Story by JaNae Williams
While the deadline for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is currently stalled by the federal court system, the future of all immigrants in the U.S., authorized and unauthorized, is facing challenges. Many from across the globe face uncertainty and hardship on their road to legal residency or citizenship.
DACA has been a heavily discussed issue since President Donald Trump decided to end the program in September 2017. DACA is a federal program that aimed to offer relief from deportation to those brought to the U.S. illegally during their childhood. Many recipients of DACA have no recollection of the country they come from, the cultures or even the languages spoken there. They have effectively lived their entire lives as residents of the U.S., but have done so without legal status. Through DACA, these young men and women are safeguarded from the risk of deportation and given authorization to be employed in the United States legally.
“Those thousands and thousands of Dreamers, who are out there now, trying to make a better life for themselves—they need to be protected,” said Democratic Rep. Scott Inman.
“Dreamer” is a term generally used to describe immigrants brought to the U.S., from Mexico and other Latin American countries, illegally as children and subject to DACA protection. However, a smaller percentage of DACA recipients also hail from Asia, Europe, the Caribbean and Africa.
Additionally, millions of other unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. do not qualify for DACA because it only extends to those who were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012. Pew Research Center found that in 2015 the majority of immigrants in the U.S. were over the age of 34, which would make it likely that they would not be eligible for DACA. Further conditions also apply for qualification under DACA, and those who do not meet them have a greater chance of facing deportation.
There are also the overstayers—immigrants who come to the U.S. through legitimate means, but overstay the limits of their visas. These people statistically make up a larger number of the overall immigrant population than illegal immigrants, with most of them hailing from Canada, Europe and Asia.
Tony Torres, a nurse living in Brooklyn, explained that one of his friends from France has overstayed his visa.
“I think he is way less likely to be harassed or questioned about his citizenship solely on the basis of skin color and accent, but just like [other immigrants] he is as illegal as they get,” Torres said.
Unauthorized immigration is not the only part of the system with problems under scrutiny. Obtaining citizenship in the U.S. is an extensive process, requiring applicants to have knowledge of U.S. history, go through an interview and have lived at least three years as a permanent resident. In addition, those wishing to obtain citizenship must exhibit the ability to read, write and speak English, despite the U.S. having no federally recognized official language. These are only a sampling of the requirements for citizenship in the United States, and they typically only apply to those holding authorized legal statuses.
“The process is broken; there’s too much red tape. It takes too long for people to navigate the process, [so] we need to streamline that and make that more efficient,” Inman said.
Time and money are further concerns for those looking to gain citizenship or legal residency in the U.S. Filing for residency and citizenship can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars and it may take years for the entire process to be completed.
Can Onar was born in the U.S. to Turkish parents working here legally at the time of his birth. Onar moved back to the U.S. in 2013 after completing culinary school in Istanbul to have better opportunities to further his career. For Onar’s younger sisters, both born in Turkey, U.S. citizenship is not guaranteed. His youngest sister currently lives in Turkey with their father. The other is currently in the U.S. on an education visa that will expire at the end of May.
With his sister’s visa expiring, Onar must face the reality that she will be leaving soon. If she were to overstay her visa, it could jeopardize her ability to receive a green card in the future.
“We try to visit Turkey as often as possible, so I hope to see her again soon, but it is still very upsetting to be losing one of my supportive family members,” Onar said.
Onar’s mother also lives in the United States and has a green card. Obtaining a green card took a lot of patience and perseverance due to extensive paperwork and wait times.
“When we applied for a green card for my mom, we had a little bit of struggle. It took two and a half years to bring my mom into the United States, so waiting for it was hard,” Onar said.
For unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S., the path to citizenship is even more difficult, especially without DACA protection. The difficulty of the process leads to stressful situations among families.
Torres is half Puerto Rican and the son of naturalized citizens, thereby granting him citizenship. His mother and her siblings came to the country early in their lives and were blessed with a relatively pain-free path to citizenship because of their father’s years of work within the U.S., However, not everyone he knows gets that kind of easy transition.
“My mother’s current husband is illegal. He’s a hard worker. He’s been here for many years and works six days a week in construction,” Torres said.
With U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement deportations on the rise, families of immigrants currently living in the U.S. illegally face the daily fear of their loved ones being deported. This is true for Torres’ stepfather.
“I would feel horrible if he got deported, but that’s the reality and fear we all live in now,” Torres added.
Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike see the immigration issue as one that needs work. Members of both parties think that tearing families apart is not an ideal situation and want the government to work with those living as unauthorized immigrants in the U.S.
“As far as people that are here already illegally, I have no problem with some guidelines to make that legal for them, as long as they go through the process,” Republican Rep. Roger Ford said.
However, for some there is a desire to eliminate immigration as a whole, and sometimes inaccurate sentiments may be attached to immigrants in an effort to bolster this argument. Immigrants are accused simultaneously of taking jobs from U.S. citizens and being lazy, violent, more prone to criminal activity and more likely to abuse social welfare, among other things.
