Illegal Immigrants' Torturous Path to Freedom By: Claire nodine

An unprecedented number of undocumented immigrants are risking their lives to cross the border from the U.S. to Canada. This recent phenomena is a direct result of Donald Trump’s new restrictive immigration policies. Many immigrants have chosen to cross the border in Minnesota during winter months. This has resulted in many of these people having severe medical complications, including having fingers amputated due to frostbite (Carlos Osorio) Although many of the immigrants are promptly arrested once crossing into Canada, they feel the risk is worthwhile as they receive immediate medical care. They also prefer the arrest to seeking a legal way to live in the U.S., which has become much more difficult since the Trump administration began targeting them for deportation. Despite this recent influx of immigrants, Canadians in general have welcomed these new arrivals (Julie Masis).

The plight of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. today is similar to that of African-Americans fighting for true freedom during the Reconstruction. For example, African-Americans were intimidated and harassed by strict Black Codes enacted in the South during Reconstruction (Jeffrey S. Passel). With the Compromise of 1877, all protection for Freedmen was gone once federal troops left the South. Similarly, once Trump took over the presidency from Barack Obama, federal protection for undocumented immigrants was also gone. Acts like the DREAM Act were overturned and many immigrants now fear deportation. In addition, just as Freedmen in the South feared public lynchings, undocumented immigrants now fear being arrested by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) right in front of their families. (Manuel Bojorquez). This evidence demonstrates the striking similarities between the difficulties that African-Americans faced during Reconstruction and undocumented immigrants face today.

One way in which the plight of undocumented immigrants today is different from the that of African-Americans during the Reconstruction is that in theory Freedmen were citizens whereas undocumented immigrants are not. Under the 14th Amendment, Freedmen were “Citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside” (Robert Filderman). On the other hand, not only are undocumented immigrants not afforded these rights, they now face fewer and more difficult paths to citizenship. Acts such as DAPA and DACA, which allowed immigrants to have three-year renewable work permits and exempted them from deportation, have been eliminated by the Trump administration. Now the only paths to citizenship include obtaining a Green Card from marriage, seeking asylum, or obtaining a visa as a victim of crime (www.citizenpath.com).

At its heart, the U.S. is a country of immigrants. If we are to continue this important tradition, we must find ways to allow immigrants to become legal residents and citizens. In Chicago, steps are already being taken to protect undocumented students. The Chicago Public Schools issued a statement saying they will deny ICE agents access to their school buildings unless there is a criminal warrant (Ray Sanchez). In addition to this, religious leaders have banded together to start a modern day “underground railroad” movement to protect immigrants from forced deportation (David Ferguson). Even ordinary citizens can lend a hand to this important cause by donating to the American Civil Liberties Union, which mobilizes legal help for those at risk for deportation. Only if we return America to its roots as a country of immigrants can we once again offer the promise of the American Dream.

Works Cited

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