Immigration is the premise upon which this nation was founded. Yet it has been a topic of continuous contention throughout the 2016 presidential race. The rhetoric surrounding immigration during the election has been largely uninformed. As a result, we have lost the ability to separate facts from generalizations.
In light of this rhetoric, we must parse through misconceptions to better understand the role that immigrants play in our lives. For starters, many believe that all individuals migrate to the United States without documentation to escape crime and political instability, when in reality many immigrate to became productive members of American society.
Both immigrants with and without documentation become fundamental economic assets to our society when they arrive. According to the Economic Policy Institute, immigrant labor accounts for nearly 15 percent of total American output. According to Forbes, more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants. This is the antithesis to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s statement that immigrants from Mexico “are stealing our jobs. They’re rapists, they’re murderers.”
Then, there are those who say that they do not have anything against immigrants, as long as they come here legally. This perspective lacks the understanding of how there is currently not a legally manageable process for immigrants to go through when they are faced with the decision to leave their homes for the United States. Unless a person comes from a privileged background, which includes family ties or socio-economic status, the only path to immigration often takes the form of an “illegal” leap of faith.
Comprehensive immigration reform must take into account the fact that immigrants do not always have a choice over the factors that push them away from their countries of origin.
It does not start with those on Capitol Hill; it starts with any and every ordinary citizen. We need reform that transcends any piece of paper, through which we humbly seek to comprehend immigration not as just an issue, but as a phenomenon that has shaped human history.
To do so, one needs only to look at our campus. Georgetown is a welcome example of an inclusive environment in which immigrants can thrive. Here on the Hilltop, our community attempts to alleviate systemic difficulties and create an inclusive environment for all students through various resources in the Offices of Admissions, Student Financial Services and Campus Ministry.
Through an emphasis on confidentiality, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions invites all students across the country to apply to Georgetown regardless of citizenship, immigration status and financial need. For students without documentation enrolled at Georgetown, the launch of a website for students without documentation in April 2016 marked the university’s dedication to providing information regarding resources related to admission, financial aid, legal counsel and advising for students without documentation to ensure their support on Georgetown’s campus.
Student groups have also taken an active role in advocating for rights for immigrants and students without documentation, both at Georgetown and across the country. On Nov. 1, Hoyas for Immigrant Rights celebrated the first #IAmAnImmigrant Day of Action, a campaign started by bipartisan reform group FWD.us meant to highlight the countless contributions immigrants make to our nation. The iconic “I Am An Immigrant” T-shirts worn by participants were seen all over campus.
There is also the National Educators Coming Out Day on Nov. 12, when faculty and the student body have the opportunity to participate in a national campaign and demonstrate their support for undocumented students, pledging themselves as allies to fellow Hoyas.
Regardless of our political beliefs, outlook on immigration or favored candidate in this election, supporting our fellow students is a responsibility we must all embrace. As members of Hoyas for Immigrant Rights, we encourage all students to educate themselves, take time to think about our collective impact on the community and strive to create a welcoming environment for all Georgetown students. Listen to as many stories as possible, for our campus is filled with a multitude of perspectives and diversity, making Georgetown a home for so many, regardless of origin.
Rocío Mondragón Reyes is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service and Adrienne Dittman is a sophomore in the College. They are the co-chairs of Hoyas for Immigrant Rights.