happily concur that we should keep track of who is here, but I will not close my doors to those in need. That’s not the foundation of a Jesuit education. That’s not being a woman for others. Loyola University of Chicago’s student government association recently raised their student tax (our student activity fee) by $2.50 to provide a scholarship each year to undocumented students who are ineligible to receive federal financial aid. Because Loyola Chicago is much larger than Canisius, our student activity fee would need to be raised by an even higher mount, but their increase put the amount raised around $50,000. Can you imagine? Fifty thousand dollars, though it’s still only a fraction of dear Donald Trump’s fortune. I suspect he won’t be so supportive.

Diversity has been a big issue at Canisius this year. We’ve talked about it here in the pages of The Griffin, and it’s been discussed in the Strategic Planning Committee and various affinity groups throughout campus. I think that we need to remember that immigration is a lot of what brings diversity into this country, and I know it’s something that we need to consider here on our campus as well. America may be the quintessential “Great American Melting Pot,” but I think that the “Great Griffin Melting Pot” has a nice ring to it as well.

 

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