Unauthorized immigrants are more likely to be victimized than to commit crimes, especially those involving violence. They also make up an estimated 5 percent of the workforce in the U.S., with an overrepresentation in farming and construction. Immigrants as a whole have a higher likelihood of working the labor-intensive occupations that many U.S. born workers avoid.
“Immigrants are hard workers. They want a better life,” Torres said. “But you will see, especially in the Trump era, that anything bad committed by an illegal immigrant will be blown up, drowning out the majority good.”
Torres explained that many in the U.S. have put the idea of “law and order” above humanity and empathy. He said that he has noticed how, under the current circumstances in the country, many are facing heightened racial profiling and discrimination.
“I mean, to the average American, foreign languages and cultures feel invasive, so I think that’s where a lot of that racism comes from,” Torres added.
Inman discourages lawmakers from making snap judgments about people and their ability to contribute to the U.S. based on their country of origin.
“For those politicians who sort of look down their noses at immigration as a whole and say ‘we just don’t want those immigrants to come here,’ in a very nationalistic view, I think that’s bad public policy and bad for the future of the country,” Inman said.
Despite the negative light cast on the immigrant population in the U.S., there are people working to highlight the positive aspects of immigration. From Einstein and Pulitzer to Liz Claiborne and Oscar de la Renta, immigrants have left a significant mark on the U.S. throughout history.
“Our country is built on immigration; it’s sustained itself on immigration. It just has to happen legally,” Ford said. “Immigrants obviously bring a lot to the table when the come to this country.”
Whether it’s in the invention of blue jeans or YouTube, without the input of immigrants, life the way most people know it might look vastly different. Acceptance will come through education and acknowledgement of the contributions immigrants make. Torres thinks that more emphasis should continue to be put on all of the great things that immigrants accomplish.
“[My mother and her siblings] all grew up to be college graduates. Those are the stories that are seldom told,” Torres said.
With a solution to the DACA dilemma unreached and even legal immigrants unsure of where they’ll stand in the future, voters will face decisions during midterm elections that could change the landscape of the immigration conversation. For the many hanging in the balance, those decisions could impact their entire lives.
Story & Photo by Emily Siddiqui
The past century has been one of unprecedented technological and sociological change for the world. What has it been like to live through it? “Reflections” is a new series featuring the stories and thoughts of those who have experienced much in their lifetimes.
We asked community member Earline Carpenter, who was born in 1919, to share some of her perspectives on culture and society in America, particularly Oklahoma, as well as a handful of life tips.
The “Good Times”
Carpenter has lived in Oklahoma all of her 98-plus years, serving as an active member of her community and country for decades. Currently, she associates with the Jones Oklahoma Historical Society. She remembers traveling the country, fighting for the Equal Rights Amendment, and some of her favorite times were those spent on the road with friends.
You just didn’t have any worries of any kind, you know.
Growing Up: Then Vs. Now
I think it’s a terrible time for kids to grow up. But when I was a kid, they were hungry; some of my schoolmates I knew were hungry. I have a picture of when I was in the second grade, and in it there are these little kids with dirty old overalls and no shoes. That was a pretty hard time too. Mostly farmers lived around here, but still a lot of them were hungry.
And of course, there was so much hatred for Negroes. It was terrible how they treated them. We had a Negro woman, Maggie, to do our laundry and clean the chicken house and make the garden. She’d laugh at my jokes. I’d work with her, out cleaning the chicken houses … I guess I’d talk to her all the time. I’d come home from school for lunch, and we had a table that came down from the wall, and we’d eat there for lunch, and the Negro woman was supposed to eat by herself. As a kid I thought, “What’s the matter, why can’t she eat [with us]?” One day, Maggie spoke up to my mother and stepfather and said, “I just wantin’ to tell you, that my skin may be black, but my innards is just like yours, and my chillens get hungry, and I do, too.” I don’t know how old I was, but I remembered that. I was very young, but I remembered that, because I really loved her. She’d walk home, even though our darned cars could’ve taken her home, but they didn’t. That was the bad part of growing up back then. And that’s what stuck with me as I got older; I knew I wasn’t gonna do anything like that.
The problem for kids now is gangs. These days, kids have nothing to do. I had a great-grandson that was killed in Cushing, just two years ago, by a gang. And our social agencies just don’t have enough people. We need those hungry kids fed. That’s what’s so awful, to think that we talk about helping overseas, when we should be taking care of the kids here … of course I feel sorry for those overseas, too.
What seems to stay the same in society throughout the decades?
I can’t understand why … but racism. It seems like we still can’t keep from having segregation. Even some schools are getting back to where they’re all black or all white again. There is still economic [disparity].
Women’s Rights: What has changed?
Women are still treated as second-class citizens. That’s why I quit the Catholic Church ... We finally got up on the altar, and we could read the epistle, but that’s all we could do. We couldn’t dispense the eucharist or anything. Nuns have to take orders from the pope … and I think the nuns are the ones who convert more people than anyone else.
