The presidential election will determine the direction of U.S. immigration policy

By Laura Wallon

Archbishop Carroll High

President Donald Trump began his candidacy in 2015 saying he would build a wall on the southern border and Mexico would pay for it.

Immigration policy also is an issue in this year’s presidential election, given the ongoing need for major reform of the immigration system. Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, the two major Democratic candidates competing to challenge Trump, differ with the president on immigration policy.

Sanders believes in comprehensive immigration reform to allow an easier path for undocumented immigrants to naturalization. In addition, he believes that those protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program should have legal residence.

Biden believes that undocumented persons brought to the United States as children should be granted citizenship. He also believes that undocumented immigrants with no criminal records should not be the focus of deportation and that people seeking asylum should be given a chance to make their case, according to CNN.

In addition to citizenship, the border wall, detention centers, and family separation have dominated the immigration conversation.

Should There Be a Wall Built?

According to the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, 60 percent of Americans in 2018 believed that a wall should not be built.

Karen Grossman, a 43-year-old science teacher at Holy Child School at Rosemont, said she strongly believes that the wall will not work. She said if it is built, there will be a negative ecological impact, because it will cut through Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona and disrupt ecosystems and animals. 

Karen Grossman

But Robert Boyce, 77, a physics teacher at Archbishop John Carroll High School, is among the 40 percent of Americans who believe that a wall should be built. He said that it serves as a necessary tool to protect the United States and that paying for the wall is an obligation for American citizens.

“The wall provides a deterrence to people wanting to come illegally,” he said. “It won’t solve immigration, but it is merely a tool.”

Megan Rayner, a sophomore at Archbishop High, said that even if the wall is built, it is a waste of tax money because people come into the country by tunnels, planes, boats, and other means. She said a wall is a poor investment and that the money can be better spent on things such as education. 

Matt Nuttall, a 47-year-old history and English teacher at Holy Child School at Rosemont, said that building a wall at the southern border is history repeating itself.

“It’s ineffective,” he said. “Anyone who knows their history knows that they built a wall in Berlin, and it didn’t last very long.”

Treatment at Detention Centers

Detention centers at the border are another point of debate. According to Time Magazine, adults and children have been confined in cages with limited access to soap, toothpaste, and other hygiene products.

Boyce, however, believes there is a lot of disinformation about the centers. He said a lot of the asylum seekers claim they are running away from gangs, so these camps are serving as safe havens and there shouldn’t be any complaints.

“When people come in illegally, they need to be handled, and most of those cages were not built recently,” he said.

Robert Boyce

Sierra Masalta, a 15-year-old student at Archbishop John Carroll High School who identifies as Republican, said she believes that housing asylum seekers at the detention centers is wrong and harsh and looks bad for the country. She said no one should go through that if they want to become U.S. citizens.

Family Separation

Sierra Masalta

Another heated topic in immigration debates is the separation of families at the border. Because of a zero-tolerance policy meant to deter illegal entry into the country, more than 4,000 children have been separated from their families, according to The Washington Post

Grossman, the science teacher, said she was so distressed from reading articles about family separation that she couldn’t bear to continue reading them. She said that as a mother, it breaks her heart.

“I couldn’t imagine having my children being separated from me, not knowing where they are, and on top of that, not knowing the language to ask the questions that I needed to ask,” she said. 

As a child of two immigrants from El Salvador and Mexico, sophomore Aleja Barrera-Cruz said that family separation is sickening, brutal and emotionally abusing, and it does not reflect the country’s values. Seeing a child cry because he misses his mother breaks her heart, the Archbishop High student said.

“These pro-life Republicans advocate for all life and yet they’re killing kids in the detention centers,” she said.

Aleja Barrera-Cruz
“These pro-life Republicans advocate for all life and yet they’re killing kids in the detention centers.”

However, Boyce said there have been cases in which immigrants come with children who did not belong to them.

“Illegal immigrants sometimes use children as a ticket out,” he said.

Boyce believes that it is necessary for children to be separated, so the government can determine to whom they belong.

In contrast, Helene Hoffsommer, a theology teacher at Archbishop High, called family separation “a crime against humanity.”

Helene Hoffsommer, a teacher for 31 years.

“How dare we do that to those people?” she said. “It violates everything I believe in. And I’m ashamed of my country for doing it.”

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