Pell Center

The Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy at Salve Regina is a multidisciplinary research center focused at the intersection of politics, policies and ideas.

The Immigration Issue

On one hand, you’re turning your back on innocent children, many of them escaping poverty, violence and a number of other horrors. Yet on the other side, you have legal American citizens who struggle day by day, single mothers, homeless veterans, and hardworking families who can’t catch a break. This is the question that Congress is being asked to answer before they depart for the month of August. In my mind, you cannot offer help to people who come to this country illegally when American citizens need support just as badly, if not more. For example, the unemployment rate in this country is 6.7%, better than it was, but still not acceptable. There are also a large number of homeless Americans, as of January 2013, that number stood at 610,042. These are only two of the numerous problems this nation faces, yet instead of addressing our own issues; we have decided to handle the burdens of other nations.

Most of the unaccompanied children that try and enter the United States each year are from Central American countries such as Honduras and Guatemala. The children are fleeing a life violence and poverty and venturing to the United States with hope of staying with relatives or with the belief that they won’t be turned away. How can this country be asked to take care of the 90,000 children that are anticipated to arrive this year when we’re still struggling to take care of our own?

On Monday, an article published on explained how Congress has less than two weeks to come up with a solution to the immigration issue. President Obama is asking for about $3.7 billion to fund what the President calls “a humanitarian situation.” The money would be used to provide housing for the immigrant children, to further support border control efforts and the rest would be sent to Central American countries to prevent parents from sending their children to the United States.
Meanwhile in Congress, Republicans are aiming to use the money to fund border patrol and turn immigrants away immediately. Democrats want the money to fund immigrant processing, which should speed up the process that decides whether or not the children may stay or go. They have 12 days to come to an agreement, but that doesn’t look too promising.

I can see the appeal of both sides. The Republicans are eliminating the problem swiftly but harshly. Democrats seem to be taking more of a middle ground approach, but still want to use $3.7 billion dollars that could be used for another issue that we currently face. The problem will not be solved completely even if Congress does come to an agreement. This is a complex issue that needs to be addressed on a permanent level. Legislation needs to be passed and changed for the times.

I can remember sitting in class in elementary school learning about Ellis Island and the relief it brought to these people knowing they made it, they were Americans. That said, it’s hard to ignore the irony of this situation. We were once a nation that welcomed immigrants with open arms, and now we’re going to extreme lengths to keep them out. The Statue of Liberty with her torch held high was a symbol of hope and a better life. Now it’s nothing more than a historical landmark with a representation of what the United States used to be.

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