Shadowed fears during presidential elections

With election season imminent, so is stress for the undocumented community.

(June Lim / Daily Trojan)

As election season nears, immigration policy becomes more prevalent: In President Biden’s State of the Union speech, he used “illegal” to describe an undocumented immigrant as he responded to congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who demanded Biden mention Laken Riley, who was allegedly killed by an undocumented person in late February. As he held up a button with Riley’s face, Biden characterized the victim as an “innocent, young woman who was killed by an illegal.”

Biden then added, “But how many thousands of people being killed by legals? To the parents, I say, my heart goes out to you, having lost children myself. I understand.” It is clear Biden’s intentions were to dehumanize undocumented immigrants. Campaigns that push anti-immigrant rhetoric often repeatedly use the term “illegal alien.”

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Ironically, his usage of the term conflicts with his first 100 days plan to order United States immigration enforcement agencies to change how they refer to immigrants — the order sought to replace “illegal alien” with “undocumented noncitizen” in legal documents. Biden’s address feeds into the xenophobic narrative of undocumented immigrants being here to commit crimes.

As elections are on their way, immigration ties itself closely to the conversation; presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump has publicized his anti-immigrant stance. During his previous presidential term, he set a zero-tolerance policy and Muslim travel bans. His prejudice continues through this 2024 presidential campaign. 

Elections have always been important to the undocumented community, as they are ineligible to vote and this leaves them unsure about who will ensure their rights are protected. Elected and appointed officials, such as Judge Andrew Hanen and Ron DeSantis, have attempted to challenge immigration support, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and state driver’s licenses. These programs have been implemented to provide security and expand immigration services. However, the availability of these applications largely depends on who is in office. As undocumented immigrants do not have voting privileges, this thereby hinders their ability to voice their concerns.  

Many times, children of undocumented immigrants use their voice to shine light on undocumented policy. The conversation of immigration has led to far-right conservatives planning to reinterpret the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment. The amendment guarantees anyone born in the U.S. to hold citizenship. However, Trump plans to remove birthright citizenship and practice “jus sanguinis”the right of blood. 

In other words, installing a system where citizenship is based on a parent’s citizenship, which would remove privileges of children of undocumented immigrants who were born in the U.S. With these plans and hateful rhetoric, elections have placed immense stress on the community. Unsure of future political plans, their safety and future in the U.S. hangs in the balance as deportation plans make their way into immigration discussions. 

The prospect of strict and hateful immigration policies leaves vulnerable populations with a sense of uncertainty and fear for the future of immigration law. 

The rise in fear underscores the need for compassion and comprehension of immigration policies that promote human dignity; it’s clear that border wall plans are only built on hate, and the want to exclude immigrants instead of providing immigration reform reinforces a vision of the U.S. driven by reactionary decisions. 

Presidential campaigns have been the most vocal about their immigration plans; however, it is important to remember that local elections still affect the undocumented community. Local elected officials are crucial in supporting undocumented immigrants within their city boundaries.

Therefore, voting is one of the most important privileges a U.S. citizen holds — as undocumented immigrants do not have this right, it places them with a burden of worrying about what may come from a lack of empathy from eligible voters. Harmful stereotypes labeling undocumented immigrants as criminals has impacted the public view of immigrants, and it’s clear to see the connection between these stereotypes and voters’ lack of sympathy. 

Political candidates addressing immigrants as “illegal” and blaming the undocumented community for crime rates only levels hate. Therefore, voters should stay informed on their candidates’ platforms, even more if they hear stereotypes about the undocumented community. Voters should stay informed on the truth of the undocumented community, as well as their contributions to the country that have yet to be acknowledged. Believing in hate and voting with misinformation harms unrepresented communities who cannot exercise voting rights, such as family separation and national divisions. 

Heydy Vasquez is a sophomore writing about the lack of support for undocumented students on college campuses. Her column, “UndocuTales,” runs every other Wednesday.

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