Having friends from across the political spectrum at the College of William and Mary, I have tended to absorb the anxieties that many students here are feeling about the rapidly changing political climate here.
Shocking for a college student not to voluntarily subject myself to an echo chamber, I know. However, two words in particular have stuck out to me in all of these conversations: “dream” and “sanctuary.”
Obviously, these words are more relevant than ever, but they mean vastly different things for different swaths of Virginians — and I’d like to dispel the notion that any one person’s interpretation of these is more important than another’s interpretation.
For one, as a second generation American, I highly empathize with those who want to implement wide-ranging protections for illegal immigrants — especially for children brought to the country at a young age and who should especially not be held legally culpable for immigration crimes. It is not very morally ambiguous at all: Americans should protect “Dreamers,” or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients, at all costs, and I’m honestly surprised that this idea does not have more bipartisan support.
Law-abiding immigrants, for the most part, are positive contributors to their communities.
They bring diversity to homogenous areas; they help the economy and they even pay taxes. Imagine not being forced to pay taxes to your state, local and federal governments, but still choosing to do so. I would never.
They are entrepreneurs, they are your neighbors, their children play with your children, and in certain cases they can join the military and die for this country.
So why the xenophobic rhetoric about their origins? People could have gone anywhere but chose to come to the United States and pursue the American dream. That has to mean something.
I know that was my grandmother’s motivation when she brought my mother from Guadalajara, Jalisco to Los Angeles, California in the 1970s. I’d like to think that they are both amazing examples of the potential of Latinos here.
I’m not going to tell you what you should do for immigration reform, since I refuse to be a partisan hack — but I implore your to follow your convictions and keep in mind that the people whose future you are deciding upon are just that: people.
They aren’t “members of DACA,” or some abstract nameless, faceless force descending upon this country like some sort of “infestation.” You don’t need a medieval style moat with alligators to protect yourselves from them. They are people and that’s a quintessentially important fact to always keep in mind.
Likewise, why is there all this hatred for the American dream, our country and the Constitution? Do you know what my family sacrificed to get to this country? Do you know what your ancestors, whether they were above or below the deck of their ship, sacrificed to arrive in this land? What about the indigenous peoples who were gracious hosts before betrayed and murdered by colonizers?
Are we really so jaded that we think this is the worst country that ever existed, and that no one could ever possibly be successful in 2019 in this land? I refuse to believe that. I’m thankful that I was born in the United States of America instead of somewhere else.
The United States as it stands today is the culmination of the history of both our impressive successes and our abysmal failures, and the time we live in now is really the most egalitarian period of time our country has ever had.
Now imagine if Martin Luther King Jr. or Susan B. Anthony were truly stripped of their First Amendment rights. Just how different would our world be?
How much longer would it have been until civil rights, suffrage or even the Stonewall riots could possibly have happened and been successful?
From what I understand, MLK recognized the First Amendment as the only thing standing between him and his persecutors silencing him.
Food for thought: maybe Virginians should go back to “sic sempering their tyrannuses” — first by dumping toxic partisanship and actually working together for the common good — for everyone, not just the people you agree with. Let’s not silence each other without hearing each other out. Isn’t that what Commonwealth means, after all?
Email Gavin Aquin Hernández at firstname.lastname@example.org.