Thoughts on Religion
Prayer, of course, is the biggest thing to me. And faith—that’s why you don’t have to have faith in man. I think it’s wonderful, really. The point of the Bible and Christ, to me, was love. That’s what I think … that there’s somebody that’s higher. I believe there is a God. I couldn’t do without the grace that he gives me.
You never think about what all he’s given you. You sometimes forget God, and you’re onto something that you’ve made a god out of, if you’re not careful. You forget what all you ask for, and I try not to do that. I try to be grateful for what I get.
What is the most amazing thing you’ve seen happen in your life?
Carpenter explained the advancement of modern technology has gone beyond anything she had imagined, and that it has changed education for the better.
That amazes me. It seems like there’s something for everybody that wants to know something. And if you don’t know it, you might learn it faster. That’s another thing, students learn so much faster, and I think they ought to be promoted and out of [school] if they’re 15 or 14 or whatever, you know. I think it’s great for our youth … and it doesn’t depend on a darned old textbook! I don’t know about textbooks … but thank God I had ‘em! And I didn’t have too many … We had world books. We just took what they had in it, and that was it.
Despite all the benefits of modern technology, what was better about life before smartphones, computers, etc.?
We had more community, I think. You knew your neighbor. When you were in trouble, everybody helped and was concerned. There was more love … and of course, I think times got a lot better, and that helped everything.
Carpenter said she doesn’t know how to use a computer, but plans on getting one.
I’d like to write to my legislators, or text them.
I ought to take my typewriter down to the museum and let people see it … They may not know what it is, she said jokingly.
Health and Wellness
I exercise when I get up in the morning. I’ve been a member of the YMCA since ‘84. I don’t know yet how I’ve come to be so fortunate, but I do know I have to have exercise … water and exercise. I don’t take any medicine. I love to have fun and I like to be around people. [Being] social has kept me going, you know. And I love to do things like volunteer work. I think I’ve sat on, I don’t know how many boards … And I had my nose in everything, as they say, “nosy.” I got that reputation for a while. She laughed.
Is there something you haven’t done but want to do?
That’s what I say, “Been there, done that.” I never have gone abroad, except I’ve been in Mexico and I’ve been in Canada.
Carpenter remembers traveling to Canada as a child during prohibition, riding in her stepbrother’s car as he and his friends smuggled alcohol back across the border.
That was really exciting ... the guys all wanted to celebrate and drink, and boy they did. They had this big trunk in the back seat ... and under it they hid the liquor. My stepbrother said, “Don’t you say a darn word!” … I’ll never forget that.
What do you think people should be spending more of their time on in life?
I think they should care about one another more. It just seems like love is the greatest thing you can do. And laughter, I think, helps so much. And I love music … but not this new crap! She laughed and imitated vocals of some of today’s popular music.
I just think [it’s] terrible, how kids strain their vocal chords.
Carpenter said one of the most important things to discuss is friendship.
I think friends give you security and peace. You can talk to ‘em and let go, and they tolerate you … so far they have [for me].
For exclusive content in the “Reflections” series, visit the6420.com.
Story by Kaitlyn Burden
Photo provided Kailey Kelpine
The events that occurred in Parkland, Florida will go down as a historic tragedy that changed the perspectives of young people everywhere. After the devastating school shooting, the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School decided to take action. In just five weeks, they managed to organize and pull off an impactful protest that resonated across the country. Students and supporters gathered March 24 in cities across the nation to protest gun violence in schools in the “March for Our Lives.” Members of Generation Z used social media platforms to spread their values and ideals about their outlook on the world, which is why many in this generation are labeling themselves as the “Generation of Change.”
Despite many criticisms from Second Amendment advocates, it is clear Generation Z is making an effort to keep gun violence out of schools.
Kailey Kelpine, Rose State Student Senate president, spent her spring break at the protest in San Francisco to support the fight against gun violence. Kelpine described the experience as “truly liberating.”
“The energy around the Civic Center felt powerful; it felt like in that moment we could accomplish anything if we stood and fought together,” Kelpine added. “As a student, I felt empowered and convinced that our generation isn’t going to sit back and wait for change to happen. We’re gonna fight for it.”
Kelpine recalled getting chills when one of the speakers, Dylan Dodson, a sixth-grade student with a passion for this protest, gave a compelling speech about this generation’s persistence for change. According to Kelpine, Dodson spoke to the crowd with veracity about gun violence and her own personal experiences.
In a video Kelpine shared, Dodson looked to the crowd and said, “We refuse to be passive witnesses of history. We’re change-makers and we won’t sit and wait until we’re old enough to vote. That is why we are here today. We are motivated, we are ready and we can make a difference.”
Kelpine expressed her admiration for the bravery Dodson possessed in order to share her opinions publicly at such a young age. Kelpine says she was especially moved when Dodson said the following:
“To our generation: Your presence here today is an important step in this movement. History has its eyes on us, so we cannot stop here.”