I didn’t have a typical childhood. Most kids grow up spending their weekends playing T-ball or wreaking havoc on the local park. I was different. I spent my weekends at the local recreation center, coloring and playing basketball in the downstairs gym with the children of workers who were living in the country illegally. Their parents had applied for education or work visas.
While my new friends and I played, my dad taught English to the parents upstairs: the immigrants who were determined to better their lives for themselves and for their kids. My father was particularly passionate about this subject — as he himself was an immigrant, a man who had a dream and the bravery to fulfill it. He hoped to watch the same dreams fulfilled for these parents. Instead, I watched him lose faith in the system that changed his life and our family’s lives for the better. I made friends with the children of these parents who were so eager to create a better life, and they quickly became some of my closest companions.
Until I watched them disappear. One by one, their parents’ visas expired, or they were discovered to be living in the country illegally and were deported. My playdates diminished, and the classes became smaller. I was 7 years old. I didn’t know what was going on at the time, but my dad was fully aware. As I grew up and began to think back on this time, I noticed how my father was trying to shield me from fully understanding the cruelty of this crisis that is happening right in front of our eyes in our own country.
I’m no politician. I’m no activist. But I am a human.
The way we choose to treat other people says a lot about our character. The way we choose to empathize, to understand and to have compassion for others and their experiences is crucial. Your support of ICE raids, and your blatant choice to call immigrants “aliens,” is dehumanizing and hateful. These are real people. These are dreamers. These policies are tearing apart real lives and real families, and you fully support it. I have watched these issues unearth in my own life over many years, and each year the issue growing harder to ignore.
I am afraid for my country. I am afraid for the people who have risked everything they love to be here. I am afraid for the dreamers, the people working here illegally who are seeking a better life and the children who constantly live in fear of being separated from their families.
These people are more than just a headline. These are real lives being altered. We must remember that this country has been built and shaped by immigrants. This is what makes us unique –– a place where dreams are realized.
There are an estimated 10.5 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States as of 2018. That’s 10.5 million families, students and children. Your degrading language and hate speech that attempts to justify this “issue” goes beyond just words; it shows your character. In numerous cases, these “words” turn to violent assault, denial of basic human rights and keeping children in cages.
The noise of politics and debates drowns out the truth of this crisis, and instead puts on a thinly veiled show that fails to convey the severity of it all. We, as Americans, should be outraged. The treatment we give these humans is not reflective of who we should be. So, Lt. Governor, show compassion, and if you win the governor’s race, I hope you dig deep and consider the harm your actions cause for 7-year-old girls like me whose playdates disappeared in the system we are supposed to trust.
Sophia Meruvia is a sophomore integrated marketing communications major from Philadelphia, Mississippi.