By Sophie Gao
Recently, President Donald Trump has introduced new laws and acts that have condemned immigrants and refugees, particularly those who identify religiously as Muslim. What he hasn’t pondered is that not only are these acts unconstitutional and inhumane, he has also forgotten that immigrants are a huge part of our community, and the irony lies in the fact that his own mother is an immigrant. America is known as a diverse country in the sense of both religion and race, and it is known for providing futures for those who could not find those opportunities in their homeland.
The diversity within America’s community has been made possible by a long history of immigration, because, in the end, we are all immigrants, and America was not originally ours. Immigrants make up an immense part of the community, and they have helped found the basis of American society. Despite what President Trump thinks, immigrants are a big part of our community, and they are important to America; personally, as a daughter of an immigrant, I strongly believe that immigrants are a part of our community.
As President Trump’s new executive orders are put in place and begin to catch steam, this has made many immigrants concerned and skeptical about the future of America, and they are getting involved in the conversation. My father, Qi Keith Gao, a 54-year-old senior network engineer and immigrant from China, is one such immigrant.
He was fortunate that, after 17 years without higher education during the “Cultural Revolution,” China started national college examination and college education in 1977. Mr. Gao went to college through the highly competitive national college exam in 1980. That year the admission rate was about 2 percent for all high school graduates in Shandong province, but the good news was that college education was almost free for everyone admitted: no tuition, room and boarding – all you had to pay was the food and books, and those costs were waived if you came from a poor family.
After attending a four-year college and two and half years of graduate school, Mr. Gao had earned a master degree in Computer Engineering and was teaching in a college in Shanghai. Life was predictable and boring, as it was under tight control of Communist Party.
“Basically, I think America is a land of opportunity, and it gives me the best chance for my life – I came here 24 years ago by myself with about $2000 in my pocket, and now that I have a family, two wonderful kids, and my house – I realized my American dream and I am really thankful,” Mr. Gao said.
Mr. Gao stated that, as an immigrant, he does not believe that there should be a Muslim Ban based on only religion and nationality unless there is strong evidence of a threat to national security. When asked about his opinion on President Trump’s wall, he said that, as a legal immigrant, he has been through the long and tedious immigration process, and he thinks everyone should follow the rules – that no undocumented immigrants should break the rules and be put before the people who are waiting in line.
Mr. Gao stated that he believes everyone has the right to pursue his or her own happiness and a better life; but, in the meantime, American people should not be burdened with an unnecessary extra financial burden, as they are entitled to a better life themselves, and sometimes we should be allowed to shut out immigrants and refugees who try to come in for this reason.
As an immigrant, Mr. Gao said that he contributes to the community by bringing his training and knowledge to the new world. He helped to bring one tech company, NetScreen, to IPO, and he has worked in several startup and helped technology companies mature in the past 20 years.
Whereas that is my father’s perspective, that alone is not enough to represent what and how immigrants contribute to the community, so I interviewed another immigrant for a different perspective. Angel Barragan is a Spanish teacher and mentor at Summit Public School: Rainier, as well as an undocumented immigrant who came to America by crossing the border of Mexico by car.
Mr. Barragan believes that, from his own experience as an immigrant who has interacted with and befriended other immigrants, immigrants are not inherently bad. Immigrants are often demonized by President Trump and those who share his views, but Mr. Barragan believes that immigrants are good-hearted and more hardworking than anyone else, mostly because they have to fight more than anyone else in order to secure a good home, a well-paying job, and a happy life.
Mr. Barragan also stated that his experiences as an undocumented immigrant differentiates his experience from other people’s.
“I didn’t really understand what it was like not being undocumented,” Mr. Barragan said. “None of my friends were undocumented, so I wasn’t able to do things like them like take a driving test, and this made things harder and disheartening, because I didn’t get financial aid letters or anything, and I wasn’t able to make it as far as they were able to.”
Before Mr. Barragan came to America, he grew up in a fairly small town in Mexico in a poor family, and he didn’t have a roof, a large amount of clothes or running water, and had to walk miles just to get to school every day. At the time, he wasn’t aware that he was poor, and he and his family were often looked down on because their family was so poor. Now, he was able to appreciate everything in America because he has so much more now that he has settled in.
Mr. Barragan dislikes being called an “illegal” because he came to America to finally see his parents for the first time and have a better life, and, at the time, he was young and naive and did not see himself doing any wrong when he crossed the border unlawfully.
Mr. Barragan believes that the Muslim Ban and the immigration ban are ridiculous, but he is trying to understand where they’re coming from — maybe they think that they are superior or that they fear the immigrants, but Mr. Barragan believes that is wrong. Either way, this is the wrong way to handle things because none of the countries are truly at fault for the terrorism, and rather, it seems like some other motivation other than smothering terrorism was at play here, he added, explaining that the executive actions are more of an act of blatant racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia rather than an actual effort to secure national security.
As an undocumented immigrant from Mexico himself, Mr. Barragan believes that the prospect of President Trump building a wall to keep out undocumented immigrants is stupid, too costly, very offensive, and ultimately not worth the money and not the correct solution to the problem.
Mr. Barragan believes that it is not right to shut out immigrants and refugees trying to get to America and have a better life because it goes against what America is supposed to stand for. America, in his opinion, should be the “land of the free” and should celebrate its diversity because we all bleed red and, in the end, someone on our family tree was an immigrant.
Mr. Barragan believes he contributes to the community as an immigrant by being a teacher to tutor the next generation because, growing up, he had mostly Caucasian teachers. He never had a teacher that was an undocumented immigrant like he was.
“As an undocumented immigrant, I want to be able to help inspire and act as a role model for my undocumented students,” Mr. Barragan said.