Global Politics

Immigration's affect on children

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(Image by Flickr user Brian9000 (cc: by-nc-sa))

This story was originally covered by PRI’s Here and Now. For more, listen to the audio above.

Last week, a 2nd grade student told First Lady Michelle Obama, “My mom said... Barack Obama is going to take away everybody that doesn’t have papers.” Obama explained that they were trying to make sure people have the right kind of papers. The child responded, “But, my mom doesn’t have any.”

Among the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States, children are a particularly contentious political issue. A number of students who were brought to the United States illegally as children, recently protested in front of Senator John McCain’s office in Arizona. Three of them now face deportation proceedings. One of the students, Yahaira Carrillo, told PRI’s The World:

We as young people did not choose to come here, we were brought.I don’t want to be cliché and say we’re as American as Apple Pie, but this is home to us, this is all that we know…. This is really who I am, this is my home and I’m going to fight and I know we’re going to fight to continue to be here and to really help those thousands of students that need this, that are in the same situation as us.

Proponents of stricter immigration laws believe that people like Carrillo and the outspoken 2nd grader are being used as political pawns. Steven Camarota, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

It’s clear that the proponents of an amnesty/legalization use these kids as kind of a political prop. But the fact is that if they wanted to have a very narrowly focused amnesty just for these kids, they probably could. But that’s not what they want. They want to use the kids as media-genic face for something much much larger—an amnesty for the 11 million illegal immigrants here.

Tania Unzueta, a 26-year-old student who was also at the protest at Senator McCain’s office, but left before being arrested, disagrees. She sympathized with the fear expressed to Michelle Obama by the 2nd grade girl, saying she knows “What it's like to grow up if you don't know if your parents are going to come home at night from work.”

Too many people view undocumented immigrants as the "other," Unzueta told PRI’s Here & Now. “All we want is an equal opportunity just like every other American has who lives in the United States.”

You can watch a video of the 2nd grader talking to Michelle Obama below:

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