Putting “America First” means putting people last

Megan Walker, Opinions Editor

The Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill last week that blocks funding to any state colleges and universities that, rather than uphold the state’s immigration policies, offer “sanctuary” to students who are not U.S. citizens. The bill, affectionately deemed the America First Bill, was proposed by Rep. Phil Williams from Huntsville.

Illegal immigration is a real problem in America. There are millions of undocumented immigrants living and working in the United States.

But, it would be naive to say that the nearly 11 million undocumented U.S. immigrants simply refuse to become citizens in the land they migrated to after leaving everything they knew—the land in which they live and work.

The pathway to U.S. citizenship is a long and difficult one. The process of naturalization can take more than five or ten years, after which an applicant must pass a citizenship test that many American citizens would fail with flying colors.

I am not advocating for making immigration completely open and unregulated. That would lead to an unmanageable influx of immigrants from all over the world, for which the country does not have proper infrastructure to handle.

That said, trying to kick the millions of undocumented students who grew up with the United States as the only home they ever knew is not acceptable.

I grew up in a rural area in Alabama whose economy was made up predominantly of agriculture. Some of the kids I grew up and went to school with had parents who worked jobs on local farms that most Americans would never accept, living off of unemployment checks instead of working beside them managing crops.

Many of these kids had parents who were deported after Alabama cracked down on immigration with the passage of HB-56 in 2011. My classmates, who had lived in the U.S. since they were infants, were ripped from the only place they had ever called home.
That is not a solution to the immigration problem in America today.

We are a nation created by immigrants. Welcoming others into our country is at the center of all that we were founded upon, and yet, today we are pushing away millions of people who want to become American citizens.

That is not something we as citizens should be proud of. Instead, we should be fighting back.

Rep. Williams said that he didn’t know if his law would actually be enforced throughout the state because young people in college are easily swayed by the media and will begin to “openly defy more laws.”

As a college-aged citizen who has unwaveringly abided by the law, I hope to see colleges throughout the state push back against this legislation.

Article Two of the Alabama Constitution states that all political power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority and instituted for their benefit; and that, therefore, they have at all times an inalienable and indefeasible right to change their form of government in such manner as they may deem expedient. We as citizens have the right to challenge lawmakers, and in regard to Rep. Williams and this issue, I hope that we do.

The number of undocumented immigrants is unquestionably too high, but sending students who have spent their entire lives in the United States to a country that is totally foreign to them is not an adequate fix.

It is my hope that Samford and other colleges in the state continue to welcome students, documented or otherwise. We should not be bullied to submit to a law that goes against the very foundation of our country, but should instead stand up against harmful legislation.

Let us unite, not against those who were not born in America, but with those who loved her enough to come regardless.

Walker is a senior journalism and mass communication major.

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