When Joe Biden campaigned for president in 2020, he expressed fury over how former President Donald Trump handled immigrants who sought freedom and a better life in America.
“Unless your ancestors were native to these shores or forcibly enslaved and brought here as part of our original sin as a nation, most Americans can trace their family history back to a choice,” Biden said. “A choice to leave behind everything that was familiar in search of new opportunities and a new life,” Biden asserted.
“Generations of immigrants have come to this country with little more than the clothes on their backs, the hope in their heart and a desire to claim their own piece of the American Dream,” he insisted.
However, when one examines the plight of immigrants, a prevailing theme exists:
The relentless, prejudicial and racial attacks on Asian Americans, African Americans, and Hispanic Americans have highlighted the need for immigration reform – where immigrants are embraced and protected in the U.S.
Aminah and Hussein Musa, second-generation Palestinian American siblings and founders of PaliRoots – a company focused on keeping Palestinian heritage alive and giving back to Palestinians in Palestine through meal donations – said America has always had an interesting relationship with immigration.
Understanding that relationship requires going back to America’s beginning, the siblings stated.
“Technically speaking, America is an entire nation of immigrants,” Aminah and Hussein offered in a joint email.
“On paper, all people who are not from Native Tribes are immigrants in this country, yet in today’s society, it seems that only non-white Americans are treated as immigrants and ‘foreigners,’ something that can be traced back to The Naturalization Act of 1790, which granted any free white person of ‘good character’ who has been living in the United States for two years or longer to apply for American citizenship.”
“From the very beginning, the system of immigration was an inequitable one, and today it doesn’t seem that much has changed, but as second generation Palestinian American immigrants, we were raised to understand the beauty of immigration, especially to this countrym,” they wrote.
The siblings’ grandparents immigrated to the U.S. on the premise of the American Dream to build a better life.
“We were raised with gratitude and the understanding that we were blessed to be given the opportunities that come alongside American citizenship,” they stated.
“We were also raised to take full advantage of those opportunities and to use them to not only build better lives for ourselves but to help our homeland as well, which is why we take our roles at PaliRoots so seriously,” they asserted.
Danica Stone of Hand-Picked Words, a small press that showcases highly-talented undiscovered authors, argued that America has never embraced immigrants.
“White colonists embraced other white colonists – at least at first,” Stone said. “The more I learn about history, the more I see that current conservative and progressive ideas have always existed, even in eras that we think of as one or the other.”
“I did a little searching on America’s history of anti-immigration and found out that our political party system started when the ‘Federalists’ organized against immigration. They were afraid that the French Revolution could happen here if they let too many French immigrants in,” she said.
Every change in immigration law after that revealed bigotry and fear of revolution, Stone added.
“Restrictions were lifted when we wanted cheap labor from the people it was easiest to exploit and increased when we didn’t,” she said.
During Trump’s presidency, a rise in white supremacy and pre-Civil Rights Era ideology regained their prominence.
“What was different in the Trump era was the open bigotry emanating from his mouth and keyboard, the pride he takes in destroying American values around acceptance, the contributions of immigrants and people of color and his very strong skills and platforms in messaging his base and not caring what anyone else outside of his target market thought,” said influencer and entrepreneur Shel Horowitz.
“Platforms amplified that from Twitter to Fox,” Horowitz said. “[Franklin Delano Roosevelt and George W. Bush] initiated nativist policies, to be sure – but they didn’t brag about it. Bush even took the specific step of publicly condemning anti-Muslim violence post 9/11.”
Chuky Ofoegbu, an editor of Sojourning Scholar, a platform that provides higher education advising and career coaching to international students and professionals coming to the U.S., said many international students and professionals look to America as a beacon of hope.
In this land, they could realize their highest potential, he said.
“We look at people like Elon Musk and Sundar Pichai, both of whom came to the United States as international students, and believe that the American Dream might be alive and well,” Ofoegbu said. “However, in recent years, the unfriendly immigration policies of the U.S. have left many immigrants wondering if the American Dream is nothing but a façade.”
The current U.S. immigration policies towards international students and professionals starkly contrast to those of other Western countries such as Canada and Australia, Ofoegbu noted further.
“And in recent times, there has been a spike in immigration in Canada and Australia, as talented international students and highly-skilled professionals flock to these countries, as they see it as a better alternative to the United States,” the scholar added.
“So if U.S. immigration policies do not change, it’s just a matter of time for the American Dream to be considered a remnant of America’s past,” he said.
Hussein and Aminah said there remain some discrepancies in America’s relationship with immigrants versus immigrants’ relationship with America.
“Immigrants tend to be more grateful for the relationship and place more value on it,” the siblings said. “We are looking forward to the day when American society is equally as grateful for the beauty, work ethic and values that immigrants bring to our country, the way we immigrants and our families are grateful for all that America has afforded our families.”