By Valeria Sosa, Staff Writer
When my sister was little, she cried at the sight of police cars. My parents, to my knowledge, have never committed a crime. They pay their taxes, mow their lawn and are friendly to the neighbors. But they are here “illegally”.
Several years ago, my father suffered an accident playing basketball. He was badly injured, and had surgery, after which he could not work, run, or even shower by himself. Forced to limited activities for about 6 months, he sank into depression.
To relieve this depression, he traveled to Mexico, to visit his homeland, after the six months were over and he could walk properly again.
When it was time to come home, he had to cross the border afoot because his visa had long expired. I was frightened beyond belief. My mom and siblings and I all slept together in my parent’s bed, horizontally so we would all fit.
Every night, dad would call us. We would huddle together, tears in our eyes, waiting for daddy to tell us he was okay. We waited for hours sometimes.
Sometimes the call delayed and I thought he was dead. Those were the worst.
As a toddler, I never slept with a stuffed animal or anything like that. When my dad crossed the border, I couldn’t fall asleep without my teddy crammed into the nook of my arm, my face buried into her soft body.
I was 11.
The fear I felt on those nights was not unique to me, my sister or my then two-year-old brother. The parents of thousands of young American citizens have been deported.
These people, my people, live in fear, watching over their shoulder every single day of their life.
When I hear about immigrants on TV or online, they are either meaningless numbers or uncultured, criminal swine that came to take our jobs and pollute the “American culture.”
Well, that’s bullshit.
Immigrants come, both legally and illegally to America, not to commit crime or take advantage of the system, but to work hard for a better future for their families.
And when those immigrants are detained or deported, the impact is colossal.
Dayana Torres, president of the DREAMers of Virginia, an organization fighting for the rights of immigrants, told me the story of a friend whose father was deported.
“People don’t realize that it’s not just an emotional stress … realizing her dad may be taken away her, but it’s also the stress of having to deal with the consequences of him not living in the U.S. anymore, as a breadwinner for the family,” said Torres in a phone interview. “The whole family structure is undermined by deportation.”
Yet, deportations continue. As do misconceptions of immigrants in this country.
Many are under the impression that immigrants take jobs away from American citizens and are a detriment to the economy.
Maria Rosales, associate professor of political science, disagrees.
“The research has shown that immigrants as a whole help the economy,” said Rosales. “But that doesn’t mean that they help the individual worker who might otherwise take those unskilled jobs. On the other hand, I kind of think we are all in this world together.”
It is the economic system, she continued, that pits poor people against poor people, causing the perception that one group “takes” jobs from others.
Back to the whole “detriment to the economy” situation.
According to the Equal Rights Center, half to three-quarters of undocumented immigrants pay local, state, and federal taxes, as well as 6 to 7 billion dollars in Social Security taxes for benefits they will never receive. According to the 2008 Social Security Annual report, “the taxes paid by “other than legal” immigrants will close 15 percent of the system’s projected long-term deficit.”
While they are eligible for public schooling and emergency medical care, they cannot receive welfare or food stamps.
I could go on, debunking misconceptions about immigration for pages and pages. The point is this: immigrants are not a burden in this country. As a matter of fact, they help alleviate the load on the backs of fellow American citizens.
Think what you want, but the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in this country are sure as hell not going anywhere. And you really don’t want them to.