If you missed the meeting at Saint Andrews about immigration and the Outer Banks, you might be interested in reading the notes of Jessica Loose who made a presentation. Jessica is a retired Dare County Schools ESL Teacher.
Notes for Immigration Workshop at Saint Andrews, November 30, 2017
By Jessica Loose, retired Dare County Schools ESL teacher
To begin with, our immigrant community needs to know that people like you care. FFH students recently published an article in Night hawk, the school news magazine, about how the recent rescission of DACA affected current high school students. I am quoting one student here:
She relates the pain she felt when the news alert came out in September but goes on to say that this is not the first experience she has had with public opposition of her immigrant status:
“One time, we went into this restaurant and there was a big huge family and they were like, ‘Oh, the wetbacks are here.’ And they got up and they didn’t eat. They were like, ‘We’re not eating where all these illegal people eat.’” If you were sitting at a nearby table and witnessed this scene, what would you do? What would you say?
She concludes, “I want (the community) to know that for us it’s not easy coming to school every day, or just walking out in the community, knowing that we weren’t born here. For them to realize that we’re not a threat, that we’re people just like them, it’s just that we weren’t born here. But we have rights as humans, we just want a better living and for our dreams to come true, and we want to show the American society that we can do it, too.”
So as we work towards a legal resolution, we can “walk the walk” in our daily actions. Two years ago a powerful book came out called “Silent Voices,” a photo documentary of every day lives of the homeless. The author, Robert Okin, writes, “…(these) are human beings with a lot of the same hopes and feelings, joys, frustrations that the rest of us have,” he says. “I wanted to help readers see that, when they pass someone on the street who is sleeping, they should try to remember: That person has a story.”
When you see a family out shopping and speaking Spanish to their children, do you avert your eyes? Do you wonder what to say because you don’t speak their language? Just smile. Compliment the baby’s pretty eyes. Share a kind greeting. Acknowledge their humanity. Make their every day life a little brighter by showing that you care. This may sound saccharine, Pollyannic – but it’s real. Smiles are the universal language.
If you have the valuable resource called “time to spare,” you can volunteer. Go to the school nearest to you and see how you can help. There may be an elementary school teacher with English Learners in her class who needs someone to read with them on their level while she is working with the rest of the class. It means a lot to these kids to get some extra attention. Not only that but you will be acting as a role model to every student in the class – some of whom may be hearing disparaging remarks about immigrants from their parents or on television. Be the alternative. You can also volunteer to tutor students after hours through the Family Literacy Program. If you are more comfortable working with adults, there are opportunities for you to help them learn English through the Dare Literacy Council.
These first two options are entirely within your control. The third option, engaging in polite discourse with people with opposing views, is more challenging. Getting into a tit for tat argument will only solidify convictions on both sides. Just as we need to openly acknowledge and embrace the humanity of the immigrants we see out and about in our community, we also need to acknowledge the fears that underlie much of the hate talk, name calling, and accusations. Here are a few suggestions:
Statement: “If they want to live here, they should speak English.”
Response: I agree with you. To succeed in this country it is essential to master the English language. Did you know that it can take up to 7 years to do this? Did you know that the demand for English language classes far exceeds the demand? Speaking two languages (or more) is always better than speaking just one.
Statement: Immigrants work for less and drive wages down.
Response: I know it’s frustrating to see wages stay stagnant. It is actually the employers who set the wages, though. I can’t imagine anyone saying, “Please pay me less, I don’t need the money.”
Statement: They are bringing crime and violence to our country.
Response: The images and stories of violence and random attacks are horrifying. I find them gruesome as well. They are enough to make anybody fearful. Did you know that more crimes are committed by people who are born in this country than by immigrants? During that last 25 years when the numbers of undocumented immigrants almost tripled, FBI reported a decline of 48% in violent crime.
Statement: We need more extreme vetting to prevent these crimes.
Response: It would be great if all violent crimes could be prevented, for sure. Did you know that your chances of being murdered by an American born citizen are 252.9 times greater than the chance of dying in a terrorist attack perpetuated by a foreign born terrorist? Right now it takes 18-24 months for a potential immigrant to pass through all the current vetting, screening, and background checks.
Statement: They don’t pay taxes; I’m tired of paying for them to collect benefits.
Response: What bothers me is when the richest in our country get the biggest tax breaks. Everybody, including immigrants, pays sales tax, excise tax, and property tax (through rent or purchase of real estate). In NC alone, undocumented immigrants alone paid $277 million in 2015 in state and local taxes. Approximately, 50% of immigrants pay income tax. Employers are all required to deduct payroll taxes even if the employee is not a citizen. The IRS estimates that undocumented immigrants and their employers paid $13 billion in payroll taxes in 2010. The employees will never see a dime of this money. They don’t qualify for welfare, food stamps, unemployment, or social security. The only benefits provided to all residents of the US are education through high school and emergency medical care.
These are just a few examples of how to respond. The idea is to acknowledge the fear or distrust behind the misconception BEFORE providing opinions or facts to counter the claim. Logic alone won’t do it. Empathy might.