Since immigration has become such a hot topic in the U.S., there have been many takes on the issue. One of them being, “We should accept immigrants, because who knows who they’ll be? Immigrants can be doctors, scientists and more!”
There have been variations of this take from everyone, including notable politicians. As a person of color, I know what it’s like to feel you’re not valuable to this country unless you’re providing something to it. I know what it’s like to feel your life is considered meaningless if you don’t go down in history books.
It is wrong to tell immigrants the same thing because it’s not only a double standard but a daunting one. It contributes to the idea that there is a level of respectability one must have to be admitted into the U.S., a level most citizens aren’t at.
Nowhere am I saying immigrants are incapable of amazing things, something we all know to be false. However, their accomplishments should not be the defining factor making them worthy of acceptance in this country.
We should not value them for their potential or what amazing contributions they bring but for their humanity. To value them exclusively because they provide something to the country that advances it is wrong and dehumanizing. The values the U.S. stands for are not restricted to doctors, scientists or laureates, as is reflected in our everyday society. Not everyone has a desire to be in one of those revered careers, or one similar to them, something we know to be true. Immigrants are the same way.
The U.S. is the land of the free, which is what attracts many to it. Part of this freedom is being free to live the life we want, whether it be as a gas station attendant or an analyst at a think tank. Regardless, no part of our government is dictating where we work. To place value on immigrants in this country simply based on whatever higher standard you’re holding them to departs from this value.
American citizens are not told they’ll only be valuable if they make a difference on a national scale. This is a harsh double standard compared to what we tell immigrants, and one that can be debilitating. Why are we holding immigrants to a different standard simply because they weren’t born here?
The U.S. pushes a narrative comprised of how different its own citizens are. Furthermore, that narrative is to what we attribute our greatness. The narrative emphasizes the value of each citizen because they make up the U.S. Our grandeur is not rooted in the accomplishments we bring to the table, which are great, but it’s rooted in the citizens of this country.
Truthfully, it goes back to the classist and elitist belief that some careers are simply beneath the barometer of acceptability in society. Compounded with the rapid xenophobia in the U.S., it makes an easy space for this position to persist.
It shouldn’t take acknowledgment of immigrants’ capabilities for them to be seen as human or worthy of this “great” country. Immigrants want to come to this country and, in some cases, need to come. Isn’t that enough?
Maya Stevenson is a 20-year-old English and philosophy junior from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.