BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – A mother and father who live in a country rocked by terrorism must decide if it’s safer for their children to reside in a more peaceful land.

Torn, they choose to send their children to safety, though this means it will be months or even years before they’re reunited with their offspring.

A mother who struggles with poverty while raising her two sons realizes she has no way to continue feeding and clothing her children. Upon weighing her options, she feels she has no choice but to leave her boys in the care of an orphanage while she temporarily relocates to a country known for its opportunities.

There, she works tirelessly and saves money until she’s able to return to her homeland, reunite with her sons, and use the money she’s earned to raise them.

Plights faced by numerous immigrants

The stories above are real-life examples of the backgrounds that some immigrants bring with them as they make the arduous trip to the United States of America.

In September of this year, NBC reported that more than 230 Afghan children were alone in the U.S. while their parents or caregivers remained in Afghanistan.

NBC’s article on the topic quoted Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, in describing the situations these children faced.

Vignarajah told the news outlet, “These children have experienced far more trauma than any child ever should.”

The second experience listed at the outset of this article is in reference to actor, Antonio Jaramillo. According to The Immigrant Archive Project (IAP), Jaramillo “spent years at a Mexican orphanage with his brother until his mother returned for them… after spending time working in the U.S. and saving enough money.”

Now an adult, Jaramillo referred to his childhood during a recent interview featured on IAP’s website. Jaramillo stated, “My proudest accomplishments or feelings come from being a father to my children, to give them that love and compassion that I so wanted myself. But it wasn’t around… I know what it was like to be a child… and needing some sort of sense of compassion and love.”

Though not every U.S. immigrant has faced such difficulties, one can’t help but wonder just how many of these individuals have fled challenging or even life-threatening circumstances to find safety on U.S. soil.

This also leads some to wonder if upon arriving in the U.S., such immigrants find a safe place to heal or encounter even more trauma.

Why the subject of immigration matters in Louisiana

These questions may be of interest to residents in Louisiana as immigrants comprise nearly four percent of Louisiana’s population, according to a 2018 study cited by The American Immigration Council.

Additionally, weeks ago, the Supreme Court of the United States stated that Texas and Louisiana went to federal court to challenge the Biden administration’s policy about immigration, arguing that federal law requires the government to detain and deport even more noncitizens than it already is.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry issued a statement regarding this case, saying, “This case is about public safety; the law is clear, and the President should follow it. The Biden Administration does not get to pick and choose which dangerous criminal aliens they want to deport.” 

The Supreme Court’s decision on the matter is expected sometime next year.

But in the meantime, some Americans may wonder what struggles immigrants in Louisiana and across the nation might face upon relocating to the states and if many are able to find safe haven on U.S. soil.

Observations from a researcher of global migration & immigration policy

Joshua Alexander Anderson, a researcher who’s studied global migration and immigration policy since 2017 touched on these points during a recent interview with BRProud.

The interview is detailed below, in a question-and-answer format.

Question: Based on your research, why do many immigrants leave their home countries to reside in the U.S.?

Anderson: The push factors behind a substantial amount of Latin American populations enacting travel to the United States originates from the desire to participate in the United States economy, and political instability in countries of origin, or conflict. The United States amongst the international community has maintained the reputation of being a safe harbor for migrants. Under desperate circumstances, it is human nature to navigate oneself and family to stability.

“The United States amongst the international community has maintained the reputation of being a safe harbor for migrants. Under desperate circumstances, it is human nature to navigate oneself and family to stability.”

Joshua Alexander Anderson, Researcher of Global Migration and Immigration Policy

Latin American migrants are not the only population that pursues journeys to the US to realize their aspirations concerning economic opportunity. Migrants from Africa, Europe, and Asia similarly move to live in the US for the same reasons. When discussing migration, it is important to consider all those that migrate as there is a forgotten diversity in migration flows to the US.

