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UNT students offer solutions in light of immigration issues

UNT students offer solutions in light of immigration issues

UNT students offer solutions in light of immigration issues
July 25
06:00 2018

Luis Avila immigrated to the US when he was four years old in August 2001, just weeks before the September 11 terror attacks. He obtained his visa when he was 15 years old.

“The whole time you’re there, they don’t actually label you by name,” said the converged broadcast media senior and former undocumented citizen. “They label you by number, which is a very dehumanizing process.”

During the process of getting his visa, Avila stayed in Ciudad Juarez, a Mexican border town that has been ranked in the top 50 most dangerous cities in the world according to Business Insider. The city is also the location of a US consulate.

Immigration became a key talking point this year when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced April 6 that the United States would be implementing a zero tolerance policy for those illegally attempting to enter the country.

“If we build the wall, if we pass legislation to end the lawlessness, we won’t face these terrible choices,” Sessions said, according to CBS News. “We will have a system where those who need to apply for asylum can do so and those who want to come to this country will apply to enter lawfully.”

On June 12, a photo began to circulate the internet showing a two-year-old Honduran child in distress witnessing her mother being pat down by U.S. officials, which resulted in backlash from people around the country and became the face of the immigration crisis. It was later announced that the girl and her family were not separated at the border.

Less than a week later, it was being reported that durning the months of April and May, nearly 2,000 minors had been detained and separated from their legal guardian at the southern border.

Avila experienced a wave of emotions upon hearing this announcement.

Luis Avila discuss his experience being undocumented at a young age and how the current political stance on immigration is impacting him. Jessika Hardy

“The first thought that you have isn’t really shock,” Avila said. “For me, at least, you kind of just double down on this anxious sadness that you’ve kind of accumulated over the years. At first, you don’t really have time to analyze what’s going on. You’re just sad for a while, and you never really stop being sad.”

On June 20, President Trump signed an executive order that put an end to the separation of families, although he said that his administration was still going to be enforcing the zero tolerance policy he enacted in April.

“We are keeping a very powerful border, and it continues to be a zero tolerance,”  he said, according to the New York Times. “We have zero tolerance for people that enter our country illegally.”

While some celebrated this news, others feel that the conflict is far from over.

“I think the idea of not separating children and not taking families away from each other is a basic human right, and I don’t think you have to be a complete leftist or a democrat to believe in that,” Avila said. “Giving people the ability to live shouldn’t be a political stance, it should just be a thing that happens.”

Unlike Avila, political science seniors Victor Martinez and Claire Cadena were both born in the United States though their feelings about immigration are similar to Avila’s.

“People want to act surprised when they see these incidents of small children being separated from their families, but even in a historical context it’s kinda not a new thing. It just surfaced and revealed itself,” Martinez said.

Cadena’s mother immigrated when she was six months pregnant with Cadena, who said she believes that the current immigration system needs serious reform.  

“I don’t know how to put into the words the anger I feel just seeing those children being separated,” said Cadena. “The American political system just has a way of making policies and disguising them under these bureaucratic words, and once people [understand] it’s a game of pointing the blame.”

Though the executive order was signed, Martinez does not believe it will change anything happening at the border.

“People say it’s a good thing, but in reality, it’s kind of like, ‘Yeah, we’re not separating you anymore, but we’re still going to keep you in these horrible living conditions,’ which, in my opinion, isn’t even right to begin with,” Martinez said.

While he’s happy that children are able to stay with their parents, Avila believes the path ahead is still filled with obstacles.

“Obviously, nothing is worse than separating children from the families, but the end game is going to be much worse,” Avila said. “We live in this stage that even people who are liberal are celebrating the fact that children aren’t being taken away from their families. [It seems] we have to settle [and think] at least children aren’t being separated, but now they can be put in concentration camps with their families. It’s just this weird, double-edged ethical sword we just don’t know how to break out of.”

Cadena feels that there needs to be a complete systematic change in order for multiple issues to be resolved.

“I don’t think this is an issue that has one type of solution,” she said. “Issues that are happening right now like racial inequality in general and sexism in the workplace, I think everything touches each other. I think everything is interlinked, and it just has to do with the fact that the system we have is just not working.”

Although uncertain on where to begin, Avila believes extreme efforts are going to be needed to break out of this current system of separating families.

“I really want to believe in this system of going out and voting, challenging your local representatives or senators to kind of defend you and create a whole different world,” Avila said. “However, history and politics  show us that that’s not really what it takes. I think it’s going to take some kind of complete overhaul of the government system. Even if concentration camps were to be gone by tomorrow, things like ICE and the Department of Homeland Security and all these different organizations will still exist.”

Avila feels that abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is a crucial step.

“The dialogue and the rhetoric coming from these organizations is super frightening,” he said. “Time and time again, we see people on TV say the words, ‘We are just following orders,’ which is a huge red flag.”

Martinez also feels this is an important step to take in helping communities that might need some protection.

“To me, [ICE is] just an organization that terrorizes a lot of communities,” Martinez said.

As far as spreading awareness about these issues, Avila feels that UNT has helped make people feel welcome, but there is room to grow.

“I think our [university’s] president has done a pretty good job of making this environment feel as safe as possible, [however] I do think there needs to be less silence,” Avila said. “I think being as transparent as possible is very important in opening a dialogue.”

Featured Image: Converged broadcast media senior Luis Avila discusses his personal journey and views on the current political climate. Avila immigrated to the States in August 2001 and received his visa in 2015. Jessika Hardy

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Rebecca Najera

Rebecca Najera

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