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Immigrants are just like all other Americans: hard to categorize

Esther J. Cepeda on

If we've learned anything in the last five years, it is that making angels or demons of political opponents isn't productive.

Interestingly, this idea of not vilifying or beatifying is being exemplified by the very people who have most benefited from being portrayed as saintly. DACA beneficiaries and other unlawfully present young immigrants are increasingly speaking out against their model minority status within the larger universe of the illegal immigrant population.

In a column for The Washington Post, Ph.D. student and undocumented immigrant Joel Sati wrote, "Though well intentioned, lauding the Dreamers has the unintended effect of juxtaposing these 'good,' 'deserving' immigrants with the 'bad' ones -- those with, say, a drug charge from years back -- who deserve nothing but deportation and marginalization. Narratives of childhood innocence and economic contribution constrict the movement at a time when it needs to include all 12 million [undocumented immigrants]. And supporting DACA has allowed the liberal elite to feel good about ostensibly doing something pro-immigration when, in fact, it hurts our struggle."

In an op-ed for The New York Times, author Masha Gessen stated: "If immigration is debated only in terms of whether it benefits the economy, politicians begin to divide people into two categories: 'valuable' and 'illegal.' When countries make people illegal, the world comes apart. When we agree to talk about people as cogs, we lose our humanity."

We truly have lost our humanity when we give in to hyperbole and refer to an opposing party as "evil" and "monstrous" -- even when leaders like Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, declare (falsely) that DACA recipients are by and large gang members and drug smugglers. But how different are those who idealize only certain members of a population of unauthorized immigrants?

This country will never reconcile its immigration issues, much less decide who gets to stay and who must go, if it can't acknowledge that immigrants are like all other Americans: varied, different and not easily lumped into categories that accurately quantify their worth to our community.

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Esther Cepeda's email address is estherjcepeda@washpost.com.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

 

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