2018 was hailed by many as the Year of the Woman, empowered by the first major party female presidential campaign and the #MeToo movement. In record numbers, women across the world used their voices to demand justice for ages of mistreatment. This empowerment rolled into the hearing of Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford, who accused Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault during college. It also inspired a record number of women to run and be elected to congressional seats in the November election.
Now, as we look forward to 2019, we on the Kernel’s editorial board believe that this next year should be the Year of the Migrant. 2018 saw many horrific challenges thrown at misplaced peoples trying to call this country home. We hope that next year, they are able to overcome these challenges and reclaim the voice that has been stolen from them. To stand by their side, we hope all Americans begin to use their voices to defend migrants everywhere.
Immigration is not a new thing, and each political party deals with it differently. Few have recognized the true injustices being repeatedly dealt migrant populations, however, nor the scope of the problem.
Immigration is likely the most accessible example of how history repeats itself. Throughout the history of this country, we have claimed to be a nation of migrants but many have wanted to pick and choose who our borders welcome.
In the 1930s, during the dust bowl that displaced thousands of Americans, the “migration problem” became an even more intimately American problem.
An August 13, 1937, article about the issue in The times-News read, “Between 300,000 and 400,000 migrants from the dust bowl and flood areas in the east, middle west and south, constitute the most serious problem facing California, in the opinion of Harold W. Robertson, field secretary of the Gospel Army, a religious and welfare organization, that has made a study of the migrant and transient problem in the San Joaquin and Imperial valleys.”
The article goes on to directly quote Robertson: "Unless immediate measures are adopted to provide medical treatment and rehabilitation, also some plan to stop this homeless horde from coming into California, by autumn this state will be facing the most serious health, moral, economic and sociological problem in its history.”
The language used in this article is not new to us. The identification of immigration as a “problem," the use of the phrase “homeless horde” and the language that incites fear over financial stability is familiar to us. In this article, the experts were referring to farmers from Oklahoma and surrounding states. Similar language this year served to “other” Latin American migrants making their way to the U.S.A.’s southern border.
This language should remind us that such hateful rhetoric is not reserved for immigrants from other counties. American-born farmers were on the receiving end of such negative attitudes when they were trying to migrate to a state (California) where they could make a living in the ‘30s.
The person familiar with literature may think of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, which documented a fictional family’s journey to California and the hardships, hate and discrimination they faced in their basic efforts to survive during this early 20th century onslaught from Mother Nature. This book used fiction as a safe facade behind which to detail the effects of fear and hate on our fellow humans. It showed how fear can lead to unfair job market competition and thus financial instability and finally, death.
We have seen modern examples of the “monster," as Steinbeck calls banks and monopolies that prey on the weak. One is Amazon, whose new HQ2 office that will move to Long Island City, New York (despite bringing 25,000 new jobs) will boost rent in an area where low-income families rely on cheaper rent. The new office will also displace prior plans to build more affordable housing for the many people living in poverty, according to Business Insider.
Before this became an issue, however, there was a massive frenzy among cities around the country who placed bids to lure Amazon to their cities. The bidding system that promoted competition at the average citizen’s expense combined with the invincibility of a company of this size made the whole process much like the wars for jobs and the struggle of the “little man” in Steinbeck’s novel. In the novel’s pages, Steinbeck paints a world in which Californian farmers who own millions of acres refuse to part with even one to keep a migrant child from starving to death. We’re seeing similar fear today as Americans across this country desperately fight to keep newer immigrants than they from taking what they feel is rightfully theirs.
Both these fictional and real-life examples prove to us that it’s fear that leads to competition, which is the real enemy both to our economy and social well-beings. Immigrants built this country and without them, we are nothing.
We have already seen immigrants rising up and feeling empowered. For example, the 2019 class of Rhodes Scholars, named in the fall of 2018, includes many women, immigrants and first-generation Americans, including UK’s own Hadeel Abdallah. Abdallah is the first woman from UK to earn this honor and the 10th UK student to be named a Rhodes Scholar. She is the first from UK since 1955 to make the list.
We look forward to seeing overwhelming victories for this world’s immigrants in the coming year and we encourage everyone to work toward this goal and refuse to let the powers that be turn us on each other. We instead should stand up together as mutual citizens and human beings for what is good and right.