Question: Drawing from your experience, what goals do many migrants set out to accomplish upon arriving in the U.S.?

Anderson: People aspire to realize safe and sustainable lives. Most migrants documented or otherwise move to become established once they enter the United States. It is also important to recall how difficult it can be to become self-sufficient in a new country where, in many cases, there is a language barrier. What that establishment may look like is the working of under-the-table jobs and the development of a dependency on their local community.

The proliferation of the imagery of the migrant arriving to the United States to thieves and robbers is racially charged and predicated upon a history of over-presentation of migrants in the media.

The repercussions of being caught after committing a crime or slightly participating in criminal activity are much greater than most realize. Undocumented people face the risk of deportation or losing any future opportunity of gaining citizenship or a visa if they are convicted of committing a crime. As a result, crimes carried out by migrant populations usually are a small fractional percentage of total crime in the United States.

Question: How might being labeled as ‘illegal’ impact a person who’s fled their home country in hopes of finding shelter in the U.S.?

Anderson: The term illegal has a myriad of implications attached to it that influence every aspect of a person’s experience.

Mother with children and cat holding passports fleeing from Ukraine waiting for help and registration in charity center. Text on passports is: Ukraine Passport/ Image Credit: Getty

Anderson: A human being simplified as ‘illegal’ informs how they are perceived by society and the law.

The single illegal action of entering the nation can become assigned to a person or ethnic group like a scarlet letter.

This imaginary imagery is reliant on an understanding of Americans and their history through a Black and White dichotomy and constitutes a deeper role in the imaginary imagery of who is American and who is not. It is impossible to know if a person is legally or illegally residing in the United States based upon observing their profile, only documentation or the lack thereof can substantiate their status. This is an important truth to consider when questioning what an illegal alien is supposed to look like. What assumptions lead to polarizing a person as illegal?

Those who are believed to be undocumented face xenophobia in many public encounters and have to avoid all exchanges with the law or law enforcement as they may be deported or detained due to their citizenship status.

To title a human being as ‘illegal’ reinforces their status as unrecognized by the law. It bolsters the illegitimacy of their voice and experience in whatever space they are occupying. The substitution of the word ‘undocumented’ in place of ‘illegal’ intuitively recognizes a human being, regardless of where they come from.

The substitution of the word ‘undocumented’ in place of ‘illegal’ intuitively recognizes a human being, regardless of where they come from.’

Joshua Alexander Anderson, Researcher of Global Migration and Immigration Policy

Question: Has research shown that countries who choose to shelter or provide refuge to immigrants experience any benefits?

Anderson: Research shows that a consistent migrant inflow stimulates an economy. The narrative that migrants are burdens on an economy is proven not to be entirely true. With more people in a city comes an increase in services and needs, leading to an increase in the flow of capital. Countries like Germany and cities like New York understand the benefit of consistent migration and a welcoming policy and culture to migrants. The more a city or nation can attract forgein borns, the greater the economic diversity.

Anderson concluded his thoughts on the matter by stating that, “many politicians use migrants and their movement as a political device to distract from developments in politics. The inaccurate information proliferated regrading migrants as threats to the public, financial burdens, and dangerous are rhetoric that are supported by little evidence. The misinformation concerning migrants has led to a war on the poor and paperless thrust forward by the absence of a real pathway to citizenship, and inadequate policies that fail to serve justice to vulnerable migrant populations and American citizens.”

Experts on the subject of immigration in the U.S. hold a variety of views. Some share Anderson’s views while others feel that stricter policies would benefit the nation.

Regardless of one’s political stance, most would agree that there is an advantage to listening to a fellow human’s perspective, which has been shaped by their personal experiences.

The nearly 47.9 million immigrants among the approximately 332,403,650 individuals living in the United States have unique stories to share. Giving these neighbors, co-workers, and family members a listening ear may do well in expanding our knowledge of life and what it means to be human.

For more information on immigration, visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services‘ website.