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A new perspective on the immigration debate

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Ethnic Studies had a video conference with a deported British citizen

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A new perspective on the immigration debate

Pamela Owens observes as she lets one of her Ethnic Studies students, Hannah Begashaw ‘19, asks Richard Aughpin, an acquaintance of Owens, questions about his deportation back to the UK.

Pamela Owens observes as she lets one of her Ethnic Studies students, Hannah Begashaw ‘19, asks Richard Aughpin, an acquaintance of Owens, questions about his deportation back to the UK.

Essaye Tekia

Pamela Owens observes as she lets one of her Ethnic Studies students, Hannah Begashaw ‘19, asks Richard Aughpin, an acquaintance of Owens, questions about his deportation back to the UK.

Essaye Tekia

Essaye Tekia

Pamela Owens observes as she lets one of her Ethnic Studies students, Hannah Begashaw ‘19, asks Richard Aughpin, an acquaintance of Owens, questions about his deportation back to the UK.

The bell for second lunch has just rung, and it is time for Pamela Owens’s Ethnic Studies class to call her friend on Google Hangouts. But this isn’t just any friend: his name is Richard Aughpin, and he was deported from the United States back to the United Kingdom. Owens was calling him so that her class could ask questions about his experience.

The class was at first taken aback by the heavy British accent, but they quickly grew accustomed to it. Students began going up to the webcam individually to ask questions. From opinions on international soccer teams to missed dating opportunities, the class asked it all. Aughpin eventually started to explain his immigration situation.

Aughpin first came to the United States in 1994 on a H1-B visa, which allows workers in specialized fields to come to the United States for as long as six years. He was a product designer for an American business working on emergency medical equipment, and the company had transferred him overseas.

“The permit was good for five years […] after it expired in 1999, I had some job interviews, so I sort of stuck around. Back then it didn’t really matter, and I’m British, so we were treated differently,” Aughpin said.

Aughpin’s situation is not unique. In fact, according to the Center for Immigration Studies, “The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimates that a ‘substantial’ percentage of America’s illegal population is made up of visa overstays — their estimates range from 27 to 57 percent.”

This means that a substantial amount of people came to the United States legally, as opposed to the conventional idea of the illegal immigrant sneaking through the border. That, however, doesn’t stop individuals who support immigration restrictions, Including President Donald Trump. Since his debut as a candidate in June of 2015, a major cornerstone of his campaign has been to build a wall at the southern border with Mexico. His eventual election sparked debate on illegal immigration and how to deal with it, or whether to deal with it at all, as well as the moral implications of methods of deportation.

This past summer, there was outrage as photos of immigrant children in cages, separated from their families, were leaked. According to the LA Times, “U.S. immigration officials have taken more than 2,300 child migrants from their parents since May, when the Trump administration initiated a ‘zero tolerance’ policy and began detaining the adults for criminal prosecution.”

This had been widely condemned, especially for its effects on childhood development. In an interview for Psychology Today, Colleen Kraft, MD, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said, “This type of highly stressful experience can disrupt the building of children’s brain architecture. Prolonged exposure to serious stress—known as toxic stress—can lead to lifelong health consequences.”

Nonetheless, many government officials still push for anti-immigration reform. About a year ago, the Trump Administration announced that it will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This program allowed children who were smuggled into America with their parents to be granted amnesty from deportation for renewable two year periods, allowing them to legally work and live in the United States.

Most recently, the government shutdown that started in December 2018 and continues today stems an immigration-related issue. The continued desire of Trump and many of his constituents for funding for a border wall has led to a disagreement over between him and Democratic congressmen on a new budget. This shutdown has brought the issue of immigration even closer to home for many Americans.

As illegal immigration continues to be a hot-button topic, some students at WHHS find difficulty in the situation.

In regards to whether illegal immigrants should be granted amnesty or not, Brooke Hart, ‘20, said, “I think it just depends…I heard about this lady with a bunch of kids who were citizens because they were born on U.S. soil, and she wasn’t, so she was deported, so what are you supposed to do with the kids?”

Other students, such as SENIOR Antoine Holliday, don’t feel that they have enough information to form an opinion on the matter. “I’m curious why it’s difficult for people to get green cards,” Holliday said, also saying that he’s unfamiliar with process.

Nonetheless, illegal immigrants in the United States are not only hispanics smuggled across the southern border, but they take different forms. It is an issue that many believe needs to be solved in U.S. politics, but also requires that all sides be educated on the issue.

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A new perspective on the immigration debate