I have been an immigrant almost all my life. I was born in France and moved around quite a bit. I lived for a year in Hong Kong, then eight in Munich, Germany and four back home in Paris before settling down in San Francisco when I was 15. Now, at age 20, I have been living outside my birth country for close to three quarters of my life. I have been some sort of an outsider for most of my life, yet never have I felt so distressed as during these past two weeks. However, despite my status as an immigrant, and now a permanent resident of this country, I have never really been targeted by any discriminatory immigration laws.
The so-called “Muslim Ban” does not affect me. I am neither muslim, nor was I born in one of the seven countries targeted by it. I am also a male, heterosexual and white. I am usually not affected by any negative stereotype, unless you consider a French person eating baguette, frog legs, camembert and drinking wine negative. What I mean to say is that even though I was not directly affected by all the negativity surrounding the simple word “immigrant” in the current political context, I am emotionally scared and saddened by what is going on right now.
We wrote on this column a while ago that even though then-President Obama pledged to welcome over 10,000 Syrian refugees to the United States, it was not nearly enough. Immigrants built this country. Immigrants, most of whom were outcasts of society back in their home countries in Europe, were welcomed into the United States. It used to be the country of new beginnings, of new chances, a country far away with the promise of a better life. And I certainly felt that way when I came here at 15. The United States was a foreign land to me, with a language I did not know and a culture I was ignorant of. But I grew into it, and as a green card holder, am now proudly attending UC San Diego.
There is so much wrong with the Muslim Ban, but what I realized most poignantly is that those rights and opportunities could be taken away from immigrants as easily as that. Again, I am not here pretending I am at risk of being deported or will not be allowed into the country in the future, like many undocumented immigrants. Still, when laws specifically target and discriminate against immigrants, I find myself at a loss for words. I am sincerely concerned for all immigrants in this country. I am in shock and angered that in the 21st century, the president of a country like the United State could still present laws discriminating against a specific group of people. That is, the leader of one nation, under God, promising he will keep out all terrorists to protect America. What’s omitted and erased by fabricated accounts of terrorism like the Bowling Green Massacre is the fact that immigrants and refugees go through several background checks and lengthy application processes to get into this country. In fact no immigrant from the seven countries banned have killed on U.S. soil since 1975. A universal background check is only in place in eight states when it comes to buying guns, and there have been over 1.5 million gun deaths in the United States since 1968.
This last example and the figures are really self-explanatory. Immigrants are not the enemy. They are “safe.” They are the glue to this country and contribute everyday to creating a thriving economic, social and cultural environment. I am a proud immigrant, and like so many others, I only want to bring good into this country, and no one can tell me otherwise, not even the man I now have to call the president.