Immigration issue ignites passion, warrants a better solution now

Liz Magallanes, Contributing Writer

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Many gather in May Day March calling for dignity and respect for immigrants outside Dallas City Hall on May 2, 2015. Photo by Liz Magallanes.

Nine digits do not make a human being. It is difficult to comprehend the difference nine digits can make. But they do. Nine digits can be the difference between having a stable source of employment and not seeing one’s family. However, for an estimated 11 million people living in the United States, nine-digit social security numbers are a constant source of uncertainty.

By now, everyone has heard something about the immigration issue. We have heard a great deal of polarizing comments made by presidential candidates, celebrities and everyone in between about undocumented immigrants. There is a lot of buzz surrounding this particular demographic.

What folks generally agree on is that someone needs to do something, quick, whether it is a wall, mass deportations or a reform of our current immigration system. But as of now there is no concrete legislation.

Although it is at the center of national debates, it is not a matter that is often discussed within the University of Dallas Bubble. This is interesting, considering the fact that we advertise ourselves as the Catholic University for Independent Thinkers, thus implying we formulate our own ideas about events occurring around us. The promise of our education is to instruct us concerning how to analyze different perspectives and conclude what is best suited for us, in order to live well in the faith.

This idea resonates with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is very clear when it says:

“The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.”

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has been an advocate of the immigrant community in observation of these principles. This approach is how the issue ought to be dealt with, but there is also much to be discussed about the current situation.

At this point, we have heard a variety of colorful opinions and solutions when it comes to immigration. What we rarely hear are the voices of actual undocumented immigrants in mass media. When thinking of undocumented immigrants, a host of ideas and stereotypes may come to mind, but these ideas are nebulous at best.

In many ways, DACA is a Band-Aid for a much more serious condition. The reality is that there are still undocumented people out there, and in two years, when my DACA expires and we have a new administration, I may be in the same position I was beforehand.

This state of limbo that exists within our current immigration system is not only a political issue. The fact is it affects many aspects of our society.

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We may see people discussing immigrants and throwing around statistics, but realistically there is much more to any issue than the figures, which may not always resonate with the public. Whether we have thought of them as criminals, for coming to this country without official documentation, or as people who steal American jobs, it is simple to alienate a group of people according to what we are told. But rarely is there an issue that is this simple.

In March of 2007, I traveled from Ciudad Juarez in the state of Chihuahua in Mexico with my mother to meet my father in Dallas, Texas where he had been living for the past six months. We came on visitors’ visas.

My parents, like so many others, made the courageous decision to come to the United States due to the increasingly dangerous environment in which we were living. We overstayed our visas, but my parents continued working and paying taxes on our new home.

I did not understand what this meant at the time, and did not truly comprehend what was happening until I started high school. Whereas taking a normal standardized test for most people is nerve racking for a plethora of reasons, for me it was simply a moment of panic.

What was I supposed to write in the nine boxes labeled “Social Security Number”? What if they started asking questions?

It was the first of many excruciating moments where I would have to think fast on my feet in order to not draw attention to myself. This became commonplace, as it does for many undocumented immigrants.

It was something I had to hide for nearly fourteen years, until June 15, 2012 when, by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, I, along with an estimated 550,000 youth, found out that we would be able to file for that special number.

DACA would allow many of us to obtain our first driver’s licenses, jobs, cars and homes.

Many of the things associated with the American dream were now made possible. DACA, however, does not grant any sort of pathway to residency or citizenship, nor does it grant permission to travel outside of the U.S.

If the immigration issue seemed foreign before, I hope that knowing that someone sitting next to you in class is affected by this issue in a very direct way raises awareness. It is something that needs to be discussed so that a holistic solution may be found, not only politically, but from a faith perspective as well. This must happen so that the UD Bubble, where many of us have found a haven, can be an example for what our nation ought to do. If any place can be an exemplar, it is here, where independent ideas emerge in a search for truth.

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