By: Patrick O’Neil
Thanks to the 2016 presidential race, immigration has once again become a popular debate in American politics. Throughout my life, my view of immigration has been ever evolving. When I was young, I was completely against it for all of the conservative reasons one is against immigration — jobs, drugs, tax base and property value. I held these views for the majority of my life. Within the last year, my view shifted more to the left. With the Mexican refugee problem, immigration turned from a numbers game to a humanitarian crisis.
The coverage of this crisis changed my view. I began to believe that we, as Americans, should be kinder and more compassionate to those who want to enter our country from the southern border. They are people with families, hopes and dreams, just like us, who cannot be treated like objects. The human element of immigration struck a chord. Then something, yet again, made me reconsider my views. I was in a discussion with a friendabout politics. It was one of those late night talks that all college kids have. We talked about many political issues — race, abortion, gun rights, the whole nine yards. Naturally, as we conversed, immigration came into focus. I brought it up, simply asking, “What are your thoughts on immigration?”
Before I continue, I must give you some background on my friend. He lived near the border in Arizona and Texas for a good portion of his life. His father is an ex-police officer and is now a drug enforcement agent. With this in mind, I knew he would offer a unique point of view and possible insights that I had previously overlooked. He initially did not want to discuss the issue, but I pressed, ensuring him nothing he could say would offend me, and I would be more than understanding if his views didn’t align with mine.
After a bit of back-and-forth, he relented and began to offer his viewpoint. What he would say would forever change the way I now view immigration.When my friend began talking about this topic, his demeanor changed. The tone of his voice, his body language and his visage all hardened. My usually lively friend became abruptly stoic. He prefaced by it saying, “I know my views aren’t widely held and aren’t often respected,” as if he had this discussion before, and it hadn’t ended well.
He proceeded to tell me about his dad, whom I could tell he loved very much, and how he, day in and day out, fought violent illegal immigrants, dealt with drug smugglers and cartel leaders, all of whom posed an imminent threat to his well-being. At this point, his eyes told the rest of the story, and he no longer needed to defend his argument. I never took this viewpoint into consideration, but how ignorant of me not to. It was as if I never considered the lives of the families of soldiers and the lives of the soldiers themselves who fight overseas.
DEA agents, border patrol and police officers who fight so hard each day for the safety of our border and the nation are somehow always left out of the immigration discussion. And the families of those folks, who worry morning and night about the safety of their father or mother, husband or wife, brother or sister, who risk their lives for our nation’s safety and stability, are also left out. Yes, I understand there is and will be a humanitarian crisis with people trying to enter our country from our southern border. They are more than a number. They are humans. But let us first take into consideration the Americans who protect our borders, who stop bad guys from entering our country, who make the busts that prevent drugs from entering our country and poisoning our city streets.
I am not saying we should ignore the humanitarian issue that is present on the border. It, too, must be addressed. What I am saying is let us first address the challenges that our own citizens face, the challenges that put the lives of our brave men and women in jeopardy each and every day. Just as those immigrants are people, as I said, who have lives, families, hopes and dreams, so are the Americans who risk their lives protecting what is ours.