The future of America’s immigrants is more uncertain than it has ever been in recent years.
Roughly 235 thousand immigrants were deported in 2015, and even that number is the lowest figure since President Obama came into office in 2008. Four years ago, deportations — officially referred to as “removals by the Department of Homeland Security — reached their peak, with over 400 thousand people being deported in 2012.
However one feels about this issue, it is clear that no one person or group has all the answers to the problem.
Given the ranging situations and circumstances from which these immigrants come and the varying scenarios that occur both before their attempts to cross the border and after, any type of blanket policy, general rule or overarching principle has been and will continue to be insufficient to fully address the dilemma of immigration to the U.S.
The predicament is such a difficult one, in fact, that in 2014 Congress was almost completely deadlocked over the question of what it should do to ameliorate the state of affairs.
Leaders from both parties expressed sentiments that the immigration system at the time was broken and needed to be fixed. However, that seemingly pressing desire to resolve the matter was ironically juxtaposed with no legislation whatsoever from Congress.
In what has become a trope in American politics over the years, the legislative branch, faced with an undeniably tough task, effectively abdicated its role as principal drafters of policy and left the rest of the government (and more importantly the people whom the legislation most directly affected) swinging in the wind.
Understandably frustrated by a total lack of action despite recurrent pleas for compromise, President Obama stepped in and issued an executive order in November of 2014.
Among other provisions, the directive established a legal reprieve to the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who had resided in the country for at least five years, and it expanded the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Republicans in Congress were furious, denouncing the order as unconstitutional and an aggrandizement of power by Obama.
The debate over immigration, which was already a polarizing one before the 2016 election, has now become almost a culture war.
Once Donald Trump unequivocally called for a physical wall between Mexico and the U.S., the immigration debate reached an entirely new level of intensity.
Many conservatives, embarrassed that Trump had advocated for such an extreme and ultimately impractical policy, condemned Trump’s rhetoric.
Many liberals, seizing on the opportunity to defame Trump altogether, likewise decried the proposal and used it as evidence that he was temperamentally unfit to be commander-in-chief.
The more sinister result of these heated exchanges, however, was that both sides began to treat immigrants like pawns. As opposed to constantly reminding themselves that these immigrants are indeed human beings with dreams and aspirations, liberals and conservatives alike instead did whatever they could to fit immigrants’ stories into their policy preferences.
It is not true that all immigrants come to the U.S. as desperate, wayward youth who have no hope of any kind in their homeland, as some liberals asserted.
And it is also not true that all immigrants who come to the U.S. have taken away jobs from hard-working Americans, as some conservatives claimed.
Both sides have distorted the issue and have made it into something it is not.
Regrettably, the story in recent days here at Wake Forest mirrors what has happened at the national level over the years: both sides claimed to have all the answers, and each side refused to accept that the other had anything valuable to contribute to the debate.
The two petitions that have been circulating around campus recently provide support for this idea.
While both of the petitions do clearly outline their stances on the topic of immigration, neither of them validated the other side of the argument in any way at all.
This sort of action is cause for concern.
Student Government, faced with mounting emotions from both sides, initially voted to table the resolution to make Wake Forest a sanctuary campus. However, in a special senate on Dec. 6, the resolution passed 39-1, with six abstentions.
Even with the resolution passed, both sides must remember to treat immigrants with the dignity and respect that they deserve as human beings, and they must also do the same to each other.