Immigrants and immigration-related identities are among the many important stories of faculty, staff, and students in our diverse MC community. Thus, this series seeks to challenge harmful myths surrounding immigrants and immigration, with each reflection focused on challenging a particular myth. Information comes from resources adapted by Blount County United (BCU) Education Committee and Blount County Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) from a handout developed by Allies of Knoxville’s Immigrant Neighbors (AKIN). “Common Myths about Immigrants and Immigration in Tennessee,” 2011.
– Fact #2 –
Undocumented immigrants have few legal avenues to enter the U.S. There is no line for essential low-skilled immigrant workers but large backlogs and waits. Our economy relies on an estimated 485,000 new, low-skilled immigrant workers each year, but our immigration system provides only 5,000 visas (Pew Hispanic Center).
Undocumented immigrants come to this country to preform needed work and provide for their families, and do so through a broken immigration system. Undocumented immigrants themselves advocate for a reformed immigration system that is safe, legal, and orderly.
– Reflection by Kirksey Croft –
One of the most common claims surrounds the idea is that immigrants have an unlimited supply of resources available to them, provided by the United States, that could potentially provide a path to legal citizenship. This, however, has not been the case with immigrants, both documented and undocumented, that I have had the privilege of meeting.
In May, I was able to visit Steward Detention Center, an immigration prison in Georgia. This experience not only changed my perspective of immigration, but also displayed the fact that the path to citizenship in the United States is one that is highly limited, selective, and unavailable to many individuals seeking employment.
The undocumented immigrant that I was able to meet with at the prison is one of the individuals who has been tricked by promises of employment, just to have his dreams broken by an inoperative system.
This specific detainee was told that if he saved up enough money, he could be taken the United States and given a job. However, upon arriving to the United States he found a path to citizenship that gave him nothing but empty dreams.
Now, as prisoner for 2 years, he tells me his reflections and how he has no family contact. When I hear individuals discussing the path to citizenship as an easy process, or wondering “why don’t they just come here legally?” I find myself thinking of the immigrant that I met and shared a connection with.
He inspires me to find that the power to changing our broken system starts locally. It starts with education in classes, among peers, and with professors. If we can begin to understand a broken system, we can begin to better understand how to fix it.
Once we have achieved these things, I truly hope that immigrants will be able to have access to the vast economic opportunities in the United States.