America is known as a “melting pot” of different cultures and ethnicities from around the world. Only two percent of United States citizens are Native American.
Every family’s immigration story is unique. Some people came to the United States for love, some came for an education, and some came to escape something from their original country in order to have a better life.
I learned that my grandma, Graciela Menold, immigrated into the United States in order to have more rights as a woman, and to live a better life for herself and her two kids born in the United States.
My grandma did not have much of an issue with immigrating back in 1955 when the immigration policies were more lenient than they are today. President Trump’s new policies, for example his goal to build a wall at the border between Mexico and the United States, make it more difficult to immigrate.
Under the Obama administration, deportation efforts focused on undocumented immigrants with criminal convictions. Trump’s policies broaden the deportation target, allowing for immigration officials to target people they see as threatening to public safety.
“[Secretary of Homeland Security John] Kelly’s memos instruct agents to also prioritize undocumented immigrants who have been charged with a crime but not convicted of it, or committed an act that may be criminal offenses but haven’t been charged for it. Those categories mean that almost any brush with the American law-enforcement system could make an undocumented immigrant a target for removal,” according to The Atlantic’s article on Trump’s new immigration policies.
This broader target on immigrants affects immigrants across the United States, but also specifically it affects the undocumented students at Cal Poly.
“There’s a lot of fear that students have for themselves and for their families. Not just fear from ICE, Immigrations, Customs and Enforcement, but also from other people, said Casey McCullough, an Americore CSU STEM VISTA at Cal Poly. “There seems to be nationally an increase in xenophobic hate crimes, so I think that’s a concern, too, that students have.”
McCullough works with many undocumented student organizations on campus in order to make this transition easier and provide support for student immigrants. She mainly focuses on the Undocumented Student Working Group, which formed in October 2015.
President Trump’s new immigration policies’ effects “really reemphasize the need for safe spaces and also the need for allies who can stand up for and advocate with and for undocumented immigrants,” McCullough said.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), put in place by the Obama administration, is a great resource that allows undocumented students to receive some of the same benefits as their documented peers, McCullough said. But it could be signed away with by a federal executive order at any time. That’s what the Undocumented Student Working Group is preparing for.
Similarly, Congressman Salud Carbajal, representative of California’s 24th district, “has co-sponsored legislation called the BRIDGE Act in Congress, which would codify President Obama’s Executive Order on DACA,” Carbajal’s Communications Director, Tess Whittlesey said. “Many students rely on this Executive Order to pursue their education. Though the real answer to our immigration problems would be a reform of the entire immigration system, preserving DACA is an important step to protect those that immigrated here as children.”
Immigrants are fundamental to the United States, not just for economic reasons, said McCullough, but also to integrate more diversity and culture into the country.
“I think that there is never any harm in having diverse perspectives. It’s harmful when there is only one way of thinking and knowing,” McCullough said. “Cal Poly is not a very racially diverse place, so I think that it’s necessary to sort of disrupt that.”
On a federal level, Carbajal, an immigrant from Mexico, “remains deeply concerned about the anti-immigrant rhetoric from [Trump’s] administration,” Whittlesey said. “Immigrants are fundamental to our country’s continued success and greatly contribute to communities throughout the Central Coast.”
Feature Photo: People march in Minneapolis with immigrants and refugees in February 2017. Photo by Fibonacci Blue (Flickr/Creative Commons)