Why Immigrants Do Not Have to Be Justified

Ariana Ortiz, Co-News Editor

Sept. 15th marks the beginning of “National Hispanic Heritage Month”—also known as “Latino Heritage Month.”

Per its governmental website, this month-long celebration honors the “generations of Hispanic Americans who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and society.”

It is important for us to celebrate ethnic and racial minority groups, whose innumerable accomplishments are often excluded from textbooks and otherwise erased.

However, when we speak of and praise these groups, our arguments for their worth seem rooted in exhaustively listing their accomplishments and contributions.

“Don’t hate them,” we plead desperately with people whose ideologies center on a border wall. “They contribute to this country!”

And contribute they do. But largely due to the American obsession with productivity and the “bootstraps” narrative, it seems that here, an immigrant of color’s existence can only be justified by their wealth or intelligence or work ethic, or whatever arbitrary requirement we’re now imposing.

President Trump declared this past August that he would like to implement a “merit-based system” of immigration, and introduced the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act, according to the Washington Post.

According to a Time magazine article, the act “favors people between the ages of 26 and 30 with a doctorate, high English proficiency and a job offer with a high salary.”

An attached quiz informs you if you would qualify for immigration to Trump’s America using criteria such as English fluency, ownership of an Olympic medal or Nobel Prize, and highest level of education. (For the record, I only received a score of 24 out of the required 30.)

I have witnessed allies—some of whom proudly call themselves pro-immigrant, anti-racist activists—try and defend Latino immigrants’ presence in this country in this same “merit-based” manner.

We are forgetting the most important reason we should all be pro-immigration: humanity.

Latinos are not valuable because many of them pick the food we serve to our families (and are woefully underpaid in doing so), or their income tax, or because some of them are CEOS or great filmmakers or saved an old lady’s cat from a tree once—they are valuable because every human life is valuable.

I urge everyone of every political tendency to remember this.

Latino Heritage Month should not be a month-long justification for why immigrants of color should be allowed to exist here.

Rather, it should further signify a commitment to welcome and celebrate their presence and to see them not as strangers, but as our brothers and sisters—especially during a time in which so much is uncertain.