Blue, gold and iNDifferent?
Letter to the Editor | Monday, February 15, 2016
“We are part of the society, but not really.” This is how one Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) student, whom we will call Katherine, describes her life. DACA is an American immigration policy that allows certain undocumented immigrants who entered the country before their 16th birthday and before June 2007 to receive a renewable two-year work permit and exemption from deportation. Notre Dame began admitting DACA and undocumented students in 2014, and there are currently 10 sophomores and at least 20 first year DACA students now at Notre Dame.
Katherine’s family came to the United States when she was 8; they overstayed their visa. Since then, Katherine has faced constant uncertainty. “I did not know what was going to happen when I was applying for college,” she said. Sometimes it felt like going to college would not happen, she admits. Without a social security number, she could not apply for government financial aid, and private schools were her only hope.
Coming to Notre Dame has been a “blessing” for Katherine, but her experience is not without challenges. She candidly states that she is most frustrated by the lack of awareness on campus. In her words, “If the problem is not directly affecting [someone personally], people tend to not care.” Hearing this, we felt embarrassed. There are a wide range of opinions that can be taken about what the future of our immigration system as a country should look like. But when students most intimately familiar with an issue as important as immigration generally describe our student body as apathetic, ignorant or indifferent, we feel embarrassed, and we have to ask ourselves why.
It is true that today’s students have access to a wide variety of media sources, most of them biased in one way or another, and it can be difficult to seek out and find unbiased sources of information. Furthermore, it can be challenging to make an informed opinion about any issue without unbiased information. But aren’t these empty excuses? In the case of immigration, don’t we have a responsibility to push ourselves to learn more about individuals most affected by this system as well as the system itself before we form an opinion?
In this election year, many of our peers list immigration as an important contributing factor in how they will vote. Deeper discussions, however, often validate Katherine’s experience and show that we have limited knowledge about immigration. Worse, these discussions can unintentionally dehumanize people like Katherine and her family.
Before forming an opinion about immigration reform and immigrants themselves, we would like to present a list of questions for you to consider:
- Do I know what it feels like to be unsafe in my home or country or unable to have the means to support my family?
- Have I read firsthand any peer-reviewed research or studies about the effect that the 11 million undocumented immigrants have on the U.S. economy?
- Am I aware of the avenues available to people seeking to legally enter the United States and how they vary based on an applicant’s country of origin?
- Have I met any undocumented immigrants and discussed with them what their family’s experiences have been like?
- Have I made a deliberate choice to take a class, attend a lecture or engage in discourse that challenges me to think about this issue from another point of view?
If the answer to more than one of these questions is no, we suggest that deeper investigation is required before an informed opinion can be made.
When discussing the vast topic of immigration, there is objectively no right opinion. The system is too vast, complicated, and obscure for that to be the case. There are, however, many wrong opinions and those are the opinions founded in ignorance or apathy.
The student mentioned in this story has approved the publication of this story.
Lily (Xiaoyu) Yu
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.