In writing this, I can’t pretend that I’m totally unbiased to immigration – but who is? To the best of my ability, I can only give you the facts that I’ve accumulated and pass on the observations that I’ve made. The topic of immigration is a funny one. Not that it’s altogether humorous, really, but it is one of those topics that can really get people riled up on all sides.
In Oklahoma (where I’m from), a lot of people see immigrants as one of the main causes of any of today’s societal problems. Sometimes, I can even empathize with their frustration. Why would a customer pay a higher rate for a service when they could pay less? For example, a one-man lawn mowing/landscaping service takes twice as much time for more than double the cost compared to hiring several people willing to work for less time at a much lower price? It’s difficult for small business owners to compete with the ultra-hard working competition. Especially when they don’t take breaks and work for very little pay.
What’s interesting is that this same point-of-view is found in other countries, too. When I was in Buenos Aires in 2012, people there complained about the Peruvians that had immigrated, searching for a better life. They said that in sending money out of the country to their family, they (the immigrants) were weakening an already damaged economy.
Everybody Has it Bad
Recently, in Italy and Germany, people express the same concerns about immigrants from Syria. Here in Spain, immigrants are viewed with similar skepticism as you find in other parts of the world. The concerns are the same: they’re taking all the jobs and they’re working for less money, thus undermining citizens, etc. The funny thing is (there’s that word again!), the other day I heard somebody from England complaining about Spaniards! Spain’s economy has had its challenges. Therefore, it’s pretty common for Spaniards to move elsewhere (such as England) after earning their degree at home. They accept work in England for less money, which causes resentment from skilled English citizens.
Just so we’re clear, I am 100% pro-immigration. People in the United States seem to think that everybody from everywhere wants to live in the US. This is obviously a very US-centric point-of-view which is certainly incorrect per the examples just mentioned. I’ve found, though, that many who’ve immigrated just go to the closest neighbor with a big economy. They work harder for fewer benefits. They pay taxes into systems that don’t necessarily provide the same benefits to them.
When I first met Esteban, my boyfriend, I asked him what his take on immigration was. He simply said, “I believe in a free world.” That is something that I can get behind for sure.
Immigration is a Complicated Situation
Now, this brings me to why I wanted to write this piece: the immigration situation in the US. I’ve noticed many people say, “I don’t have a problem with immigrants as long as they just come here legally.”
Like most enduring challenges we face in the US and across the world, the problem is usually much more complex than such a simple solution. It is often a very lengthy process to receive permission to live and work in the US. Often, many immigrants face significant financial hardships or threats to their safety. Therefore, they’re reasonably willing to take the chance to come to the US illegally.
How do we, as a global society (whether it be Argentina, Europe or the US), show compassion to others in light of the drastic challenges they face? What are some ways we can help people in a place like Syria reach safety while balancing safety for our citizens? How do we best create vibrant economies in order for citizens and immigrants alike to provide for their families and reach their potential as people? Obviously, we, as Americans, Europeans, and South Americans, are falling short of achieving this goal.
Looking Forward at Immigration
I think it would make more sense if it were easier for people to legally immigrate. Refugees don’t actually want to live their lives constantly on the lam. However, refugees from poor economies and dangerous war zones will do what it takes to give themselves and their children a better life. Nearly every single person on the planet would. Unfortunately, sorting through the myriad of challenges is truly daunting.
Regardless, the benefits of immigration have certainly bestowed incredible prosperity to a number of places around the world – London, San Francisco, Miami, Dubai, and Singapore, just to name a few. My life has been made all the richer by loving and forming relationships with immigrants. It’s benefitted me so much so that I’ve become one myself! Learning Spanish and embracing a different way of life has helped open my eyes. It has transformed me. It’s saved me from being the type of person who says, “Just come here legally!”
Going forward, my only wish is to spread the knowledge that I have gained. I hope that I can help others see that this is a much more complex issue than “just coming here legally.” Our processes are slow and time-consuming. These are processes that not everyone can wait for. I just hope that we can be more understanding of the perilous situations that our global citizens could be in.