Immigrants leaving their country are often misunderstood by people, especially in America. People often don’t understand immigrant stories due to lack of exposure to people from diverse backgrounds and they don’t believe that immigrants are in danger when they leave their own country. These perceptions lead to the belief that immigrants take jobs from locals and milk the system. Many believe that immigrants don’t work and just claim welfare checks and get SNAP benefits from the government.
We can further understand these misconceptions with the article, “Abandoned Vans of Atlanta” entire communities have been changed by the new Trump administration. The communities are being changed because there is no one to fill jobs that immigrants once took. More importantly immigrants are living in fear of being arrested by ICE. This fear does not only affect the parents but also their children who may be documented Americans. In the town of Atlanta, as the article states, “Once engines of economic opportunity, the vans are now tombstones for the disappeared. In the counties that make up metropolitan Atlanta, immigration-related arrests have spiked over the last two years, as ICE and local law enforcement agencies have moved to vigorously enforce immigration law at the behest of the Trump administration.” In essence the Trump administration has changed the whole make up of the town and with this how the people of Atlanta look at immigrants. The fear that immigrants feel is driven by the average American’s lack of understanding of the immigrant story.
We learn more about the immigrant story in the article “What It is like to be a migrant in the age of Trump.” We can begin to see how the perception of others affect the immigrant experience. A quote from this article is “Rosa’s problem hadn’t started with the gangs, but with her husband. He drank, and when he was drunk enough he liked to beat up Rosa. One night, earlier in the summer, he came home and beat her up again. For Rosa, it was the last straw. She took her two kids and left. He begged her to come home, but she refused. Then, desperate, he swallowed poison, was taken to the hospital and died.” Her brother-in law, who was a gang member blamed her for his death and she had to escape. On the surface people would see this as a woman not leaving to save her life but leaving her husband for selfish reasons and possibly to come to America just for an easier life. What we see on the surface is not always the reality. However, it has become easier for people in America to just look at the surface. People only the headlines or small pieces of social media and don’t really process the real story. Another source called “A Migrant’s Story from a Greek island” verified this idea of people making assumptions about peoples’ stories. This documentary is set in Greece and it has interviews with tourists who visit the island who meet with Syrian refugees and talk about their stories. It is clear that the tourist’s initial ideas about the Syrian refugees is different then their reality. People’s misperception of the immigrant plight appears to not just happen in America.
In the article “Feds detain nearly 600 in Mis. plant raid” we learn about the largest workplace immgration raid in US history. Over 600 workers who where undocumented were arrested. We see a picture of a crying eleven year old girl who is sobbing for her dad's release. Her hand is tilted she is wearing a pink and white shirt. She is sobbing into her hands and is clearly very distressed. More images in the article show parents being led away in handcuffs by ICE workers. The NPR article further discusses how the town has come together to support these workers and their children left behind, even though it is a town where 60% of the population voted for Trump. Even though many are supportive of the families, there is a divide and many also believe that immigrants who are undocumented should not be given anything and should not be supported because they should not be in America in the first place. One person said, “There are a lot of people here needing help who are legal.” Those who think this way seem not to understand that these immigrants had jobs, paid bills and had kids being educated in the local schools. This event really shows the divide between what people believe about immigrants and how those beliefs can affect how immigrants are treated.
A contrast to these stories is a video called “Migration is Beautiful.” We hear about immigrants who give back to their community, the power of activism, the power of art, and the power of media. This is often an overlooked aspect of the benefit of immigrants and what they can do to help this country. It is rare that we hear or read about this side of immigrant story. This leads you to wonder, why? Why don’t we hear about all the good immigrants bring? All the wonder and creativity? It also fails to recognise that America was built by immigrants.
In conclusion, it is very clear that even though we can live, work and have our kids educated in schools next to immigrant families, we rarely understand the struggles that they have. We do not understand the fear of thinking you might be arrested or being returned to a country where you might have been afraid for your life. It is also clear that many believe that immigrants who come here, documented or not documented, just want to live off the government and not bother learning English, getting educated or working. These misperceptions can be fostered by government policy and these policies can create fear among the people who live in America.
“Feds Detain Nearly 600 in Miss. Plant Raid.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 26 Aug. 2008, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/26410407/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/t/feds-detain-nearly-miss-plant-raid/#.XhfOx0dKjD4.
“Migrants’ Stories From a Greek Island.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 29 Feb. 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/video/multimedia/100000004237409/migrants-stories-from-a-greek-island.html.
Moss, Jesse. “The Abandoned Vans of Atlanta.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 7 May 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/07/opinion/ice-immigration-atlanta.html.
Pulitzercenter. “This Is What It’s Like to Be a Migrant in the Age of Trump.” Pulitzer Center, 26 Oct. 2018, https://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/what-its-be-migrant-age-trump?utm_source=Email&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=10302018.
Shapiro, Ari, et al. “Months After Massive ICE Raid, Residents Of A Mississippi Town Wait And Worry.” NPR, NPR, 17 Nov. 2019, https://www.npr.org/2019/11/17/778611834/months-after-massive-ice-raid-residents-of-a-mississippi-town-wait-and-worry.
YouTube, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWE2T8Bx5d8.