Introduction: In this paper, I wanted to explore the “real” side of America and how I believe that immigration and immigrants illuminate this side. This is an idea that I feel strongly about, so it was exciting for me to be able to write about it. Some of my goals were to get my big idea across very clearly and describe it in a way that everyone could understand. I also wanted to have a strong introduction and conclusion and describe ideas with great detail. I am very proud of my introduction for this essay, as I think it really ties in the reader and does a generally good job of introducing the rest of my essay. I worked hard on this essay and I think it is worth reading.
How Immigration Reveals America’s Truths
The United States of America has boasted the title of “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave” since its inception. This phrase is embedded into the identity of the country, appearing in the National Anthem and other merchandise that represents the country. This idea is not only present within the nation; America is known throughout the world as a land of equal opportunity for all. This has caused a large number of immigrants since the colonial era and has stayed at around the same number since then. The influx of immigrants is partially due to the idea of the “American Dream,” which is the idea that America will provide immigrants with opportunities that they would not get in their home country, and it does not matter where they came from. But, most immigrants are faced with a very different truth when they come to this country; America is not blind to one’s origin or ethnicity. In reality, the “Land of the Free” is favored toward its natural-born citizens, often leaving immigrants behind to fend for themselves.
There are many reasons why an immigrant would leave their home country; dangerous circumstances, no job opportunities, or wanting a better life for a family. The USA can seem like a haven to people coming from countries that are not always safe. According to the Department of Homeland Security, there were 1,096,611 people who obtained legal permanent resident status in 2018 and there were 22,405 refugee arrivals. These numbers do not include people who arrived illegally or were denied legal citizenship. Most immigrants who obtained legal status came from Mexico in 2018, followed by Cuba and the People’s Republic of China. What the Department of Homeland Security did not include in their 2018 yearbook was data showing how many immigrants voluntarily left America. Although America is most likely a safer place to live than most immigrants’ home countries, some may find that the U.S. is much different from what they expected. An example of this mindset is found in the book Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue. This book tells the story of Jende Jonga and his family who immigrated from Cameroon to New York City in order to have a more secure life for themselves. Although at first they love the American lifestyle and don’t seem to miss their life in their home country, they begin to struggle to stay afloat due to many factors. In a conversation with his wife, Jende says “In America today, having documents is not enough. Look at how many people with papers are struggling. Look at how even some Americans are suffering… and yet they are sleeping on the street, going to bed hungry, losing their jobs and houses every day…” (Mbue 307). In this quote, Jende is pointing out the hypocrisy of America, showing how immigrants are abandoned by the system, despite being promised something different. He is also showing how natural-born citizens are also often mistreated by their home country, displaying how selfish the United States really is, even when they promise fair treatment to everyone in the country. Jende is showing his frustration with America, as he thought it would be much different from what he got. Soon after he says this, Jende makes the decision to move back to Cameroon with his family, because they simply couldn’t afford to stay in America with the number of problems they had been having. It is a sad truth that many immigrants face, but it is not spoken about often because the United States wants to preserve their identity as a place where all are welcome.
This scenario is not only present in fiction. A Return to Nigeria is an article for the NewYork Times written by Enuma Okoro. She recounts her childhood in Nigeria and her decision to move back as an adult. Although her main reason for moving back was to reconnect with her roots, it is clear in her essay that there is some animosity towards America. In comparing the two countries, she reveals the harsh truth about the USA. “I started to imagine what it would be like to live in a place where you did not have to explain some aspect of your identity on a daily basis, where you did not have to offer people a reason, no matter how subtle, for why you were among them,” (Okoro). While Okoro is imagining life in Nigeria, she is pointing out how difficult life can be as an immigrant, or even just as a person of color living in America. As a Nigerian person, she finds that she has to constantly defend the idea that she belongs. Even when America has been defined as a melting pot for centuries, there is still a clear disconnect between natural-born citizens, most often white ones, and the minorities and immigrants that live here. Many immigrants do not feel welcome in a country that they sacrificed their lives to come to for. Proud patriots will try and convince the public that these circumstances are very rare and are not reflective of our country as a whole, but that is simply not true. Recent events like Trump’s election and his strict ideas on immigrants and border control, shootings that have taken the lives of minorities, and corrupt border patrol agents who are extremely rough and unprofessional when dealing with immigration can make immigrants feel unsafe in this country. The fact that these events happen so often and that they are common knowledge prove that these are not meaningless outliers; they are indicative of how America truly operates.
The photo shown above is from photographer Kim Kyung Hoon who captured this image at the Tijuana Border. It depicts a mother with a feared look in her eyes grabbing her two young children by the arm, appearing to be dragging them. One girl is in diapers, looking too young to be able to walk unassisted, never mind run. The other girl looks only slighter older, her hair is in her face and she wears an oversized t-shirt. The mother, whose expression is one of pure terror, has a Disney Frozen shirt on, with Queen Elsa and Princess Anna staring at the camera in the face with a smug grin. What’s different about this photo is that the small family is running from a cloud of tear gas, a chemical weapon that can cause blindness, severe skin irritation and respiratory pain. The gas looks close enough to them to have grazed their skin, causing the young girls dreadful pain. Behind the family there are a couple of other dozen people, clearly, other immigrants, running down a hill, presumably also from the gas. They carry children, bags of food and necessities. The tear gas was emitted by border patrol, trying to deter the hoard of immigrants attempting to come into America. Little girls were scarred for life, both physically and emotionally because there are people in the world who are so afraid of people unlike them. This only happens in America. These are America’s truths. They are hidden in the scars of the abused.
The United States of America is a complicated place. One cannot help but look at the country and see the evil and inhumane things that they have done to people who do nothing other than existing. But it is easy to get lost in what seems like a never-ending tornado of immoral and corrupt actions made by the people that are supposed to be our leaders. Sometimes, you need to zoom out and look at the good in this country. Look at the activists fighting to make America a safer place for everybody, making this country a real melting pot. Look at the young people being able to spot these mistakes we have made at such an early age. Looking at the good helps us fight the bad so that we can make a real change in the world.
Kyung-Hoon, Kim. “Tear Gas Deployed at Border” nytimes, Alan Yuhas 1 Jan. 2019 https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/01/world/americas/migrants-border-tear-gas.html Mbue, Imbolo. Behold the Dreamers. Random House Inc, 2017. Okoro, Enuma. “A Return to Nigeria.” Opinionator, //opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/04/23/a-return-to-nigeria/. Accessed 13 Jan. 2020. “Yearbook 2018.” Department of Homeland Security, www.dhs.gov/immigration-statistics/yearbook/2018. Accessed 10 Jan. 2020.